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may not be capable of being brought under any one common definition, there may still be an underlying continuity between them. But, if we are to discover what it is that unites them, we must consider, not what they are, but what they tend to be ; their bond of union consists in the fact that they all express certain tendencies common to all mankind, not that they express those tendencies in the same or similar beliefs, rites, ceremonies, or forms. They seek • the Lord, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him.' The arrow finds its mark as well, if not so surely, as the bullet; and the lowest form of religion, so far as it is religion, embodies the same tendencies, however rudimentary and undeveloped, as the highest. Lowest and highest are united by the fact that both are attempts, if only attempts, to realise the ideal of religion in thought, word, and deed.
What, then, are these tendencies which manifest themselves in all forms of religion, and which, so far as they are tendencies to belief, may be termed the common faith of mankind? What is that recurring need of humanity which all forms of religion strive to satisfy, though with differing creeds, different rites, and very various degrees of success ? and how do that need and those tendencies manifest themselves in Greek literature ?
From the beginning Greek literature speaks on this point with the frankness and directness customary to and characteristic of the Greek mind. 'All men have need of the
gods,' says Homer, with the unclouded serenity of one enunciating a simple fact of common observation. Æschylus, describing the horrors of the retreating Persians' passage across the Strymon, when the ice gave way beneath their weight, says, with the same direct simplicity: “Then many ' a man prayed to the gods who never prayed before.' The lyric poets, if they do not repeat the observation of the epic poet and the dramatist, do more-they exemplify it in their own practice. As Professor Campbell says, 'in their ' hours of most intense consciousness and passionate emotion • the appeal to powers above themselves—Zeus, Apollo, · Demeter, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Eros—breaks forth instinc
tively, as from a source of inexhaustible fulness from which • they draw a momentary inspiration' (p. 115).
Every need which is strong enough to make itself felt prompts a man to set about satisfying it. Instinctive needs set up or start automatically the actions necessary to appease them. Needs not instinctire prompt actions of a more or less random character, which may or may not VOL. CXCI. NO. CCCXCII.
succeed, according as they are wisely or unwisely selected and directed, and which require some exercise of reason. Such action implies a conviction that it is possible to satisfy the need in question. The belief is not based on evidence : it is something which is taken for granted. It is a conviction which is given with the need, and rises to the surface of consciousness from the same unknown depths of man's nature as the need itself. The need which Homer says all men have implies, for its logical justification, the belief that the gods have the will and do incline to hearken to man's prayer. And as the Greek spirit was to be explicit, Homer found the simplest and most direct expression for this simplest creed : “A god, if he so will, may save even from
afar.' The religious ideal, manifested in this simple faith, already is a Power which is or may be friendly to man.
About the power of the gods to save there could be no question. That they also had the will was matter of common knowledge; not only did Apollo in the Iliad help his priest, not only were Achilles, Odysseus, and Telemachus constantly befriended by Athênê, but Themistocles could say of the defeat of Xerxes, This deliverance is the work • of the gods ;' in the storms which wrecked the Persian fleet at Artemisium, the Athenians recognised the hand of a friendly god, Boreas. If all men have need of the gods, most men in the hour of deliverance from great danger have gratitude also; and feeling from their hearts it is not we ourselves,' they can give the glory where it is due, as does Pindar, speaking of the battle of Salamis : “Now might • Salamis bear witness to her deliverance by Ægina's sea' men and the destroying tempest of Zeus, when death came
thick as hail on the unnumbered hosts. Yet let no boast be heard. Zeus ordereth this or that.' • Te Deum * laudamus'— not unto us, but to thy name, O Athena, be • the praise '—is the natural expression at such times of all decent minds. Professor Campbell points to the parallel between the defeat of the Persians and the destruction of the Spanish Armada :
* We have lately heard the story of the Armada from the Spanish side, and know more fully than we did how many causes worked together with British patriotism, courage, and seamanship to bring about that overthrow. But those who felt the joy and exultation of the deliverance knew nothing of this; they knew only that the big black cloud which threatened England had been rolled away, and they acknowledged with grateful pride the daring defence of Howard, Drake, and Frobisher, and iheir brave seamen, and the protecting hand of God over their land.' (P. 194.)
But though faith in a Power able and willing to save, at hand in the time of need, and never at any time far from any one of us, goes to the root of the matter, and is the earliest expression of the religious ideal in Greek literature, the ideal is not manifested fully, or clear from ambiguity, in that simple faith. Potentially it may be present, but a long process of evolution was necessary before it could reach even such developement as was possible for it in Greek religion. The ideal was visible, but there was no clear vision in the days of Homer or even of the Persian invasion. "A god, if he will, may save. But, if he does not will? The god of the religious ideal may be a friendly power. There is also the possibility that he may actually be anything but friendly. When Themistocles restrained the Athenians from the pursuit of Xerxes, he not only said, in the words quoted above, 'This deliverance is the work of • the gods, but added, 'whose jealousy would not suffer the • pride of an impious man. Let us not provoke them by • following our advantage too far, but let us rebuild our
ruined temples, and restore our homesteads and our family • hearths. It is true that Themistocles ascribes the jealousy of the gods to the impiety of man; but the 'malignity of *the deity' was believed by the Greeks to go much further and do much worse than punish the impious. We cannot think that Professor Campbell is right in saying that 'in
regard to human life the ruling thought [of Herodotus) is * that of the divine envy or malignity, which is exemplified ' in the countless miseries of mankind and the insecurity of
all good fortune;' for in this matter, as in most others, Herodotus, as a faithful reporter of what he has learned by inquiry, is reproducing, along with the facts which he has elicited from others, the light in which his informants saw them and the tone which they unconsciously imparted to their narratives. The striking folk-tales which he records were and are striking because of the views of life which they convey. This particular class of tale owes its interest and its vitality to the very fact that the divine envy is its motif. Strip such a tale of its moral—or its anti-noral— and it becomes worthless for literary purposes. Herodotus was too much of an artist to write history in that manner.
There can, however, be no doubt that the malignity of the deity was a ruling thought if not of Herodotus, then of his time. Its frequent appearance in Herodotus is evidence in that direction. The crude form of it saw in each disaster an outcome of divine revenge, or of the envy of the gods
at human prosperity.' God will not suffer men to exalt themselves or provoke Him by too great success. In Herodotus, the Solon of popular tradition 'speaks of God as the
author of confusion and as full of envy. The relentless envy with which the deity pursued Polycrates and rejected the ring of great price which that too prosperous prince threw into the sea in the hope of appeasing by the sacrifice the jealousy of heaven, is the best illustration, even in Herodotus, of the doctrine of the malignity of the deity.
That doctrine is obviously a piece of folklore. It is a popular rough and ready explanation of certain striking facts of human life which cry aloud for explanation. It is based, not on a methodical study and on an organised comparison of a wide range of related facts, but on the nearest and most obvious analogies; and it owes its popularity, as all folklore does, to the fact that the analogies to which it appeals are familiar and intelligible, with the minimum of intellectual exertion, to all minds, however little educated. All men, Aristotle says, have a natural desire for knowledge; but most men, we may add, are not inclined to take more trouble than is absolutely necessary to appease that desirethe first analogy that occurs, the solution that requires the least effort to comprehend, is good enough for them. But the most obvious explanation, the one which turns up first, and which any man can hit upon, is not usually the correct or final explanation. It becomes part of the learning of the people and a piece of folklore, because it saves the trouble of further thought for the moment. Eventually, however, it is found to create more difficulties than it solves, and reveals the necessity of a deeper and more systematic study of the facts. Thus scientific explanation in the end comes to follow a process the very reverse of that adopted by popular explanations. They drew only on the facts obvious to the most superficial observer. It finds itself forced on to the consideration of facts which are only detected by prolonged study, and can usually only be properly appreciated by those who have made a special study of them. Such systematic study of Nature is Science; of Religion, Theology.
The folklore doctrine of the malignity of the deity eventually elicited from the Greek spirit a definite and va.uable piece of theology, a more precise formulation of the religious ideal, and a profounder appreciation of its content and significance. It is hardly necessary to say that for this fuller manifestation of the religious ideal we must look to the great minds of Greece, the great masters in Greek literature. Progress, whether in art, science, or religion, is due not to the many but to the few. "The million rise to learn, the • One to teach,' as Shelley says; or, as Confucius puts it, * All men have palates ; but how many can distinguish • flavours ?' First, however, let us consider the conditions which favoured the growth of this Greek doctrine of the malignity of the deity; in that way we shall see how from the beginning the conception carried within it the germ of its own negation, and by its own evolution led to an idea which not only comprehended in its higher unity such truth as was contained both in the doctrine and in the antithesis of the doctrine, but transcended the ideal of religion as first manifested in Greek literature in the words of Homer : A 'god, if he will, can save even from afar.'
Lower religions have their evil spirits, higher religions their devil; but it is a remarkable fact (not, we believe, noticed by Professor Campbell) that Greek religion knew neither. There is nothing in it to correspond to the terrible powers of evil against whose onslaughts so many of the Babylonian 'hymns' are directed. There are few traces even in the superstitious practices of the Greeks of that abject terror of supernatural foes which is characteristic of the savage state of culture---so few indeed that it might almost be regarded as an open question whether they had ever experienced it. If they had, they had long outgrown it even in Homer's time. The condict which, according to the wisdom of the Egyptians, was waged on almost equal terms between the powers of good and the powers of darkness, was for the Greek mind a struggle that had long been ended in favour of the national gods: Typhoeus, Typhon, the serpent Python, and the Titans were things of the past. They were as the dragons and giants and monsters of fairy tales ; they were not practical forces, determining the conduct of daily life, either in religious or superstitious belief. Mormo was confined to the nursery.
It is striking testimony to the eminently rational and practical character of the Greek mind that, in dealing with the Unseen, the Greeks took it for granted that all the supernatural powers had a friendly side to their character, in virtue of which it was possible for man, if he set about it in a sensible manner, to establish friendly relations and live on satisfactory terms with all of them. From the beginning, and throughout, the Greek acted on the principle that to win goodwill you must show goodwill. He persisted in treating powers that had a distinctly evil reputation with