Imágenes de páginas

this consideration may probably have led to the readier acceptance of the doctrine of some of the Greek philosophers who introduced a bodily state after death. But these, in so doing, rather favoured the doctrine of transmigration than that of a resurrection of the body which was seen to die, and which, after being devoured by dogs, or destroyed in some other manner, they could hardly conceive to rise again. It is well known that Pythagoras taught the doctrine of transmigration, although as none of his writings have come down to us we are not sure of the exact manner in which he held it. Plato also alludes to a similar doctrine, in a passage which refers no doubt to the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, and to the view that it is at punishment to become corporeal at all. He tells us :If any one's life has been virtuous he shall obtain a better fate hereafter; if wicked a worse. But no soul will return to its pristine condition till the expiration of ten thousand years, since it will not recover the use of its wings until that period, except it be the soul of one who has philosophised sincerely or together with philosophy has loved beautiful forms. These indeed in the third period of a thousand years, if they have thrice chosen this mode of life in succession, shall in the three thousandth year fly away to their pristine abode, but other souls, being arrived at the end of their first life, shall be judged. And of those who are judged, some, proceeding to a subterraneous place of judgment, shall there sustain the punishments they have deserved; but others, in consequence of a favourable judgment, being elevated into a certain celestial place, shall pass their time in a manner

becoming the life they have lived in a human shape. And in the thousandth year both the kinds of those who have been judged, returning to the lot and election of a second life, shall each of them receive a life agreeable to his desire. Here also the human soul shall pass into the life of a beast, and from that of a beast again into a man if it has first been the soul of For the soul which has never perceived the truth cannot pass into the human form.'1 A certain degree of choice is here supposed to be left to the soul, and those who cannot attain to the more ethereal and refined existence, have to choose a bodily one, returning, after they have become sufficiently purified, once more into human shape.

a man.

16. As a matter of course, a dim belief of this nature gave rise to a class of philosophers who denied. the possibility of a future state altogether. The advent of this school of thought was probably hastened by outward events. In the golden age of Greece a vigorous republic served to concentrate upon itself the energies of the citizens, and under these circumstances their minds were not likely to question the truth of the national creed. While the gods smiled upon them they were content to acknowledge their active existence. It has been remarked by Schmitz, that the unfavourable political circumstances of the time may have been concerned in the rise of the Epicurean school-'thinking men were led to seek within for that which they could not find without.' The gods of Epicurus, this writer goes on to remark, 'consisted of atoms, and were in the enjoyment of perfect happiness, which had not been disturbed by 1 Phædrus, quoted by Wilkinson.

the laborious business of creating the world, and as the government of the world would interfere with their happiness, Epicurus conceived them as exercising no influence whatever upon the world or man.'

It is of such gods the poet speaks when he says:

'For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd

Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,

Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,

Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying hands.'

The antient Roman poet Lucretius, in his wellknown poem 'De Rerum Natura,' has beautifully interpreted the Epicurean philosophy. Adopting like Epicurus the atomic or corpuscular theory of things, he tells his readers that the soul of man perishes along with the body, and that it is the height of folly for man to be afraid of that which may happen to him after death.

17. It is unnecessary to discuss in detail the tenets of the various Greek and Roman philosophers. A number of indefinite and sometimes contradictory expressions sufficiently betrays the uncertainty of their opinions. Desirous, it may be, themselves to believe-desirous at least that the body of their countrymen should believe-in a future state, it is yet not wonderful that they should have felt strongly the difficulty of believing, or have expressed their doubts in writings which were not intended to be read by the great mass of the people.

18. Proceeding now to the extreme east, it is well known that of late years very great light has been

thrown upon the antient religions of the Brahmans, the Magians, and the Buddhists. In an admirable collection of essays by Professor Max Müller,1 we have a good epitome of what has been accomplished by the laborious investigations of oriental scholars. We learn from these that the most antient document is the Rig-Veda, or Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans, in which we have the religious belief of a large section of the Indo-Germanic race at a period supposed to be from 1200 to 2000 years before the Christian era. In these hymns the gods are called Deva, a word which is conjectured to be the same with the Latin Deus. 'It would be easy,' says Max Müller, 'to find in the numerous hymns of the Veda passages in which every important deity is represented as supreme and absolute. Thus in one hymn, Agni (fire) is called "the ruler of the universe."


another hymn, another god, Indra, is said to be greater than all. "The gods," it is said, "do not reach thee, Indra, nor men,-thou overcomest all creatures in strength.” . . . . Another god, Soma, is called the king of the world, the king of heaven and earth, the conqueror of all. . . . . Another poet says of another god, Varuna, "Thou art lord of all, of heaven and earth; thou art the king of all, of those who are gods, and of those who are men." ... This surely,' remarks Max Müller, 'is not what is commonly understood by Polytheism. Yet it would be equally wrong to call it Monotheism. If we must

have a name for it, I should call it Kathenotheism. The consciousness that all the deities are but different names of one and the same godhead, breaks

Chips from a German Workshop.

forth indeed here and there in the Veda.

But it is

far from being general. One poet for instance says, "They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni; then he is the beautiful-winged heavenly Garutmat-that which is one, the wise call it, in divers manners; they call it Agni, Yama, Mâtarisvan."

19. We learn from the same author that 'there is in the Veda no trace of metempsychosis, or that transmigration of souls from human to animal bodies, which is generally supposed to be a distinguishing feature of Indian religion. Instead of this we find what is really the sine quâ non of all real religion, a belief in immortality and in personal immortality. . . Thus we read, He who gives alms goes to the highest place in heaven; he goes to the gods. . . . . . . Again we find this prayer addressed to Soma :

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

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

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

Max Müller further remarks, that the Rig-Veda contains allusions, although vague, to a place of punishment for the wicked. 'The dogs of Yama, the king of the departed, present some terrible aspects, and Yama is asked to protect the departed from them. Again, a pit is mentioned, into which the lawless are said to be hurled down, and into which Indra casts those who offer no sacrifices.'

« AnteriorContinuar »