Directions of Development
WE have hitherto studied religion in the various stages of its development. In other words we have directed attention to the gradations of difference between the various religions and endeavoured to classify them in accordance with these gradations. This however is only a part of our task. There is also a specific difference in development a difference in kind which requires to be noted. Such specific differences are observed not only in the domain of religion but in that of general human development in persons peoples and families of peoples. As examples of this in the case of persons men of rare talent pioneers in science or philosophy art or letters equals in rank yet in widely different walks of life I need only name Darwin and Pasteur Plato and Aristotle Leonardo and Michelangelo Raphael and Rembrandt Shakespeare and Goethe while many other examples will readily occur to every one. Similarly the peoples of Western Europe stand on the same plane of civilisation but have undergone very different processes of development. So too those great families of peoples or races as they are usually but not very happily termed which we call the Aryan and the Semitic present a striking contrast yet rank as equals in virtue of their respective contributions to the general development of mankind except that the development of one of them took place earlier than that of the other. This will suffice to explain why I distinguish the differences from the stages of religious development. By the term direction I understand a spiritual current which sweeps along a single principle of religion or some fundamental religious idea more or less regardless of others to its extreme consequences. Two religions may stand equally high though their process of development has been very different. And conversely two may occupy very different levels of development and yet agree in character. This is a matter which also requires to he specially studied by the votaries of our science.
The causes of this phenomenon are obvious. The differences in question are determined as in the case of individuals by disposition temperament and circumstances of life so in religions as well as in communities by nationality history vicissitudes and above all by their origin. All human development is one-sided and more or less so in accordance with its lower or higher condition everything human being defective and limited. Thence arise various different conceptions each perhaps containing a portion of the truth yet necessarily all incomplete. Now the character of a religion and therefore also the direction of its development depend chiefly upon the conception which people form of their god or gods their conception of what the deity is towards man and conversely of man's relation to the deity and of the relation of God and therefore of god-serving man also towards the world of phenomena. It is not an abstract philosophical conception of God born of the speculations of a single thinker but a conception for which one cannot always account emanating from a state of mind from an emotional condition and at length put into shape by thought and by poetical imagination. It is an utterance of feeling through the medium of images and doctrines and above all of religious observances by means of which men seek communion with their deity. Such a conception when once it has become the fundamental and predominating idea of a religion though not always distinctly expressed stamps its impress on the whole of the subsequent development. Other religious thoughts as legitimate and received into the conception of other religions now fall into the shade though not perhaps wholly neglected and even run the risk of being thrust entirely into the background. And the more this is the case the earlier the demarcation has been made so much the more one-sided will be the religious life in such a religion or family of religions and so much the wider will be the gulf which separates it from others.
To these general causes of the differences in religions must be added the particular tendencies or directions. These are mainly of two kinds corresponding with the folk-religions and the ethical religions respectively. Comparative philology which had the misfortune to be in fashion for a time and to be practised not only by qualified men of science but also by superficial amateurs has of late fallen into disrepute. This was perhaps partly due to its youthful presumption to the rashness of its supposed results and its mania for trying to explain everything by itself. But those who have overwhelmed it with unmerited reproach and would repudiate it altogether simply incur ridicule and in their ignorance deprive themselves of an invaluable means of throwing light on the history of human development. And one of the incontestable results of that science confirmed by ethnography is that peoples may be classified in groups in accordance with the languages they speak. The study of religions has also led to a similar result. While philology has established the existence of at least two great families of languages the Aryan or Indo-Germanic and the Semitic the study of religions has demonstrated that two distinct groups of religions also correspond with these two families. Between the languages as well as between the religions of the peoples who belong to these families there is an unmistakable difference and yet at the same time so undeniable a resemblance that we are obliged to regard them as descendants of one prehistoric language or religion. We have not however simply applied the doctrines of philology to the study of religion as if affinity of languages necessarily implied affinity of religions. No doubt the science of language has paved the way for that of religion and has laid it under great obligations but not so far as to relieve it of the necessity of independent research. In every religion too we have found a twofold tendency of development the one peculiar to it alone the other common to it along with others; and a twofold character the one its individual the other its family character. Now in the case of the nature-religions both lower and higher this agreement can only be explained on the ground that they are related or in other words that they have sprung from an ancient religion long since extinct; while their differences are accounted for by the fact that owing to the breaking up of the mother-folk into a number of others these have developed independently and assumed their own peculiar character under the influence of a variety of surroundings. Nor even in the case of the ethical religions although born of individual preaching of a willed reformation do they entirely disown their family character even where the reform has not sprung from within their own nation but has been called into life by the preaching of foreign prophets or apostles. And in this last case in the religions we have called universalistic and where as we formerly indicated new groups or families of religions Buddhistic Mohammedan and Christian have thus been formed we can still distinctly trace the after-effects of the ancient ethical-religious tendency. For the student of our science this is one of the most fascinating objects of research and one which sometimes leads to striking results. We must now illustrate these general reflections with a few examples from history.
For this purpose we select the two families of religions best known to us and the study of which is most advanced although they still afford abundant room for further investigation. As you may suppose I mean the two which I have repeatedly mentioned and which in accordance with the languages of the peoples professing them and for the sake of convenience are sometimes called the Aryan or Indo-Germanic and the Semitic. In order however to denote the direction in which they have developed I have termed them the theanthropic and the theocratic. These words will be readily understood. The one a compound of theos god and anthrôpos man indicates the importance attached to the theion en anthrôpôi “the divine in man” and his relationship to God; the other from theos and kratein to govern denotes that the favourite theme dwelt upon by these religions is the supremacy of God over the world of man and of nature. Now all religions are necessarily both theanthropic and theocratic to a certain though very different extent. In other words a religion entirely destitute of one of these elements would not be truly a religion at all. Adoration which is the life of religion assumes and postulates a feeling not only of relationship but also of inferiority to God. Neither can be wholly dispensed with even where one is cultivated to the subordination of the other and carried to its extreme consequences. Even in the theanthropic religions man is never made quite equal to the deity at all events not to the highest deity but is always subordinated to it. And in the theocratic religions man is also created after God's image and seeks to draw near to God. And thus it is only a difference in proportion one only of these elements forcing its way into the foreground never entirely excluding the other but throwing it into the shade and thus hindering its development. As soon as this one-sidedness threatens to become extreme a reaction sets in. We therefore only mean that one of the two families develops more in the theocratic the other more in the theanthropic direction. The theocratic element predominates among the so-called Semites the theanthropic among the so-called Aryans.
This appears at the very outset from the general names they give to their gods. I have pointed out that what chiefly characterises a religion is its conception of the relation between God and man between God and the world and this is just what is usually expressed in such general names. In the theocratic religions all the gods are in one way or another mighty exalted rulers. The name most commonly given to them is El or Ilu. The original meaning of the word is uncertain. It seems to me probable that it means the “lofty” “the supreme”; others and the Semites themselves interpret it as “the mighty and strong.” For our illustration the difference is immaterial. At their head is sometimes placed El èlyôn the most high god of whose priest Malkisedek we read in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis. Or they are called lords “Bêli Ba'alim Adonim” for which terms the Aramæans and the Philistines following their example use other synonyms. “King” Malilc “Sharru” is hardly less used. In all of them is thus involved the idea of lordship and sovereignty; and it need hardly be pointed out that in the East at all events among the peoples just mentioned this means an absolute and unlimited sovereignty. And accordingly in his relation to the heavenly rulers the worshipper most commonly calls himself their “servant” or “slave” ebed abdu or sometimes their “protégé” or “client” or at most their “favourite” migir naram like the favourites of arbitrary rulers and absolute sovereigns. The depth of self-abasement towards the deity is to call one's self its “dog” kalbṷ kèlèb. The dignity of an ambassador or prophet of God is reserved for a few select persons only. The right to be called the son of God and to give God the name of Father belongs in the theocratic religions to the king alone as God's representative and vicegerent on earth; and in Israel for instance even this is not permitted and he is only styled Yahve's anointed. Such predominance of the same root-idea in all the names which denote the deity in general and in those which its worshippers call themselves as such cannot be accidental but must necessarily be connected with the character of such a family of religions.
In the general or generic names of the gods in the theanthropic religions a greater variety prevails. And this was to be expected. The peoples who represent the theocratic religions the Semites live in close proximity as near neighbours. The Aryan peoples who represent the theanthropic religions have been scattered from the most ancient times over three-quarters of the globe. Both the languages and the religions of the former are much more akin than those of the latter. And the theocratic root-idea is also much more easily expressed in a number of synonyms than the theanthropic. In this case the most prevalent title of the deity is deve deus (with a number of cognate forms) which means “the heavenly ones” or perhaps originally “the shining ones” and then opposed to these at a later period by the Iranians and Indians ahura asura the beings“the living spirits” a signification which was also perhaps originally that of the Germanic-Scandinavian asa æsir. The meaning of these words is so vague and indefinite that daêva among the Iranians and asura among the Indians are subsequently applied to the evil spirits only. Both of these peoples are fond of calling their gods “the rich givers” or “the dispensers of fate” bhaga bagha and they possess this word in common with the Slavonic nations (bogŭ). The proper meaning of the Germanic “god” is still enigmatical. In all this there is nothing characteristic. But it is worthy of remark that although the idea of the sovereignty of the gods is here by no means excluded and the title of king or sovereign is given to some of them—Varuna is samrâj “the all-ruler” Indra is suarâj “the self-ruler” the Iranian Sun-god is khshaêta the ruler “or properly” “the shining one”—the gods are as a rule never designated as such. And above all we must point out how fond the theanthropic religions are of calling their gods by the name of Father or Mother. Thus in the Ṛgveda the oldest religious document of our race some ten of the highest gods are thus named. So too in the Avesta the sacred book of the Zarathushtrians Ahura Mazda the highest and only true God in the system is frequently called Father. And the Greeks also call Zeus patêr “the father of gods and men” while the Romans have Jupiter Diespiter Marspiter. Our ancestors again called their Wrodan or Odhin the Alvader Alfödhr; but I will not insist Upon this as it has been attributed to Christian influence. Nor do I forget—and I have already pointed out—that in the theanthropic religions of antiquity this conception did not as yet possess the exalted significance given to it in the Gospel. Yet it involved the idea of the nearest and closest relationship. And I again ask whether it is a mere accident that the Gospel of God's fatherly love although first preached to the Semites was rejected by them and remained almost fruitless while it was immediately hailed by the Aryans of Europe as the joyful message of salvation.
At all events how genuinely the fathership of the gods was felt in antiquity is apparent from the numerous proper names in common use especially among the Greeks and Indians with which parents not only described their children as gifts of God (Theodôros Theodotos Theodosios Diodôros Devadatta) or as his favourites and elect ones (Theodektês Theokritos Theoxenos) but also as closely related to the deity (Theogeitôn—that is God's neighbour—or Devavatta “whom God has near him”) or even as being born of him (Theogenês Theagenês Devajnâ). If the feeling of God's exaltation and absolute sovereignty over man predominates in the theocratic religions in the theanthropic it is the intimate relation between God and man that comes into the foreground as Aratus and Kleanthes have expressed it “We are also His offspring” or as Pindar has still more finely said in his often-quoted words ῝Εν ἀνδρω̑ν ϵ῝ν θϵω̑ν γϵ́νος ϵ̓κ μια̑ς δϵ̀ πνϵ́ομϵν ματρὸς ἀμφότϵροι (“One is the race of men one that of the gods from one mother we both draw our breath.”)
It would take us far out of our way if I were to attempt to explain in detail how these differences of direction are reflected in the whole system of doctrine. As examples I shall only mention the doctrine of the Creation and of the Government of the world. In all the older religions the Creation is at first conceived as a making forming or building. But when people have outgrown this childish conception the theocratic God creates by His mighty word: “He speaks and it is done; He commands and it stands fast;” in the theanthropic religions on the other hand the leading idea is emanation; the whole world of phenomena emanates from the Divinity Himself and in an endless rise and fall of worlds is exhaled and inhaled by Him.
In the government of the world the gods of the theocratic religions are the supreme or sole rulers. Even the evil spirits destroying angels beings that inflict calamities and diseases on mankind are under their command and do nothing without their permission. Such are the seven evil Utuks sent forth by Ann the chief Babylonian god and such is the Satan of the Book of Job. When even in the mind of the Semite the question arises how the course of the world and the lot of man can be reconciled with the justice of God and causes him an anxious struggle so that “his steps had well-nigh slipped” the author of the seventy-third Psalm consoles himself with the thought that the prosperity of the wicked is only transient that their end cannot be peace and that God will at last put them to shame. And when in the prologue of that most beautiful of all the religious poems of antiquity I mean the Book: of Job just mentioned the sufferings of the righteous man are represented as a trial by which the steadfastness of his faith and the constancy of his piety are to be proved the story itself gives the true theocratic solution. The arguments of his doctrinaire friends have made the poor sufferer lose patience. He is not subdued. He complains of the injustice done to him. He contends with his Maker. But now God Himself enters into judgment with him and rebukes him in an address which is really a description of His almighty power as Creator and Ruler of the world. Why He has punished Job His faithful servant so severely and apparently so unjustly and how this can be reconciled with His justice is passed over in silence. The whole reasoning may be summed up in the question “Art thou He who hast created all things? Art thou the Almighty who governest all things and rulest over all things?” And the answer of the afflicted one is penitent and submissive: “Behold I am vile what shall I answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth!”
The theocratic god cannot be bound. His law governs all men and he administers it in punishing the transgressors but it is not binding upon himself. He acts according to his good pleasure and is not responsible for his actions. Absolutely sovereign he vouchsafes or withholds his favour and no one is at liberty to inquire the reason. All that happens is not merely his will but is also his actual work. Wherever as in Islâm the theocratic root-idea is carried to extreme exaggeration all mediate causes and explanations are superfluous. For everything there is but one cause one explanation: God wills it. And this reminds me of a story told by Alfred von Kremer in one of his interesting historical works. I am not sure whether it is authentic but it is genuinely Arabian and highly characteristic. A Jewish physician so the story goes once showed an Egyptian sultan a phial filled with poison and assured him that half of its contents was enough to kill a man. “Yes; but only when Allah wills it!” exclaimed the sultan. He then seized the phial and emptied it at a draught. Fortunately for the Commander of the Faithful his stomach was not so strong as his faith and immediately rejected the poison of which it was unable to hold such a quantity. The pious Mohammedan who would have died of the half was saved by taking the whole. His faith which deserved such a result thus gained a triumphant victory.
In the theanthropic religions the gods are very powerful triumphing over the spirits of darkness and drought; they are the protectors and allies of their worshippers while the latter are ever zealous to do their will. The dreaded powers of nature Giants and Titans Jötuns and Thursas Iranian Daêvas and Indian Asuras are indeed permanently defeated but not yet wholly annihilated. These powers reign supreme in their own kingdom over which the good gods have no authority and into which they may venture in the disguise of a change of form but then only to quit it again with all possible speed; while on the contrary in the Babylonian myth of Ishtar's descent into hell for example Allat the queen of the lower regions is compelled by the command of Êa one of the chief gods to deliver up the goddess whom she holds captive. Even in the ethical Zarathushtrism which perhaps arose to some extent under Semitic influence while Ahura Mazda reigns in heaven Angra Mainyu reigns in hell; and in the Vayu the region between heaven and hell the earth and its atmosphere both of them hold sway so that the good god cannot prevent his pure creations from being marred by the counter-creations of the Spirit of Lies. And so there ever remains a portion of the world withdrawn from the dominion of the gods. Their power is limited their will does not always prevail and much happens that is diametrically opposed to their good pleasure. Nor is it always certain that this limited sovereignty is eternal. In the Ragnarök the “twilight of the gods” Asas and Vans will perish and a few of them only will live again in the regenerated world. And in the ears of the afflicted Promêtheus resounds the prophecy that the sway of the god who torments him the now supreme Zeus will one day have an end.
And a further point to be emphasised is that the will of the gods is not always the supreme law in the universe. I shall not now attempt to broach the difficult question as to the power of Fate in the theanthropic religions. Were I to try to deal with it thoroughly I fear that neither our allotted time nor my own powers nor your patience would be equal to the task. But I must not altogether pass it over in silence. The Homeric poems often mention the Aisa or Moira terms which have been translated Destiny or Fate and for which the word Anangkê necessity is sometimes used. Now the question about which scholars differ is whether the gods control this destiny and establish this necessity or whether they themselves are controlled by it and compelled to obey it even when contrary to their own wishes. Evidence may be adduced in favour of both views. Au overruling Destiny the Moira of the gods and Fate the Aisa of Zeus are sometimes spoken of. This is an argument in favour of the first view. But there are other passages in which Zeus consults Fate and gives effect to it although opposed to his own wish and to his desire to save one of his favourites. This supports the second view. Be this as it may Moira or Destiny is in each case clearly distinguished from the gods and is sometimes even placed above them. It is not their own sovereign decree that they proclaim and execute as being their own will but a necessity the origin of which cannot be questioned and which is determined independently of the will of even the highest gods. This conception is not an inevitable result of polytheism but it occurs in the theanthropic religions only and is indeed possible in these alone.
The same holds true of two other conceptions which are in fact the two phases of a single conception and which neither occur nor are possible in the theocratic religions but spring directly from the theanthropic principle—I allude to apotheosis and incarnation or the deification of men and the impersonation of gods. Mediators between man and God messengers of God who proclaim His blessings and revelations to the children of men and conversely lay their prayers and offerings before His throne these beings occur in every religion. They are either gods real and visible but always subordinate generally gods of the sun of fire of the lightning or of the wind or they are lower heavenly spirits or they are men dedicated to God animated with His spirit endowed by Him with miraculous power and superhuman knowledge or favoured with special revelations. Nor are they absent from the theocratic religions and the less so in proportion as the supreme deity himself is more highly exalted above the world and more widely separated from man. But the idea that a god can actually become a man is an abomination to the votaries of a theocratic religion. That “ye shall be as gods” they regard as the voice of the Tempter. In the theanthropic religions which are wholly swayed by the conception of the theanthrôpos the god-man this on the other hand is precisely the favourite ideal the goal towards which they strive with all their might. In theology this becomes the source of the boldest creations of the religious imagination. The gods to whom the devout rightly wish to draw near must themselves become men though for a time only and though they can never thereby wholly divest themselves of their heavenly origin or lose their divinity. Every event in their history therefore differs from all that happens in the case of other men. From birth to death their life is an unbroken series of miracles. Yet these sons of gods are really men so long as they dwell on earth like Apollo and Krishna when they tend the flocks as shepherd-boys or like Hêraklês and Rama when as servants or exiles they perform laborious tasks and subdue the enemies of their worshippers or like the other avatâras of the god Vishnu as narrated by the Indian legends. Conversely men or supposed men are transformed into gods. In the apotheosis the myths of deified men are reversed and are transformed into legends of great heroes prophets or reformers of bygone ages. Take for example Cyrus the founder of the great Persian empire; or Zarathushtra the Iranian reformer; or Buddha Gautama the founder of a widespread monastic order. Even in their lifetime princes are deified and they acquiesce in this in the interests of their dynasty or even usurp the honour themselves. This deification of princes is very ancient. We find it practised especially in Egypt from the earliest period. The earliest Babylonian kings also prefix the sign of divinity to their written names. But we note that when the Semitic element had become stronger in Babylonia and at last attained supremacy the kings no longer called themselves gods but merely the favourites the beloved or the priests of the deity. In Israel too the person of the king was sacred but only as God's anointed and not as a god or the son of a god. Aryan princes however are often called devas and love to trace their descent from some deity. The abolition of the kingship in Greece or Rome and the more rationalistic direction of Greek civilisation thrust this idea for a time into the background but it revived and then finally died out in the apotheosis of the Roman emperors.
But if the prince is a god every man is really destined to become so and to this object therefore all the efforts of the pious in the theanthropical religions are directed. In order to see these religions in full vigour we should study the Indian examples. All the other theanthropic religions of which historical records exist have come more or less into contact with the theocratic and have been influenced by them. This is probably true of the Persian religions and certainly of the Greek and thus mediately of the Roman also. Christian and classical elements are unmistakable in the Edda which contains the oldest though relatively recent documents of the Scandinavian religion yet not to the extent maintained by some authorities. Put it seems to me very doubtful whether the Aryans of India ever came under Semitic influence so as to lead them to adopt anything from a theocratic religion. We there accordingly become acquainted with theanthropism in extreme one-sidedness. The offerings at first regarded as homage to the gods and as means of strengthening them or of securing their help then become mere mystic observances which have no connection with any definite god but are only intended to procure supernatural power for the worshippers in order that they may counteract the power of the hostile spirits. And these practices accordingly soon fall into disrepute. This superhuman power can be procured better in other ways as by calm meditation and abstinence. For by these means by one's own power and exertions one can attain the moksha or redemption—that is one may thus become exalted above all that is finite and limited above pleasure and pain above desire and aversion above love and hatred—and one can thus attain a condition which consistently carried out culminates in the non-existence the Buddhistic Nirvâna. But in this condition man becomes equal—nay superior—to the gods. There are numerous stories of mythical penitents who have attained to such a pitch of self-denial that the gods tremble for their own power and dominion and contrive all kinds of seductions and deterrents in order to overthrow from his exalted position the saint who has thus outstripped them. The Indian pantheism which identifies the individual soul with the world-soul paves the way for different systems and for Buddhism which is only to a small extent a reaction against Brahmanism but is mainly a continuation of it. It has been called atheistic; and so it is from the theocratic point of view as well as from our own; but in reality it is not. It exalts man to the throne of the highest deity. In the legends of Buddha scholars have detected an ancient sun-myth and rightly so. But that is no reason why Buddha should be called an ancient deity. Whether historical or mythical he is a man the founder of an order of monks; he lived as a man as I am convinced or at least he was thought of as a man at the outset and it was only after he had been glorified by his adherents that all the attributes of the highest god were united in him and that a marvellous career was woven for him out of the ancient god-myths. He the Râjanya not even a Brahman succeeded by obtaining the bodhi or highest illumination in exalting himself above all the gods. Indra and Brahman the two highest deities of the two preceding periods the Vedic and the Brahmanic are placed beside him as ministering satellites. And thus theanthropism in its one-sided development with an almost entire disregard for the truth embodied in the theocratic religions has reached its final goal. God in the theocratic sense has been dethroned and man has become God.
In the theocratic religions on the other hand the gulf between divinity and humanity becomes ever wider as their development progresses. Stories are told in the olden time of gods who descended to the earth but at a time when beings of a different mould from the present race of men inhabited it; and one hears of a few privileged persons who enjoyed communion with God as a man with his friend but only in bygone ages; and of prophets also who were once permitted to see His glory but who on His approach tremblingly covered their faces and when they uncovered them saw nothing but the skirts of the divine garment. But with later generations God communicated through His messengers or angels only or revealed His will in dreams and visions by signs and wonders. No one is now in direct communion with Him. The theocratic god dwells in secret. He is holy which originally meant unapproachable. The man who sees Him must die. Even the lower gods may not penetrate into the heaven of the Supreme. In the narrative of the Babylonian flood they flee thither terrified by the rising waters but they can only crowd round the entrance. They are not admitted within it. The temples of the theanthropic gods stand open. They are sacred places but every one who approaches reverently may enter in order to worship and offer his gifts while distinguished persons are even privileged to have their statues placed in the sanctuary beside that of God himself. But the temples of the theocratic gods are enclosed within lofty walls. Although strangers who are not actual worshippers may sometimes be admitted to the outer fore-court the sacred ground upon which the temple stands may not be trodden by profane feet; the temple itself may only be entered by the priests and even for them with a single exception the inmost sanctuary is forbidden ground. In Islâm the most theocratic of all religions these prohibitions are even extended to the whole region of the holy places. And there in the inmost sanctuary of his earthly dwelling where no one but the king who is regarded as the son of the deity or one or more of the high priests may enter at special seasons dwell the supreme deity himself in holy calm undisturbed by the tumult of the worshippers veiled from the gaze of the curious. There he is represented either by mystic symbols dead or living or by an image and in this case usually by the oldest and most sacred in existence which has been made by no mortal hand but has fallen from heaven itself. Not there but in other parts of the temple only may be placed newer finer and more artistic images. Where no image of the deity is admitted as in the case of the temple of Jerusalem there it is expressly said that Yahve dwells in the holiest of holies between the cherubîm who guard the sacred ark.
The same characteristic difference also shows itself in the ritual. But in this case too we must refrain from entering into details and content ourselves with a few outlines. Even in the theanthropic religions there is no lack of reverence for the gods and even dread of them. But between them and their worshippers there prevails a certain confidentiality or rather familiarity which sometimes borders on irreverence and almost becomes irreligious. It is only unsophisticated simplicity on the part of the Vedic singer when he says to his god “If I were you and you were I then after such an offering I should give you what you desired.” But it is worse when the worshipper does not scruple to overreach the deity by cunning trickery. I allude to such mythical stories as that of Promêtheus in Hesiod1
and that of Numa Pompilius in Ovid.2
Allow me just to remind you of them. Promêtheus the ancient god of fire who has gradually become a god-man ever in opposition to Zeus and disposed to cheat him whenever he can teaches men of whom he is the creator and protector how in offering a sacrifice to divide the different parts of the slain animal: Zeus can then choose for himself. He conceals the edible parts under the skin of the animal as if they were of no value and lays them on one side while on the other side he exhibits the bones and thighs covered with shining fat. The pious Hesiod who cannot bear the idea of Zeus being really tricked represents him as being generous enough to be content with the inferior parts although the ruse has by no means escaped him. The original version of the legend was probably somewhat different. Be this as it may the essential point is that in the theanthropic religions men keep the best things for themselves and offer to the gods what is of inferior value for human beings. The myth is an ætiological one—that is to say it serves as an explanation of such customs.
A similar myth forms the basis of the roguish story about Numa Pompilius told by Ovid which was intended to account for the abolition of human sacrifices formerly in vogue with the Romans and demanded by Jupiter Elicius as well as by other gods. Caput a head is required by the god. Numa brings him an onion cepa. No; it is a human head that Jupiter demands! Numa then presents a human hair capillus. No exclaimed Jupiter a living soul anima! Numa next tries a little fish maena. Jupiter is then good-natured enough to be amused with the joke and thenceforth contents himself with substitutes for human sacrifices. This story which was certainly not invented by the poet though told in his own peculiar way brings out the familiarity of the worshipper with his god still more clearly than the former. And here the man who thus trifles with the deity is not a rebellious Titan who seeks to overthrow the supremacy of the Olympians but the devout favourite of the gods the mythical king-lawgiver whose name Numa akin to the Greek nomos he derives from this latter capacity and who is regarded by the pious Romans as the recipient of divine revelations. Yet no difficulty seems to have been felt in making such a saint act so strangely towards the highest god.
This last story reminds one of the question how it comes that human sacrifices so general in barbarous ages though offered from very different motives continue so long in use where theocratic religions prevail while in the theanthropic they are abolished at a very early period except where they still linger in some few primitive local cults. In the Aitareya-Brâhmana occurs the story of S´unasépha the son of a Brahman living in the woods whom his father impelled by hunger and tempted by a great reward is about to slay in honour of Varuna in place of the king's son but is saved by the gods he invokes and is adopted by the priest Visvâmitra as his son. So too the priest Kalchas demands of Agamemnon who has offended Artemis the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigeneia in order to appease the wrath of the goddess; but when the king is about to carry out the behest the goddess herself carries off the maiden to Tauris and makes her immortal. No mention is made of human sacrifices in the religion of the Persian peoples. In Greece they had become the exception and in Italy too where they had once been exacted in various cults but were soon replaced by other offerings or by effigies. And in the case of the Romans we have seen that the abolition dates so far back as Numa. Nay even the Egyptians with their half-theocratic half-theanthropic religion had already set the example. But they are kept up in the theocratic religions of Western Asia at least among the Phœnicians Aramæans and Hebrews who offered their children in sacrifice to the god of fire. Who does not remember the story of Mesha the king of Mo᾽ab slaying his eldest son in honour of ḳamosh when his capital was surrounded by the united armies of Israel and Judah? How deeply rooted the conviction was that the gods could only thus be propitiated and their judgments averted is apparent from the case of the Carthaginians who kept up these practices long after the conquest of their city by the Romans and were not even deterred by the dread of their austere masters. It is also well known what pains the prophets of Judah took to put a stop to this cruel and unnatural practice of their people which was repugnant to their own ethical conceptions. We may further note how it is spoken of in the beautiful narrative of Abraham's offering which was designed to induce its abolition. It is not disapproved of as such nor is it represented as cruel or inhuman. On the contrary Yahve demands it and the father of the faithful is at once prepared to obey; and this is imputed to him as a proof of his faith in God's promises and of his piety. This is quite a different case from the one above mentioned in the Indian story where the author distinctly brands the Brahman Ajigarta who would slay his son as a cruel and unnatural father. The Hebrew writer on the other hand although the bloody deed is not carried out in this case either proceeds on the principle that God may demand even inhuman sacrifices from His worshippers and that they are bound meekly to obey.
Why is it that peoples civilised so long before the Greeks and Romans before the Indians and Persians and in a certain sense their teachers lagged so far behind them in this respect? It has been asserted that the Semites are naturally more cruel and bloodthirsty than the Aryans but no proof of this has been adduced. The great king of Persia who boasted of being an Aryan and the son of an Aryan was not more lenient in the punishments he inflicted upon rebels than the Semitic kings of Assur; and several of the Roman emperors Aryans too vied with them in that respect. The torture-chambers of the holy Inquisition and of our older European administration of justice are purely Aryan inventions the refined cruelty of which makes one's blood run cold. There must therefore be some different reason. Nor is it that the Semite can be said to hold human life cheaper or that he is less warmly attached to his own family. The reverse is the case. A life prolonged to a happy old age is one of his dearest wishes; no one can love his children better; no one delights more than he in the blessing of a numerous offspring; and above all his sons are his pride and glory. But deeper still than these human feelings there is rooted in his heart the religious sentiment which predominates in the theocratic religions that of man's nothingness in presence of the supernatural Powers on which he knows himself dependent. To the Supreme Lord in heaven belongs all that he has even what he holds dearest. If He demands it it must be given. With an unlimited sovereign it is impossible to reason concerning his commandments established of old or to join issue with him; and lest the sacrifice may seem to be offered unwillingly the cries of the poor victim and the wail of the anguished mother are often drowned by loud music. The lofty ethical development of the Mosaic prophets was necessary to awaken the conviction that Yahve in His loving-kindness and mercy renounced His right to such offerings and rather takes pleasure in purity of heart and righteousness of life. But the majority of the people could not venture to believe this doctrine. Not that the prophets were unfaithful to the theocratic root-idea of the loftiness and exaltation of God's unlimited power and supremacy; but they take a more ethical and spiritualistic view of His holiness and therefore of His supremacy also a view too advanced for the undeveloped many.
I have endeavoured in a few outlines—and other illustrations might easily have been given—to sketch the distinctive differences between the theocratic and the theanthropic religions in order to convey an idea of what is meant by the different directions of religious development or of one-sided development. What we have observed in these two great families of religion shows itself in other cases also differing a hundredfold on a larger or smaller scale. It is not our purpose to trace the practical results of such one-sidedness in the religious life; but the question how far it injures or promotes the general development of religion must not be left quite unanswered.
One would imagine a priori that it can only injure religious development. Here we have two indispensable elements in religion which we may briefly call the Infinite within us and the Infinite above us or in religious language God's sovereignty and man's affinity with God. Now as we have seen even where the one principle is unduly cultivated the other is never wholly neglected however much its development may lag behind; the believer seems afraid of bringing it forward to any extent lest he imperil the truth which he prizes above everything; and there comes a time when that truth so completely overshadows the other as almost to obliterate all trace of it. When theanthropism has reached the extreme verge of such one-sidedness the only choice left is between deification of the world and atheism. And when we see how not only the ancient nature-gods but the higher too who invested with all power are either placed at their head or supersede them—how all these objects of adoration are gradually divested of all that makes them adorable how they tremble before the superior power of human penitents allow themselves to be insulted by sacred singers in order to show that they are exalted above impatience and passion and yet are surpassed in self-abnegation by the Buddha who out of compassion gives himself as food to the tigress to enable her to feed her whelps—when we see all this atheism would almost seem preferable. And conversely the system that not only lays special stress on the theocratic principle but condemns all human effort and work wisdom and science art and industry as worthless and vain—nay even as sinful—leaves the worshipper no alternative but to bow down as a slave or to cower like a dog. But when this extreme has been reached a wholesome reaction is at hand. It seems therefore that apparently conflicting yet not irreconcilable religious root-ideas or principles (and I allude to many others besides the two specified) must—before religious thought can combine them or at least remove their disproportion—severally run a long course of independent development and strain every effort to attain perfect expression. But of such special development nothing material is lost in the long-run; for its fruit is abiding and in the end it benefits the general development of religion. Each stream thus running its own course yields its precious contribution to the development as a whole. Nor when once the equipoise is established shall we ever relapse into the old one-sidedness except perhaps for a short time and then only to a limited extent. There may still be oscillations to the right or left yet the equilibrium is always restored.
This will be further discussed in a subsequent lecture.