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cease to exist. Thus, totemism continued to flourish, until Greek and Roman times, in the rites and customs of the common people, though the religion of the ruling classes had more than half emerged from the totemistic stage even in the time of the earliest monuments.
Now, just as the animal names and half-animal forms of the gods depicted on the monuments betray their totemistic origin, so the representations of the future state betray the existence of a large number of persons who had not yet cast aside the belief that after death they would rejoin the totem, in favour of the newer belief that they would go to the plains of Aalu. The older totemistic belief must have been shared, at this time, by some proportion of the more cultured classes, for we find from the monuments that, as many departed souls preferred going to Aalu to union with Osiris, so many preferred—and were allowed, in the opinion of their class — : to migrate into some animal. But what marks this belief as different from and an advance upon the simple totemistic faith, is, first, that the deceased may migrate into any animal he pleased—this was evidently because there were many different totems, and each man would be sure to choose his own; and, next, that it was only the good who were allowed to do this. Thus the retribution theory held by one portion of the community has influenced and modified the totemism of another section : it is only on condition of conforming to the moral standard of the time—a high one—that the totemist was allowed to conform to the practice of his fathers and join them in animal shape. On the other hand, it is clear that as yet we have by no means reached metempsychosis. Let us go on.
In the long course of advancing civilisation, the cultured classes of ancient Egypt all dropped the belief that a man ought to rejoin his totem after death. Aalu and Osiris triumphed, and the belief that souls migrated posthumously into plants and animals survived amongst the educated no longer as a religious conviction, but simply as an echo of what once had been an ordinary thing, but now was simply an incident of romance. Of such a romance we have an example in the tale of Batta, contained in a papyrus of the
Supra, pp. 124 ff.
nineteenth or perhaps the eighteenth century: as often as Batta is killed in one shape he reappears in another-a flower, a bull, a tree, a man. With the decay of totemism amongst the cultured, first the moral obligation to migrate into the totem animal had relaxed and the permission to assume any form whatever had been acted on; and then the belief had lost its religious character and passed into the nature of romance.
Amongst the uneducated, however, totemism still continued to exist; and—whether it was that the ranks of condemned souls were supposed to be recruited most largely from amongst the uneducated, or that the assumption of animal shape was at last thought an unworthy reward of virtue—the doctrine came to be held that the wicked soul “ was sentenced to the various torments of hell, or to wander like a vampire between heaven and earth, or else doomed to transmigrate into the bodies of animals, until permitted to regain its original body and undergo a fresh trial.”1 Thus in Egypt the artificial combination of the retribution theory with totemism at last produced a real theory of metempsychosis; and, for the purpose of avoiding confusion between the Egyptian and the Indian forms of the belief in the transmigration of souls, it is important to note three things : the first is that it is only the wicked who are doomed by the Egyptian theory to transmigration; the next is that Egyptian transmigration is a circular process—the soul of a man migrates into animals, birds, fish, but finally returns to its human form; the third is that there is no escape from the cycle when once it has started, it is only after reaching human form again that the soul has another trial and another chance of becoming an Osiris. Bearing these facts in mind, let us turn to India.
A happy other-world in the sun or sky was known in India as early as the time of the Vedas, and by the sixth century B.C. an elaborate hell had been worked out by the dominant religion. In India, totemism was to be found; indeed, well-marked traces of it survive to the present day.3 In India, as in Egypt, the dominant religion and the lower 1 Sayce, Hdt. i.-iii. 345.
Nutt, op. cit. 320. * Crooke, Folk-Lore of Northern India, ch. viii.
forms acted and reacted on one another, with the result that the retribution theory of the former had to be reconciled with the belief of the totemist in a posthumous transformation into the shape of the plant or animal totem. “Thus in the Chāndogya Upanishad we read : “ Those whose conduct has been good will quickly attain some good birth, birth as a Brāhmaṇa or as a Kshatriya or a Vaişya; ... 'and in the Kaustutaki Brāhmana Upanishad : '... he is born either as a worm, or a grasshopper, or a fish, or a bird, or a lion, or a boar, or a serpent, or a tiger, or a man, or some other creature, according to his deeds and his knowledge.'”i Here we have a genuine theory of transmigration of souls: the simple totemist belief has been enlarged so as to meet the views of those who, not being totemists, were not bound to be changed into any one particular animal, and man has been introduced into the list of metamorphoses. But though, in India as in Egypt, the totemist faith has been generalised and dissociated from the totem animal, and though in both countries the migrating soul may return to human form, here all resemblance ceases. In Egypt, metempsychosis was first made a means of rewarding the righteous exclusively, and then exclusively an instrument for punishing the wicked. But in India it was applied to both good and bad alike: the retribution theory was infused into metempsychosis—all men were born again, but the good got a good birth, the bad a bad one, according to their deeds and deserts. In the next place, there was a cycle of transformations in Egypt, with the possibility of escape on the completion of the cycle. But in India there was no cycle and no escape: the good got a good birth, and then bad behaviour might cause him to be reborn lower in the scale—but whether the soul behaved well or ill, it always had to be born again.
Now, to the pessimist the prospect of living for ever, in one form or another, is an evil. It was a pessimist, therefore, Gotama, who revolted against the Brahminist doctrine of the transmigration of souls. Gotama, the “enlightened,” the Buddha, struck at the root of the theory he attacked by denying the existence of the soul altogether—he also denied the existence of a God—therefore there could be no trans
Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lecture, 81.
migration of souls. What did take place, according to the Buddha, was transmission (not transmigration) of karma, character (not soul). The good and evil that men do live after them—not in the changes, good or bad, which their actions bring about during their own lifetime, or in the effects they produce on their contemporaries or in the memory of those who come after them, but—in a fresh individuality, a fresh ego, which never would have come into being at all, had it not been for the desire of existence entertained by the previous member of the chain, and which is good or bad according as he was good or bad. Plato's doctrine— based upon the Egyptian view—is similar and simpler: be allows the existence of a soul, which is enamoured of the delights of the body, and so even when it has escaped from one body returns to another, because it craves after existence and the bodily delights that go therewith. According to Buddhism, there is no soul : it is the craving after existence and corporeal pleasures which results in renewed existence; and therefore it is the extinction (nirvana) of this craving (not the extinction of the soul, for there is no soul) which is the Buddhist's object. This extinction of the desires men can accomplish by being righteous. Thus the motive of the Buddhist is annihilation, the giving up of the craving for a future life of any kind, even in heaven. In any given chain of existences, the karma of that chain is transmitted ; and if the karma take the form of an everweakening desire for existence and ever-increasing righteousness, there will come a time when the desire will cease, and " then no new link will be formed in the chain of existence; there will be no more birth; for birth, decay, and death, grief, lamentation, and despair, will have come, so far as regards that chain of lives, for ever to an end." 2
Thus the goal of Buddhism was the extinction of existence, just as in Egypt the transmigration of the soul was terminated by the dissolution of the individual in the vague of the One, the All, the divine essence, Osiris. But this external resemblance must not blind us to the real difference between the two theories. In Egypt it was only the bad, not all men, who were doomed to transmigration. In Egypt * Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lecture, 88-109.
? Ibid. 99.
there was a cycle of changes to be suffered ; in Buddhism karma is transmitted in a direct line, which may be continued to infinity. In Egypt escape is possible only on the completion of the cycle, and then it is, first, conditional on the favourable judgment of the god Osiris, and is, next, effected by union with Osiris; whereas in Buddhism, which denies the existence both of the soul and of God, escape neither depends on divine judgment nor consists in the absorption of the soul into the divine essence.
In connection with the theory of metem psychosis, and as a preliminary to our investigation of the subject of the Mysteries, it remains for us to give a short account of Pythagoreanism.
The unanimous voice of antiquity proclaimed that ; Pythagoras (in the sixth century B.C.) taught the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, and—with how much truth may be questioned—that he derived the doctrine from Egypt, and that he himself remembered his experiences in his previous states, which, if true, would have made it unnecessary, we might suppose, for him to learn the fact of transmigration from anyone else, Egyptian or other. Empedocles, a follower of Pythagoras, taught—doubtless in accord with his master's teaching—that the cause of transmigration was sin, that the term of transmigration was thirty thousand years, that he himself had served that term, and that finally his soul, like others in the same case, would become a god—which indeed it had been from the beginning. Pindar, who was a contemporary of Empedocles, and picked up some Pythagoreanism on his visits to Sicily, also lets us see that it was only the wicked who were doomed to transmigration, the good went straight to a happy otherworld; and that, after transmigration and return to human form, the soul had to be judged by Persephone, and might then enter the abodes of bliss. In quite recent years there have been discovered in graves near Thurii and Petelia, that is in the home of Pythagoreanism, three golden tablets bearing inscriptions. These inscriptions contain directions to the deceased Pythagorean with whom they were buried, to
? Jevons, History of Greek Literature, · 105.