« ForrigeFortsæt »
this is the pice the deceased, tahv M. Chab
conceive some supernatural being as giving the water to the deceased, whereas, as we have seen, the Pythagoreans did. And, oddly enough, so did the Egyptians. And again, though such an idea as the Pythagorean notion of supernatural "guards” giving the ghost water to drink is unknown elsewhere in Greece, it is an ordinary feature of the pictures on Egyptian tombs : “the most usual representation of this is the picture in which the goddess NŲt pours out the water of life to the deceased, from the interior of a sycamore-tree. In a picture published by M. Chabas, the deceased kneels before Osiris, and receives from him the water of life from a vessel under which is written ānch ba, 'that the soul may live.'”i Again, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead the deceased is directed to protect himself, in his long and perilous journey through the underworld with its monsters of all kinds, not only by the use of amulets and talismans, but by proclaiming “I am Osiris.” 2 So the Pythagorean ghost is to proclaim that he is divine. Again, it is not likely that the idea of issuing a guide to the underworld occurred straight off to Pythagoras, whereas the Egyptian Book of the Dead took centuries to form. If it be said that a small gold tablet is not to be compared with the Book of the Dead, which has hundreds of chapters, the answer is that the verses on the Pythagorean tablets are but extracts from a greater work;' and that in Egypt the most important of the talismans which were buried (like the Pythagorean tablets) with the deceased was one which had an extract from the Book of the Dead (namely, chapter xxx.) engraved upon it: “the rubric directs it to be placed upon the heart of the deceased person.” 4
The foreign origin of Pythagoreanism is further attested by the fact that its attachments to native Greek beliefs are so few, so slight, and so forced. Thus, in order to find a footing for the doctrine that the soul of man emanated from the divine essence, that man was a compound of earth and ether, and so returned, body to earth and soul to ether,5
the Pythagorean was forced in despair to clutch at a text in Hesiod which taught not that men but that gods were first created from the union of Earth and Sky. Again, in Egypt it was right that the supreme god, Osiris, should judge the departed; and he could properly be present in the nether world, because the Egyptians believed that he, the sun, travelled every night through the underworld. In Greece, however, Zeus, the supreme god, had nothing to do with the nether world; the god Hades was already appropriated to the old dreary ghost-land; so the Pythagorean had to be content with Persephone as the deity who regulated admission to the abodes of bliss. Again, the idea that souls had anywhere to go to, except to the old cheerless, sunless ghost-land, was absolutely unknown to the Greeks. So, in order to form a conception of an abode of bliss for the righteous dead, Pindar and other poets drew upon the descriptions of Elysium and the fortunate isles, contained in epic poetry; and thus eventually the plains of Elysium came to be, what in Greece they had never been before, namely, the abode of the dead.
In fine, there is nothing in Pythagoreanism which is not to be found in the religion of ancient Egypt; and there is much which is unintelligible, if taken by itself, but is at once seen to have a meaning when restored to the Egyptian context from which it was taken. The doctrine which in Egypt took centuries to develop, cannot have been invented in Magna Græcia by one man, though one man might well bring back from Egypt a mixture of the leading doctrines and some unimportant accessories and introduce them in the form of a “mystery” into his own country. Again, the theory of the transmigration of souls is not a simple but a complex idea. It is not an idea which could spring up wherever totemism existed, else it would be as widespread as are the animal and half-animal gods which totemism has everywhere left behind it. Metempsychosis is a complex idea, it is a combination of the retribution theory with a
living belief in the transformation of men into animals; and this combination is one which could not have taken place in Magna Græcia, because neither of the elements of which the theory is composed was in existence there. Totemism had been transmuted into a higher form of belief even in Mycenæan times; the retribution theory was as yet unknown. In the time of Homer and Hesiod, the souls of all men, good and bad alike, went to one and the same place, the underground ghost-land. Even after their time there is no hint of any difference in the future state of the good and of the bad, until the time of the Pythagorean and other mysteries ; and then such references are always made in connection with the mysteries, and as part of the doctrine taught at the mysteries. Why this should be, and why the retribution theory should have begun to stir the minds both of the Greeks and of the Jews about the same time, i.e. from the time of the Captivity of the Jews onwards, are the questions to which we must address ourselves in the next chapter. Let us therefore sum up and conclude this.
There are certain elements of the belief in a future world that recurso constantly and under such different circumstances in the various religions which we have examined in this chapter, that we must regard them as latent in the human mind, and ready to manifest themselves whenever the conditions requisite to evoke them are brought into play. They are, that the soul continues to exist after death, that its fate then depends upon its deeds in this life, that it must undergo a transformation of some kind and rejoin the object of its worship. In two of the religions that we have mentioned, those of the Greeks and the Jews, these elements had not been synthesised before the sixth century, and we have yet to see whether and how far they were combined subsequently. In other religions, e.g. those of India and of Egypt, the synthesis had been effected to some extent; but that the synthesis was not one which could permanently recommend itself as satisfactory to the religious consciousness, is demonstrated by the fact of its leading in the one country to the Buddhist denial of the existence both of the soul and of God, and in the other to a pantheism which equally denied personal immortality. If we seek for reasons why these attempts failed to produce a faith capable of satisfying the religious consciousness, the first fact that strikes us is that they were premature. While the continuance theory was still so strong in its hold upon the minds of men that they could conceive no future life except as an exact reproduction of the conditions and activities of this life, the retribution theory was fused with it, so that the rewards and punishments were pictured in the grossest and most materialistic fashion. On the other hand, before the belief that man must undergo a posthumous transformation had been dissociated from the idea of transformation into animal or plant form, it was infused with the retribution theory, so that the soul could not escape from a material body on this view, any more than from its material occupations and delights on the other. A further reason why these attempts failed to satisfy the religious consciousness, is that they did not proceed from it: they were in their origin the speculations of primitive philosophy. They were indeed adopted into religion, but, in the case both of India and Egypt, they were fatal to it. The after-death communion with God which they offered was either purely formal and external, as must be the case when there are many gods for the soul to meet; or absolute absorption and extinction. That communion during life was at once a condition and an anticipation of what was to be hereafter, was a conception which could not arise where sacrifice had degraded into the giving of something in order to get more. In other words, no religious synthesis of the elements of belief in a future state could be effected as long as, on the one hand, that belief was out of relation to the central act of worship, the sacrificial meal; or as long, on the other hand, as the sacramental character of that act was obscured. We have therefore to consider in the next chapter how far these two conditions were fulfilled by the religious movements amongst the Greeks and Jews from the sixth century B.C. onwards.
The sixth century B.C. shows a hitherto unheard-of and inconceivable innovation in religion. Hitherto the only circle of worshippers conceivable had been one the members of which were united by blood; the only religious community to which a man could belong was that into which he had been born. In the nomad stage of society the tribal god was worshipped by the members of the tribe and by them alone : the same hostility to all other tribes which made “strangers synaymous with "enemies ” made it impossible for any but the tribe to approach the tribal god. The tribe, and therefore the worshippers of the god, consisted only of those born into the tribe. Even when circumstances compelled the tribe to abandon its nomad habits, to settle finally in one local habitation, and to form a permanent fusion, social, political, and religious, with its neighbours, the new and enlarged community thus formed consisted exclusively of the members of the amalgamating tribes and their blooddescendants: citizenship—membership of the new political community—was an inherited privilege; and the only gods whose cults were open to a man were those of the state to which he belonged by birth. On the one hand, the local cults were jealously closed to all but citizens of the place. On the other, the citizen was not free to choose his religion : the only gods to whom he had access were those of the community into which he was born.
But in the sixth century B.C. we find in the ancient world new rites and cults arising which differ from all previous ones, first in that they were open to all men, and next in that membership was voluntary and spontaneous. They