Imagini ale paginilor

and a so-called devil worship has continued to exist in Western Asia among the Yesidi, in the midst of purer religions which have obtained the mastery everywhere else. A great moral improvement must have taken place in man before he offered his homage to the well-disposed divinity, for he is then no longer influenced by fear, but by an impulse of gratitude. To our surprise, it is in this stage that we find the Australians of New South Wales, who offer their sacrifices not to the malignant Potoyan, but to a good power under the name of Koyan. With regard to many Indian tribes in the neighbourhood of the Orinoco, who believed in a bad spirit under various appellations, Father Gumilla" states positively that that they paid him no honours.

[ocr errors]

Although races intellectually immature describe the disposition of the invisible powers as good or bad, they do not mean to distinguish between moral and immoral. Good and bad is nothing more than agreeable and disagreeable. The answer of the Bushman is sufficiently well known, who, in reply to the Christian missionary, gave as an instance of a bad action that some one should steal his wife, and, as an instance of a good one, that he should steal some one else's wife. 12 But as a gregarious being, man very soon perceives and understands in lapse of time, with increasing keenness, that social life imposes upon him duties to his neighbour. Even in the lowest stage the infraction of social enactments is looked upon as an offence. But the social laws are only recorded in the customs of the horde, the tribe, or the nation. The employment of the vendetta is certainly a moral action wherever it has not been replaced by better institutions. The Brazilian Tupinamba hope that the virtuous will be gathered to their fathers in the happy gardens of the other world; but by virtue they mean brave defence of the property of the tribe, slaying many foes, and devouring the slain.13 Moral commandments only attain their highest perfection when their relation is extended to the whole of mankind, when the rights of man are respected in foreign

10 Dumont d'Urville, Voyage de l'Astrolabe.

12 Waitz, Anthropologie, vol. i.

13 Lery, quoted by Tylor, vol. ii. p. 86.

11 El Orinoco ilustrado.

Morality connected with Religion.

nations, and the duties of man are fulfilled towards alien races. Whatever may be his distance from this goal, which though recognized by Christianity is still unreached in the Christian world, man is everywhere tempted to value his own pleasure and advantage more highly than the social commandment laid upon him. But in proportion as the moral conceptions amplify the conception of the Deity, so does religion operate as the most powerful lever of improvement: the invisible author of existence appears as the legislator, and as the judge of right and wrong. The Erânians in Persia were the first to connect religion with morality.


Search among their antiquities has invariably indicated that the Persian and Indian Aryans, at a date not yet determined, inhabited a common home, and shared the same religious conceptions. They imagined the invisible world to be filled with beings exercising an influence over the destiny of mankind, and these beings they named Deva and Ahura. Whether a religious division took place in consequence of the separation, or the separation in consequence of a religious division, the Erânians afterwards regarded the Ahura as benevolent, the Deva (in modern Persian, div, English, devil) as inimical powers. Conversely, among the Indian Aryans the Deva (Latin, deus) are considered the beneficent, and the Erânian Ahura evil powers. 14

Among the Erânians there was a consecrated caste, called Soschianto in the oldest sacred writings, in ancient times exactly corresponding to the Indian Atharva, for both consisted of priests of fire.15 In Media the Magi, whose name first occurs in the inscriptions of Darius, performed the functions of the Soschianto. and Atharva.16 They wore white raiment, refrained from animal food, and worshipped the forces of nature personified, or the highest forms of fetish, the sun (Mithra), the moon, the stars, the earth, running water, and especially fire. Among these priests rose

14 In the oldest portions of the Rigveda Samhitâ, the expression Asura is still used in a good and elevated sense. Martin Haug, Religion of the Parsees.

15 From the latter is derived the Atharva Veda. Atharva means provided with fire.

16 Fr. Spiegel, Das Leben Zarathustra's. 1867.

the founder of a religion, Zoroaster, or more correctly Zarathustra. 17 He is first mentioned in Greek literature about 470 B.C. by Xanthus the Lydian, who dates his appearance at hundreds or thousands of years before Xerxes. He is certainly of very high antiquity, 18 Difficulties also occur in assigning the place of his birth, and although it is generally said to have been Ragha or the present Rai near Teheran, it must be added that he subsequently lived in Bactria, and that it was probably there that his doctrine first took root. 19



Zarathustra proclaimed that among the many benevolent Ahura there was a Mazdâo, or creator of the world, 20 who rewarded good and evil. This supreme being combined in itself a white or holy (spento mainyus) and a dark or evil spirit (angro mainyus), so that the division into Ormazd and Ahriman did not form a part of the pure doctrine of Zoroaster; " according to his tenets, both good and evil proceeded from the same creative power. an old hymn in the Parsee liturgy, the soul of Nature is represented as appearing before God, and complaining that the world is devastated by the oppression of the evil one. It also begs for the creation of a being powerful enough to release it for ever from its affliction. But it did not seem good to God to exempt mortals from the conflict with the evil one, which tends to fortify the power of good with which they were endowed. But, at the request of the soul of Nature, he showed it the prototype of Zarathustra, by whose appearance the champions of good should receive such support that the victory of light would be secured for ever.22

But this more profound doctrine became obscured in the

17 The name is translated variously by Windischmann (Zoroastrische Studien), by Fr. Spiegel (Leben Zarathustra's), and by Martin Haug, who explains it as the title of a high priest, and gives the founder the name of Spitama.

18 M. Haug (Lecture on the Original Speech of Zoroaster) does not think it permissible to place it earlier than 2300 B.C. Rapp, on the contrary, has adduced many reasons for fixing the period between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries B.C.

19 Rapp has skilfully set forth the evidence in favour of Bactra.

21 Ibid.

20 Haug, Religion of the Parsees.

22 Ferdinand Justi in the Ausland. 1871.


course of time. The light side and the dark side of the Divine will were separated. Since then the lords of light and of darkness struggle for the victory which is, however, decided from the beginning. Ormazd alone knows of the existence of Ahriman, and has three thousand years in which to form an army of immortal fellow-helpers before the latter moves. When Ahriman at length rises to the conflict, he encounters a well-prepared antagonist. The struggle lasts three thousand years without a decision. Only in the next and final period of three thousand years is Ahriman reduced to impotence.23 In this conflict mortal man is to partake; he is to choose between light and darkness, to conduce to the victory of the Good by the influence of his works, and not increase Ahriman's prospect of success by bad actions. It was certainly not easy to invent anything more influential in fostering the better impulses of man than the promise of being regarded by God himself as a contributor to the victory. Connected with this was the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, a genuinely Zoroastrian dogma, of which the earliest notice reached the West at the end of the fourth century B.C., through Theopompos.24 The dead were supposed to rise to an eternal life in bodies needing no change of substance, casting no shadow, and requiring no sustenance. For three days after the last dying breath the soul still hovers near its bodily shell. But at the fourth dawn an angel of death drags it to the bridge of the soul-catcher (Tshinvat Peretu) and before the judge Straoscha, who tests the good and bad works in the balance. The righteous man is met with celestial greetings by an embodiment of his virtuous life in the form of a maiden in the full beauty of youth, slim and broad-bosomed, with white arms and noble countenance. To the godless the embodiment of his conduct appears as an ill-favoured girl, the sight of whom recalls to his remembrance all his lies and acts of injustice. According to the verdict, the soul either passes over the bridge to the sphere of hymns of praise (garô demâna) or is cast down by evil spirits into the gulf of destruction.

Similar ideas respecting the trial of the soul after death are diffused over the whole world. We need not dwell on the judg

24 Ibid.

23 Wendischmann, Zoroastr. Studien.


ment of the dead as conceived by the Egyptians, as it is sufficiently well known. But according to the creed of the Badagas in Tamul India, the souls are obliged to pass by a column of fire which consumes the sinful, and it is only after perils that they reach the land of the blessed by a bridge of rope.25 Jesuit missionaries record that the Hurons believe that the souls of the departed are obliged to pass over the river of death on the trunk of a tree; during the passage many are seized and thrown over by the guardian of the bridge, or by a dog. 26 Tylor, who has sedulously collected other examples of the myth of the bridge of the soul, found it also in an old English dirge, in which the words "The brig of dread no brader than a thread" occur.27

The striking Erânian conception of a moral dispensation of the world did not prevent the continuance of an old fetishistic superstition, which was, however, skilfully reconciled with the fundamental idea of the Mazdayasna, or the doctrine of Zoroaster. Thus Mithra, or the sun, was adored as the eye of Ormazd, although created by himself. The Shamanistic drinking of the Haoma likewise preserved its magic influence. But, above all, fire is even now worshipped as the son of Ormazd; hence no conflagration may be extinguished save with earth; no light blown out, for every breath is a pollution, for which reason the priests in their sacred functions and other Parsees while engaged in prayer cover their mouths. Fire is contaminated by cooking and smith's work, and the moral law of the Parsees everywhere insists on cleanliness. Running water enjoys the same protection from pollution. For this reason it was meritorious to build bridges in order to obviate wading through the rivers. As the dead could neither be burnt nor thrown into the water, nor can the equally sacred earth be defiled by them, the bodies were exposed as a prey to birds in circular places, surrounded by walls, which were called Towers of Silence.28

25 Baierlein, Nach und aus Indien.

26 Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. ii. p. 92.

27 Early History of Mankind, p. 451.

28 In Media also corpses were not laid in the ground before they had been covered over with melted wax; or they were buried, as in the royal vaults at Persepolis, when the flesh had been stripped from the bones. That Cyrus,

« ÎnapoiContinuă »