According to the rude morality of the people and the time, the contrasted conditions of admission to the upper paradise or condemnation to the infernal realm were the admired
4 Pigott, Manual of Scandinavian Mythology, p. 65.
5 Keyser, Religion of the Northmen, trans. by Pennock, p. 149.
6 Pigott, p. 245.
virtues of strength, open handed frankness, reckless audacity, or the hated vices of feebleness, cowardice, deceit, humility. Those who have won fame by puissant feats and who die in battle are snatched by the Valkyrs from the sod to Valhalla. To die in arms is to be chosen of Odin,
"In whose hall of gold The steel clad ghosts their wonted orgies hold. Some taunting jest begets the war of words: In clamorous fray they grasp their gleamy swords, And, as upon the earth, with fierce delight By turns renew the banquet and the fight."
All, on the contrary, who, after lives of ignoble labor or despicable ease, die of sickness, sink from their beds to the dismal house of Hela. In this gigantic vaulted cavern the air smells like a newly stirred grave; damp fogs rise, hollow sighs are heard, the only light comes from funeral tapers held by skeletons; the hideous queen, whom Thor eulogizes as the Scourger of Cowards, sits on a throne of skulls, and sways a sceptre, made of a dead man's bone bleached in the moonlight, over a countless multitude of shivering ghosts.7 But the Norse moralists plunge to a yet darker doom those guilty of perjury, murder, or adultery. In Nastrond's grisly hail, which is shaped of serpents' spines, and through whose loop holes drops of poison drip, where no sunlight ever reaches, they welter in a venom sea and are gnawed by the dragon Nidhogg.8 In a word, what to the crude moral sense of the martial Goth seemed piety, virtue, led to heaven; what seemed blasphemy, baseness, led to hell.
The long war between good and evil, light and darkness, order and discord, the Asir and the Jotuns, was at last to reach a fatal crisis and end in one universal battle, called Ragnarokur, or the "Twilight of the Gods," whose result would be the total destruction of the present creation. Portentous inklings of this dread encounter were abroad among all beings. A shuddering anticipation of it sat in a lowering frown of shadow on the brows of the deities. In preparation for Ragnarokur, both parties anxiously secured all the allies they could. Odin therefore joyously welcomes every valiant warrior to Valhalla, as a recruit for his hosts on that day when Fenris shall break loose. When Hakon Jarl fell, the Valkyrs shouted, "Now does the force of the gods grow stronger when they have brought Hakon to their home." A Skald makes Odin say, on the death of King Eirilc Blood Axe, as an excuse for permitting such a hero to be slain, "Our lot is uncertain: the gray wolf gazes on the host of the gods;" that is, we shall need help at Ragnarokur. But as all the brave and magnanimous champions received to Valhalla were enlisted on the side of the Asir, so all the miserable cowards, invalids, and wretches doomed to Hela's house would fight for the Jotuns. From day to day the opposed armies, above and below, increase in numbers. Some grow impatient, some tremble. When Balder dies, and the ship Nagelfra is completed, the hour of infinite suspense will strike. Nagelfra is a vessel for the conveyance of the hosts of frost giants to the battle. It is to be built of dead men's nails: therefore no one should die with unpaired nails, for if he does he
7 Pigott, pp. 137, 138.
8 The Voluspa, strophes 34, 35.
furnishes materials for the construction of that ship which men and gods wish to have finished as late as possible.9
At length Loki treacherously compasses the murder of Balder. The frightful foreboding which at once flies through all hearts finds voice in the dark "Raven Song" of Odin. Having chanted this obscure wail in heaven, he mounts his horse and rides down the bridge to Helheim. With resistless incantations he raises from the grave, where she has been interred for ages, wrapt in snows, wet with the rains and the dews, an aged vala or prophetess, and forces her to answer his questions. With appalling replies he returns home, galloping up the sky. And now the crack of doom is at hand. Heimdall hurries up and down the bridge Bifrost, blowing his horn till its rousing blasts echo through the universe. The wolf Skoll, from whose pursuit the frightened sun has fled round the heavens since the first dawn, overtakes and devours his bright prey. Nagelfra, with the Jotun hosts on board, sails swiftly from Utgard. Loki advances at the head of the troops of Hela. Fenris snaps his chain and rushes forth with jaws so extended that the upper touches the firmament, while the under rests on the earth; and he would open them wider if there were room. Jormungandur writhes his entire length around Midgard, and, lifting his head, blows venom over air and sea. Suddenly, in the south, heaven cleaves asunder, and through the breach the sons of Muspel, the flame genii, ride out on horseback with Surtur at their head, his sword outflashing the sun. Now Odin leads forward the Asir and the Einheriar, and on the predestined plain of Vigrid the strife commences. Heimdall and Loki mutually slay each other. Thor kills Jormungandur; but as the monster expires he belches a flood of venom, under which the matchless thunder god staggers and falls dead. Fenris swallows Odin, but is instantly rent in twain by Vidar, the strong silent one, Odin's dumb son, who well avenges his father on the wolf by splitting the jaws that devoured him. Then Surtur slings fire abroad, and the reek rises around all things. Iggdrasill, the great Ash Tree of Existence, totters, but stands. All below perishes. Finally, the unnamable Mighty One appears, to judge the good and the bad. The former hie from fading Valhalla to eternal Gimle, where all joy is to be theirs forever; the latter are stormed down from Hela to Nastrond, there, "under curdling mists, in a snaky marsh whose waves freeze black and thaw in blood, to be scared forever, for punishment, with terrors ever new." All strife vanishes in endless peace. By the power of All Father, a new earth, green and fair, shoots up from the sea, to be inhabited by a new race of men free from sorrow. The foul, spotted dragon Nidhogg flies over the plains, bearing corpses and Death itself away upon his wings, and sinks out of sight.10
It has generally been asserted, in consonance with the foregoing view, that the Scandinavians believed that the good and the bad, respectively in Gimle and Nastrond, would experience everlasting rewards and punishments. But Blackwell, the recent editor of Percy's translation of Mallet's Northern Antiquities as published in Bohn's Antiquarian Library, argues with great force against the correctness of the assertion.11 The point is
9 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, s. 775, note.
10 Keyser, Religion of the Northmen, part i. ch. vi.
11 Pp. 497-503.
dubious; but it is of no great importance, since we know that the spirit and large outlines of their faith have been reliably set forth. That faith, rising from the impetuous blood and rude mind of the martial race of the North, gathering wonderful embellishments from the glowing imagination of the Skalds, reacting, doubly nourished the fierce valor and fervid fancy from which it sprang. It drove the dragon prows of the Vikings marauding over the seas. It rolled the Goths' conquering squadrons across the nations, from the shores of Finland and Skager Rack to the foot of the Pyrenees and the gates of Rome. The very ferocity with which it blazed consumed itself, and the conquest of the flickering faith by Christianity was easy. During the dominion of this religion, the earnest sincerity with which its disciples received it appears alike from the fearful enterprises it prompted them to, the iron hardihood and immeasurable contempt of death it inspired in them, and the superstitious observances which, with pains and expenses, they scrupulously kept. They buried, with the dead, gold, useful implements, ornaments, that they might descend, furnished and shining, to the halls of Hela. With a chieftain they buried a pompous horse and splendid armor, that he might ride like a warrior into Valhalla. The true Scandinavian, by age or sickness deprived of dying in battle, ran himself through, or flung himself from a precipice, in this manner to make amends for not expiring in armed strife, if haply thus he might snatch a late seat among the Einheriar. With the same motive the dying sea king had himself laid on his ship, alone, and launched away, with out stretched sails, with a slow fire in the hold, which, when he was fairly out at sea, should flame up and, as Carlyle says, "worthily bury the old hero at once in the sky and in the ocean." Surely then, if ever, "the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent took it by force."
ETRUSCAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE.
ALTHOUGH the living form and written annals of Etruria perished thousands of years ago, and although but slight references to her affairs have come down to us in the documents of contemporary nations, yet, through a comparatively recent acquisition of facts, we have quite a distinct and satisfactory knowledge of her condition and experience when her power was palmiest. We follow the ancient Etruscans from the cradle to the tomb, perceiving their various national costumes, peculiar physiognomies, names and relationships, houses, furniture, ranks, avocations, games, dying scenes, burial processions, and funeral festivals. And, further than this, we follow their souls into the world to come, behold them in the hands of good or evil spirits, brought to judgment and then awarded their deserts of bliss or woe. This knowledge has been derived from their sepulchres, which still resist the corroding hand of Time when nearly every thing else Etruscan has mingled with the ground.1 They hewed their tombs in the living rock of cliffs and hills, or reared them of massive masonry. They painted or carved the walls with descriptive and symbolic scenes, and crowded their interiors with sarcophagi, cinerary urns, vases, goblets, mirrors, and a thousand other articles covered with paintings and sculptures rich in information of their authors. From a study of these things, lately disinterred in immense quantities, has been constructed, for the most part, our present acquaintance with this ancient people. Strange that, when the whole scene of life has passed away, a sepulchral world should survive and open itself to reveal the past and instruct the future! We seem to see, rising from her tombs, and moving solemnly among the mounds where all she knew or cared for has for so many ages been inurned, the ghost of a mighty people. With dejected air she leans on a ruined temple and muses; and her shadowy tears fall silently over what was and is not.
The Etruscans were accustomed to bury their deceased outside their walls; and sometimes the city of the living was thus surrounded by a far reaching city of the dead. At this day the decaying fronts of the houses of the departed, for miles upon miles along the road, admonish the living traveller. These stone hewn sepulchres crowd nearly every hill and glen. Whole acres of them are also found upon the plains, covered by several feet of earth, where every spring the plough passes over them, and every autumn the harvest waves; but the dust beneath reposes well, and knows nothing of this.
"Time buries graves. How strange! a buried grave! Death cannot from more death its own dead empire save."
The houses of the dead were built in imitation of the houses of the living, only on a smaller scale; and the interior arrangements were so closely copied that it is said the resemblance held in all but the light of day and the sound and motion of life. The images
1 Mrs. Gray, Sepulchres of Etruria.
painted or etched on the urns and sarcophagi that fill the sepulchres were portraits of the deceased, accurate likenesses, varying with age, sex, features, and expression. These personal portraits were taken and laid up here, doubtless, to preserve their remembrance when the original had crumbled to ashes. What a touching voice is this from antiquity, telling us that our poor, fond human nature was ever the same! The heart longed to be kept still in remembrance when the mortal frame was gone. But how vain the wish beyond the vanishing circle of hearts that returned its love! For, as we wander through those sepulchres now, thousands of faces thus preserved look down upon us with a mute plea, when every vestige of their names and characters is forever lost, and their very dust scattered long ago.
Along the sides of the burial chamber were ranged massive stone shelves, or sometimes benches, or tables, upon which the dead were laid in a reclining posture, to sleep their long sleep. It often happens that on these rocky biers lie the helmet, breastplate, greaves, signet ring, and weapons, or, if it be a female, the necklace, ear rings, bracelet, and other ornaments, each in its relative place, when the body they once encased or adorned has not left a single fragment behind. An antiquary once, digging for discoveries, chanced to break through the ceiling of a tomb. He looked in; and there, to quote his own words, "I beheld a warrior stretched on a couch of rock, and in a few minutes I saw him vanish under my eyes; for, as the air entered the cemetery, the armor, thoroughly oxydized, crumbled away into most minute particles, and in a short time scarcely a trace of what I had seen was left on the couch. It is impossible to express the effect this sight produced upon me."
An important element in the religion of Etruria was the doctrine of Genii, a system of household deities who watched over the fortunes of individuals and families, and who are continually shown on the engravings in the sepulchres as guiding, or actively interested in, all the incidents that happen to those under their care. It was supposed that every person had two genii allotted to him, one inciting him to good deeds, the other to bad, and both accompanying him after death to the judgment to give in their testimony and turn the scales of his fate. This belief, sincerely held, would obviously wield a powerful influence over their feelings in the conduct of life.
The doctrine concerning the gods that prevailed in this ancient nation is learned partly from the classic authors, partly from sepulchral monumental remains. It was somewhat allied to that of Egypt, but much more to that of Rome, who indeed derived a considerable portion of her mythology from this source. As in other pagan countries, a multitude of deities were worshipped here, each having his peculiar office, form of representation, and cycle of traditions. It would be useless to specify all.2 The goddess of Fate was pictured with wings, showing her swiftness, and with a hammer and nail, to typify that her decrees were unalterably fixed. The name of the supreme god was Tinia. He was the central power of the world of divinities, and was always represented, like Jupiter Tonans, with a thunderbolt in his hand. There were twelve great "consenting gods," composing the council of Tinia, and called "The Senators of Heaven." They were pitiless beings, dwelling in the inmost recesses
2 Muller, Die Etrusker, buch iii. kap. iv. sects. 7-14.
of heaven, whose names it was not lawful to pronounce. Yet they were not deemed eternal, but were supposed to rise and fall together. There was another class, called "The Shrouded Gods," still more awful, potent, and mysterious, ruling all things, and much like the inscrutable Necessity that filled the dark background of the old Greek religion. Last, but most feared and most prominent in the Etruscan mind, were the rulers of the lower regions, Mantus and Mania, the king and queen of the under world. Mantus was figured as an old man, wearing a crown, with wings at his shoulders, and a torch reversed in his hand. Mania was a fearful personage, frequently propitiated with human sacrifices. Macrobius says boys were offered up at her annual festival for a long time, till the heads of onions and poppies were substituted.3 Intimately connected with these divinities was Charun, their chief minister, the conductor of souls into the realm of the future, whose dread image, hideous as the imagination could conceive, is constantly introduced in the sepulchral pictures, and who with his attendant demons well illustrates the terrible character of the superstition which first created, then deified, and then trembled before him. Who can become acquainted with such horrors as these without drawing a freer breath, and feeling a deeper gratitude to God, as he remembers how, for many centuries now, the religion of love has been redeeming man from subterranean darkness, hatred, and fright, to the happiness and peace of good will and trust in the sweet, sunlit air of day!
That a belief in a future existence formed a prominent and controlling feature in the creed of the Etruscans4 is abundantly shown by the contents of their tombs. They would never have produced and preserved paintings, tracings, types, of such a character and in such quantities, had not the doctrines they shadow forth possessed a ruling hold upon their hopes and fears. The symbolic representations connected with this subject may be arranged in several classes. First, there is an innumerable variety of death bed scenes, many of them of the most touching and pathetic character, such as witnesses say can scarcely be looked upon without tears, others of the most appalling nature, showing perfect abandonment to fright, screams, sobbing, and despair. The last hour is described under all circumstances, coming to all sorts of persons, prince, priest, peasant, man, mother, and child. Patriarchs are dying surrounded by groups in every posture of grief; friends are waving a mournful farewell to their weeping lovers; wives are torn from the embrace of their husbands; some seem resigned and willingly going, others reluctant and driven in terror.
The next series of engravings contain descriptions and emblems of the departure of the soul from this world, and of its passage into the next. There are various symbols of this mysterious transition: one is a snake with a boy riding upon its back, its amphibious nature plainly typifying the twofold existence allotted to man. The soul is also often shown muffled in a veil and travelling garb, seated upon a horse, and followed by a slave carrying a large sack of provisions, an emblem of the long and dreary journey about to be taken. Horses are depicted harnessed to cars in which disembodied spirits are seated, a token of the swift ride
3 Saturnal. lib. i. cap. 7.
4 Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, ch. xii.
of the dead to their doom. Sometimes the soul is gently invited, or led, by a good spirit, sometimes beaten, or dragged away, by the squalid and savage Charun, the horrible death king, or one of his ministers; sometimes a good and an evil spirit are seen contending for the soul; sometimes the soul is seen, on its knees, beseeching the aid of its good genius and grasping at his departing wing, as, with averted face, he is retiring; and sometimes the good and the evil spirits are leading it away together, to abide the sentence of the tribunal of Mantus. Whole companies of souls are also set forth marching in procession, under the guidance of a winged genius, to their subterranean abode.
Finally, there is a class of representations depicting the ultimate fate of souls after judgment has been passed. Some are shown seated at banquet, in full enjoyment, according to their ideas of bliss. Some are shown undergoing punishment, beaten with hammers, stabbed and torn by black demons. There are no proofs that the Etruscans believed in the translation of any soul to the abode of the gods above the sky, no signs of any path rising to the supernal heaven; but they clearly expected just discriminations to be made in the under world. Into that realm many gates are shown leading, some of them peaceful, inviting, surrounded by apparent emblems of deliverance, rest, and blessedness; others yawning, terrific, engirt by the heads of gnashing beasts and furies threatening their victim.
"Shown is the progress of the guilty soul From earth's worn threshold to the throne of doom; Here the black genius to the dismal goal Drags the wan spectre from the unsheltering tomb, While from the side it never more may warn The better angel, sorrowing, flees forlorn. There (closed the eighth) seven yawning gates reveal The sevenfold anguish that awaits the lost. Closed the eighth gate, for there the happy dwell. No glimpse of joy beyond makes horror less."
In these lines, from Bulwer's learned and ornate epic of King Arthur, the dire severity of the Etruscan doctrine of a future life is well indicated, with the local imagery of some parts of it, and the impenetrable obscurity which enwraps the great sequel.
EGYPTIAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE.
IN attempting to understand the conceptions of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt on the subject of a future life, we are first met by the inquiry why they took such great pains to preserve the bodies of their dead. It has been supposed that no common motive could have animated them to such lavish expenditure of money, time, and labor as the process of embalming required. It has been taken for granted that only some recondite theological consideration could explain this phenomenon. Accordingly, it is now the popular belief that the Egyptians were so scrupulous in embalming their dead and storing them in repositories of eternal stone, because they believed that the departed souls would at some future time come back and revivify their former bodies, if these were kept from decay. This hypothesis seems to us as false as it is gratuitous. In the first place, there is no evidence of it whatever, neither written testimony nor circumstantial hint. Herodotus tells us, "The Egyptians say the soul, on the dissolution of the body, always enters into some other animal then born, and, having passed in rotation through the various terrestrial, aquatic, and arial beings, again enters the body of a man then born."1 There is no assertion that, at the end of the three thousand years occupied by this circuit, the soul will re enter its former body. The plain inference, on the contrary, is that it will be born in a new body, as at each preceding step in the series of its transmigrations. Secondly, the mutilation of the body in embalming forbids the belief in its restoration to life. The brain was extracted, and the skull stuffed with cotton. The entrails were taken out, and sometimes, according to Porphyry2 and Plutarch,3 thrown into the Nile; sometimes, as modern examinations have revealed, bound up in four packages and either replaced in the cavity of the stomach or laid in four vases beside the mummy. It is absurd to attribute, without clear cause, to an enlightened people the belief that these stacks of brainless, eviscerated mummies, dried and shrunken in ovens, coated with pitch, bound up in a hundredfold bandages, would ever revive, and, inhabited by the same souls that fled them thirty centuries before, again walk the streets of Thebes! Besides, a third consideration demands notice. By the theory of metempsychosis universally acknowledged to have been held by the Egyptians it is taught that souls at death, either immediately, or after a temporary sojourn in hell or heaven has struck the balance of their merits, are born in fresh bodies; never that they return into their old ones. But the point is set beyond controversy by the discovery of inscriptions, accompanying pictures of scenes illustrating the felicity of blessed souls in heaven, to this effect: "Their bodies shall repose in their tombs forever; they live in the celestial regions eternally, enjoying the presence of the Supreme God." 4 A writer on this subject says, "A people who believed in the transmigration
1 Herod. lib. ii. cap. 123.
2 De Abstinentia, lib. iv. cap. 10.
3 Banquet of the Seven Wise Men.
4 Champollion, Descr. de l'Egypte, Antiq. tom ii. p. 132. Stuart's Trans. of Greppo's Essay, p. 262.
of souls would naturally take extraordinary pains to preserve the body from putrefaction, in the hope of the soul again joining the body it had quitted." The remark is intrinsically untrue, because the doctrine of transmigration coexists in reconciled belief with the observed law of birth, infancy, and growth, not with the miracle of transition into reviving corpses. The notion is likewise historically refuted by the fact that the believers of that doctrine in the thronged East have never preserved the body, but at once buried or burned it. The whole Egyptian theology is much more closely allied to the Hindu, which excluded, than to the Persian, which emphasized, the resurrection of the body.
Another theory which has been devised to explain the purpose of Egyptian embalming, is that "it was to unite the soul permanently to its body, and keep the vital principle from perishing or transmigrating; the body and soul ran together through the journey of the dead and its dread ordeal." 5 This arbitrary guess is incredible. The preservation of the body does not appear in any way not even to the rawest fancy to detain or unite the soul with it; for the thought is unavoidable that it is precisely the absence of the soul which constitutes death. Again: such an explanation of the motive for embalming cannot be correct, because in the hieroglyphic representations of the passage to the judgment the separate soul is often depicted as hovering over the body, 6 or as kneeling before the judges, or as pursuing its adventures through the various realms of the creation. "When the body is represented," Champollion says, "it is as an aid to the spectator, and not as teaching a bodily resurrection. Sharpe's opinion that the picture of a bird poised over the mouth of a mummy, with the emblems of breath and life in its claws, implies the doctrine of a general physical resurrection, is an inferential leap of the most startling character. What proof is there that the symbol denotes this? Hundreds of paintings in the tombs show souls undergoing their respective allotments in the other world while their bodily mummies are quiet in the sepulchres of the present. In his treatise on "Isis and Osiris," Plutarch writes, "The Egyptians believe that while the bodies of eminent men are buried in the earth their souls are stars shining in heaven." It is equally nonsensical in itself and unwarranted by evidence to imagine that, in the Egyptian faith, embalming either retained the soul in the body or preserved the body for a future return of the soul. Who can believe that it was for either of those purposes that they embalmed the multitudes of animals whose mummies the explorer is still turning up? They preserved cats, hawks, bugs, crocodiles, monkeys, bulls, with as great pains as they did men.7 When the Canary Islands were first visited, it was found that their inhabitants had a custom of carefully embalming the dead. The same was the case among the Peruvians, whose vast cemeteries remain to this day crowded with mummies. But the expectation of a return of the souls into these preserved bodies is not to be ascribed to those peoples. Herodotus informs us that "the Ethiopians, having dried the bodies of their dead, coat them with white plaster, which they paint with colors to the likeness of the deceased and encase in a transparent substance. The dead, thus kept from being offensive, and yet plainly visible, are retained a
5 Bonomi and Arundel on Egyptian Antiq., p. 46.
6 Pl. xxxiii. in Lepsius' Todtenb. der. Agypter.
7 Pettigrew, Hist of Egyptian Mummies, ch. xii.
whole year in the houses of their nearest relatives. Afterwards they are carried out and placed upright in the tombs around the city." 8 It has been argued, because the Egyptians expended so much in preparing lasting tombs and in adorning their walls with varied embellishments, that they must have thought the soul remained in the body, a conscious occupant of the dwelling place provided for it.9 As well might it be argued that, because the ancient savage tribes on the coast of South America, who obtained their support by fishing, buried fish hooks and bait with their dead, they supposed the dead bodies occupied themselves in their graves by fishing! The adornment of the tomb, so lavish and varied with the Egyptians, was a gratification of the spontaneous workings of fancy and affection, and needs no far fetched explanation. Every nation has its funeral customs and its rites of sepulture, many of which would be as difficult of explanation as those of Egypt. The Scandinavian sea king was sometimes buried, in his ship, in a grave dug on some headland overlooking the ocean. The Scythians buried their dead in rolls of gold, sometimes weighing forty or fifty solid pounds. Diodorus the Sicilian says, "The Egyptians, laying the embalmed bodies of their ancestors in noble monuments, see the true visages and expressions of those who died ages before them. So they take almost as great pleasure in viewing their bodily proportions and the lineaments of their faces as if they were still living among them." 10 That instinct which leads us to obtain portraits of those we love, and makes us unwilling to part even with their lifeless bodies, was the cause of embalming. The bodies thus prepared, we know from the testimony of ancient authors, were kept in the houses of their children or kindred, until a new generation, "who knew not Joseph," removed them. Then nothing could be more natural than that the priesthood should take advantage of the custom, so associated with sacred sentiments, and throw theological sanctions over it, shroud it in mystery, and secure a monopoly of the power and profit arising from it. It is not improbable, too, as has been suggested, that hygienic considerations, expressing themselves in political laws and priestly precepts, may at first have had an influence in establishing the habit of embalming, to prevent the pestilences apt to arise in such a climate from the decay of animal substances.
There is great diversity of opinion among Egyptologists on this point. One thinks that embalming was supposed to keep the soul in the body until after the funeral judgment and interment, but that, when the corpse was laid in its final receptacle, the soul proceeded to accompany the sun in its daily and nocturnal circuit, or to transmigrate through various animals and deities. Another imagines that the process of embalming was believed to secure the repose of the soul in the other world, exempt from transmigrations, so long as the body was kept from decay.11 Perhaps the different notions on this subject attributed by modern authors to the Egyptians may all have prevailed among them at different times or among distinct sects. But it seems most likely, as we have said, that embalming first arose from physical and sentimental considerations naturally operating, rather than from any
8 Lib. iii. cap. 24.
9 Kenrick, Ancient Egypt, vol. i. ch. xxi. sect. iii.
10 Lib. i. cap. 7.
11 Library of Entertaining Knowledge, vol. ii. ch. iii.
theological doctrine carefully devised; although, after the priesthood appropriated the business, it is altogether probable that they interwove it with an artificial and elaborate system of sacerdotal dogmas, in which was the hiding of the national power.
The second question that arises is, What was the significance of the funeral ceremonies celebrated by the Egyptians over their dead? When the body had been embalmed, it was presented before a tribunal of forty two judges sitting in state on the eastern borders of the lake Acherusia. They made strict inquiry into the conduct and character of the deceased. Any one might make complaint against him, or testify in his behalf. If it was found that he had been wicked, had died in debt, or was otherwise unworthy, he was deprived of honorable burial and ignominiously thrown into a ditch. This was called Tartar, from the wailings the sentence produced among his relatives. But if he was found to have led an upright life, and to have been a good man, the honors of a regular interment were decreed him. The cemetery a large plain environed with trees and lined with canals lay on the western side of the lake, and was named Elisout, or rest. It was reached by a boat, the funeral barge, in which no one could cross without an order from the judges and the payment of a small fee. In these and other particulars some of the scenes supposed to be awaiting the soul in the other world were dramatically shadowed forth. Each rite was a symbol of a reality existing, in solemn correspondence, in the invisible state. What the priests did over the body on earth the judicial deities did over the soul in Amenthe. It seems plain that the Greeks derived many of their notions concerning the fate and state of the dead from Egypt. Hades corresponds with Amenthe; Pluto, with the subterranean Osiris; Mercury psychopompos, with Anubis, "the usher of souls;" Aacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthos, with the three assistant gods who help in weighing the soul and present the result to Osiris; Tartarus, to the ditch Tartar; Charon's ghost boat over the Styx, to the barge conveying the mummy to the tomb; Cerberus, to Oms; Acheron, to Acherusia; the Elysian Fields, to Elisout.12 Kenrick thinks the Greeks may have developed these views for themselves, without indebtedness to Egypt. But the notions were in existence among the Egyptians at least twelve hundred years before they can be traced among the Greeks.13 And they are too arbitrary and systematic to have been independently constructed by two nations. Besides, Herodotus positively affirms that they were derived from Egypt. Several other ancient authors also state this; and nearly every modern writer on the subject agrees in it.
The triumphs of modern investigation into the antiquities of Egypt, unlocking the hieroglyphics and lifting the curtain from the secrets of ages, have unveiled to us a far more full and satisfactory view of the Egyptian doctrine of the future life than can be constructed from the narrow glimpses afforded by the accounts of the old Greek authorities. Three sources of knowledge have been laid open to us. First, the papyrus rolls, one of which was placed in the bosom of every mummy. This roll, covered with hieroglyphics, is called the funeral ritual, or book of the dead. It served as a passport through the burial rites. It contained the names of the deceased and his parents, a series of prayers he was to recite
12 Spineto on Egyptian Antiq, Lectures IV., V.
13 Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, 2d Series, vol. i. ch. 12.
before the various divinities he would meet on his journey, and representations of some of the adventures awaiting him in the unseen state.14 Secondly, the ornamental cases in which the mummies are enclosed are painted all over with scenes setting forth the realities and events to which the soul of the dead occupant has passed in the other life.15 Thirdly, the various fates of souls are sculptured and painted on the walls in the tombs, in characters which have been deciphered during the present century:16
"Those mystic, stony volumes on the walls long writ, Whose sense is late reveal'd to searching modern wit."
Combining the information thus obtained, we learn that, according to the Egyptian representation, the soul is led by the god Thoth into Amenthe, the infernal world, the entrance to which lies in the extreme west, on the farther side of the sea, where the sun goes down under the earth. It was in accordance with this supposition that Herod caused to be engraved, on a magnificent monument erected to his deceased wife, the line, "Zeus, this blooming woman sent beyond the ocean." 17 At the entrance sits a wide throated monster, over whose head is the inscription, "This is the devourer of many who go into Amenthe, the lacerator of the heart of him who comes with sins to the house of justice." The soul next kneels before the forty two assessors of Osiris, with deprecating asseverations and intercessions. It then comes to the final trial in the terrible Hall of the two Truths, the approving and the condemning; or, as it is differently named, the Hall of the double Justice, the rewarding and the punishing. Here the three divinities Horns, Anubis, and Thoth proceed to weigh the soul in the balance. In one scale an image of Thmei, the goddess of Truth, is placed; in the other, a heart shaped vase, symbolizing the heart of the deceased with all the actions of his earthly life. Then happy is he "Who, weighed 'gainst Truth, down dips the awful scale."
Thoth notes the result on a tablet, and the deceased advances with it to the foot of the throne on which sits Osiris, lord of the dead, king of Amenthe. He pronounces the decisive sentence, and his assistants see that it is at once executed. The condemned soul is either scourged back to the earth straightway, to live again in the form of a vile animal, as some of the emblems appear to denote; or plunged into the tortures of a horrid hell of fire and devils below, as numerous engravings set forth; or driven into the atmosphere, to be vexed and tossed by tempests, violently whirled in blasts and clouds, till its sins are expiated, and another probation granted through a renewed existence in human form.
We have two accounts of the Egyptian divisions of the universe. According to the first view, they conceived the creation to consist of three grand departments. First came the earth, or zone of trial, where men live on probation. Next was the atmosphere, or zone of temporal
14 Das Todtenbuch der Agypter, edited with an introduction by Dr. Lepsius.
15 Ch. ix. of Pettigrew's History of Egyptian Mummies.
16 Champollion's Letter, dated Thebes, May 16, 1829. An abstract of this letter may be found in Stuart's trans. of Greppo's Essay on Champollion's Hieroglyphic System, appendix, note N.
17 Basnage, Hist. of the Jews, lib. ii. ch. 12, sect. 19.
punishment, where souls are afflicted for their sins. The ruler of this girdle of storms was Pooh, the overseer of souls in penance. Such a notion is found in some of the later Greek philosophers, and in the writings of the Alexandrian Jews, who undoubtedly drew it from the priestly science of Egypt. Every one will recollect how Paul speaks of "the prince of the power off the air." And Shakspeare makes the timid Claudio shrink from the verge of death with horror, lest his soul should, through ages,
"Be imprison'd in the viewless winds, And blown with restless violence round about The pendent world."
After their purgation in this region, all the souls live again on earth by transmigration.18 The third realm was in the serene blue sky among the stars, the zone of blessedness, where the accepted dwell in immortal peace and joy. Eusebius says, "The Egyptians represented the universe by two circles, one within the other, and a serpent with the head of a hawk twining his folds around them," thus forming three spheres, earth, firmament, divinity.
But the representation most frequent and imposing is that which pictures the creation simply as having the earth in the centre, and the sun with his attendants as circulating around it in the brightness of the superior, and the darkness of the infernal, firmament. Souls at death pass down through the west into Amenthe, and are tried. If condemned, they are either sent back to the earth, or confined in the nether space for punishment. If justified, they join the blissful company of the Sun God, and rise with him through the east to journey along his celestial course. The upper hemisphere is divided into twelve equal parts, corresponding with the twelve hours of the day. At the gate of each of these golden segments a sentinel god is stationed, to whom the newly arriving soul must give its credentials to secure a passage. In like manner, the lower hemisphere is cut into the same number of gloomy sections, corresponding with the twelve hours of the night. Daily the chief divinity, in robes of light, traverses the beaming zones of the blessed, where they hunt and fish, or plough and sow, reap and gather, in the Fields of the Sun on the banks of the heavenly Nile. Nightly, arrayed in deep black from head to foot, he traverses the dismal zones of the damned, where they undergo appropriate retributions. Thus the future destiny of man was sublimely associated with the march of the sun through the upper and lower hemispheres.19 Astronomy was a part of the Egyptian's theology. He regarded the stars not figuratively, but literally, as spirits and pure genii; the great planets as deities. The calendar was a religious chart, each month, week, day, hour, being the special charge and stand point of a god.20
There was much poetic beauty and ethical power in these doctrines and symbols. The necessity of virtue, the dread ordeals of the grave, the certainty of retribution, the mystic circuits of transmigration, a glorious immortality, the paths of planets and gods and souls through creation, all were impressively enounced, dramatically shown.
18 Liber Metempsychosis Veterum Agyptiorum, edited and translated into Latin from the funeral papyri by H. Brugsch.
19 L'Univers, Egypte Ancienne, par Champollion Figeac, pp. 123 145.
20 Agyptische Glaubenslehre von Dr. Ed. Roth, ss. 171, 174.
"The Egyptain soul sail'd o'er the skyey sea In ark of crystal, mann'd by beamy gods, To drag the deeps of space and net the stars, Where, in their nebulous shoals, they shore the void And through old Night's Typhonian blindness shine. Then, solarized, he press'd towards the sun, And, in the heavenly Hades, hall of God, Had final welcome of the firmament."
This solemn linking of the fate of man with the astronomic universe, this grand blending of the deepest of moral doctrines with the most august of physical sciences, plainly betrays the brain and hand of that hereditary hierarchy whose wisdom was the wonder of the ancient world. Osburn thinks the localization of Amenthe in the west may have arisen in the following way. Some superstitious Egyptians, travelling westwards, at twilight, on the great marshes haunted by the strange gray white ibis, saw troops of these silent, solemn, ghostlike birds, motionless or slow stalking, and conceived them to be souls waiting for the funeral rites to be paid, that they might sink with the setting sun to their destined abode.21
That such a system of belief was too complex and elaborate to have been a popular development is evident. But that it was really held by the people there is no room to doubt. Parts of it were publicly enacted on festival days by multitudes numbering more than a hundred thousand. Parts of it were dimly shadowed out in the secret recesses of temples, surrounded by the most astonishing accompaniments that unrivalled learning, skill, wealth, and power could contrive. Its authority commanded the allegiance, its charm fascinated the imagination, of the people. Its force built the pyramids, and enshrined whole generations of Egypt's embalmed population in richly adorned sepulchres of everlasting rock. Its substance of esoteric knowledge and faith, in its form of exoteric imposture and exhibition, gave it vitality and endurance long. In the vortex of change and decay it sank at last. And now it is only after its secrets have been buried for thirty centuries that the exploring genius of modern times has brought its hidden hieroglyphics to light, and taught us what were the doctrines originally contained in the altar lore of those priestly schools which once dotted the plains of the Delta and studded the banks of eldest Nile, where now, disfigured and gigantic, the solemn
"Old Syhinxes lift their countenances bland Athwart the river sea and sea of sand."
21 Monumental History of Egypt, vol. i. ch. 8.
BRAHMANIC AND BUDDHIST DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE.
IN the Hindu views of the fate of the human soul, metaphysical subtlety and imaginative vastness, intellect and fancy, slavish tradition and audacious speculation, besotted ritualism and heaven storming spirituality, are mingled together on a scale of grandeur and intensity wholly without a parallel elsewhere in the literature or faith of the world. Brahmanism, with its hundred million adherents holding sway over India, and Buddhism, with its four hundred million disciples scattered over a dozen nations, from Java to Japan, and from the Ceylonese to the Samoyedes, practically considered, in reference to their actually received dogmas and aims pertaining to a future life, agree sufficiently to warrant us in giving them a general examination together. The chief difference between them will be explained in the sequel.
The most ancient Hindu doctrine of the future fate of man, as given in the Vedas, was simple, rude, and very unlike the forms in which it has since prevailed. Professor Wilson says, in the introduction to his translation of the Rig Veda, that the references to this subject in the primeval Sanscrit scriptures are sparse and incomplete. But no one has so thoroughly elucidated this obscure question as Roth of Tubingen, in his masterly paper on the Morality of the Vedas, of which there is a translation, by Professor Whitney, in the Journal of the American Oriental Society.1 The results of his researches may be stated in few words.
When a man dies, the earth is invoked to wrap his body up, as a mother wraps her child in her garment, and to lie lightly on him. He himself is addressed thus: "Go forth, go forth on the ancient paths which our fathers in old times have trodden: the two rulers in bliss, Yama and Varuna, shalt thou behold." Varuna judges all. He thrusts the wicked down into darkness; and not a hint or clew further of their doom is furnished. They were supposed either to be annihilated, as Professor Roth thinks the Vedas imply, or else to live as demons, in sin, blackness, and woe. The good go up to heaven and are glorified with a shining spiritual body like that of the gods. Yama, the first man, originator of the human race on earth, is the beginner and head of renewed humanity in another world, and is termed the Assembler of Men. It is a poetic and grand conception that the first one who died, leading the way, should be the patriarch and monarch of all who follow. The old Vedic hymns imply that the departed good are in a state of exalted felicity, but scarcely picture forth any particulars. The following passage, versified with strict fidelity to the original, is as full and explicit as any:
Where glory never fading is, where is the world of heavenly light, The world of immortality, the everlasting, set me there! Where Yama reigns, Vivasvat's son, in the inmost sphere of heaven bright. Where those abounding waters flow, oh, make me but immortal there! Where there is freedom unrestrain'd, where the triple vault of heaven's in sight, Where worlds of brightest glory are, oh, make me but immortal there! Where pleasures and enjoyments are, where bliss and raptures ne'er take flight, Where all desires are satisfied, oh, make me but immortal there!
1 Vol iii. pp. 342-346.
But this form of doctrine long ago passed from the Hindu remembrance, lost in the multiplying developments and specifications of a mystical philosophy, and a teeming superstition nourished by an unbounded imagination.
Both Brahmans and Buddhists conceive of the creation on the most enormous scale. Mount Meru rises from the centre of the earth to the height of about two millions of miles. On its summit is the city of Brahma, covering a space of fourteen thousand leagues, and surrounded by the stately cities of the regents of the spheres. Between Meru and the wall of stone forming the extreme circumference of the earth are seven concentric circles of rocks. Between these rocky bracelets are continents and seas. In some of the seas wallow single fishes thousands of miles in every dimension. The celestial spaces are occupied by a large number of heavens, called "dewa lokas," increasing in the glory and bliss of their prerogatives. The worlds below the earth are hells, called "naraka." The description of twenty eight of these, given in the Vishnu Purana,2 makes the reader "sup full of horrors." The Buddhist "Books of Ceylon" 3 tell of twenty six heavens placed in regular order above one another in the sky, crowded with all imaginable delights. They also depict, in the abyss underneath the earth, eight great hells, each containing sixteen smaller ones, the whole one hundred and thirty six composing one gigantic hell. The eight chief hells are situated over one another, each partially enclosing and overlapping that next beneath; and the sufferings inflicted on their unfortunate occupants are of the most terrific character. But these poor hints at the local apparatus of reward and punishment afford no conception whatever of the extent of their mythological scheme of the universe.
They call each complete solar system a sakwala, and say that, if a wall were erected around the space occupied by a million millions of sakwalas, reaching to the highest heaven, and the entire space were filled with mustard seeds, a god might take these seeds, and, looking towards any one of the cardinal points, throw a single seed towards each sakwala until all the seeds were gone, and still there would be more sakwalas, in the same direction, to which no seed had been thrown, without considering those in the other three quarters of the heavens. In comparison with this Eastern vision of the infinitude of worlds, the wildest Western dreamer over the vistas opened by the telescope may hide his diminished head! Their other conceptions are of the same crushing magnitude, Thus, when the demons, on a certain occasion, assailed the gods, Siva using the Himalaya range for his bow, Vasuke for the string, Vishnu for his arrow, the earth for his chariot with the sun and moon for its wheels and the Vedas for its horses, the starry canopy for his banner with the tree of Paradise for its staff, Brahma for his charioteer, and the mysterious monosyllable Om for his whip reduced them all to ashes.4
The five hundred million Brahmanic and Buddhist believers hold that all the gods, men, demons, and various grades of animal life occupying this immeasurable array of worlds compose one cosmic family. The totality of animated beings, from a detestable gnat to
2 Wilson's trans. pp. 207-209.
3 Upham's trans. vol. iii. pp. 8, 66, 159.
4 Vans Kennedy, Ancient and Hindu Mythology, p. 429.
thundering Indra, from the meanest worm to the supreme Buddha, constitute one fraternal race, by the unavoidable effects of the law of retribution constantly interchanging their residences in a succession of rising and sinking existences, ranging through all the earths, heavens, and hells of the universe, bound by the terrible links of merit and demerit in the phantasmagoric dungeon of births and deaths. The Vishnu Purana declares, "The universe, this whole egg of Brahma, is everywhere swarming with living creatures, all of whom are captives in the chains of acts." 5
The one prime postulate of these Oriental faiths the ground principle, never to be questioned any more than the central and stationary position of the earth in the Ptolemaic system is that all beings below the Infinite One are confined in the circle of existence, the whirl of births and deaths, by the consequences of their virtues and vices. When a man dies, if he has an excess of good desert, he is born, as a superior being, in one of the heavens. According to the nature and degree of his merit, his heavenly existence is prolonged, or perhaps repeated many times in succession; or, if his next birth occurs on earth, it is under happy circumstances, as a sage or a king. But when he expires, should there, on the other hand, be an overbalance of ill desert, he is born as a demon in one of the hells, or may in repeated lives run the circuit of the hells; or, if he at once returns to the earth, it is as a beggar, a leprous outcast, a wretched cripple, or in the guise of a rat, a snake, or a louse.
"The illustrious souls of great and virtuous men In godlike beings shall revive again; But base and vicious spirits wind their way In scorpions, vultures, sharks, and beasts of prey. The fair, the gay, the witty, and the brave, The fool, the coward, courtier, tyrant, slave, Each one in a congenial form, shall find A proper dwelling for his wandering mind."
A specific evil is never cancelled by being counterbalanced by a greater good. The fruit of that evil must be experienced, and also of that greater good, by appropriate births in the hells and heavens, or in the higher and lower grades of earthly existence. The two courses of action must be run through independently. This is what is meant by the phrases, so often met with in Oriental works, "eating the fruits of former acts," "bound in the chains of deeds." Merit or demerit can be balanced or neutralized only by the full fruition of its own natural and necessary consequences.6 The law of merit and of demerit is fate. It works irresistibly, through all changes and recurrences, from the beginning to the end. The cessation of virtue or of vice does not put an end to its effects until its full force is exhausted; as an arrow continues in flight until all its imparted power is spent. A man faultlessly and scrupulously good through his present life may be guilty of some foul crime committed a hundred lives before and not yet expiated. Accordingly, he may now suffer for it, or his next birth may take place in a hell. On the contrary, he may be credited with some great merit acquired thousands of
5 P. 286.
6 Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. iv. p. 87.
generations ago, whose fruit he has not eaten, and which may bring him good fortune in spite of present sins, or on the rolling and many colored wheel of metempsychosis may secure for him next a celestial birthplace. In short periods, it will be seen, there is moral confusion, but, in the long run, exact compensation.
The exuberant prodigiousness of the Hindu imagination is strikingly manifest in its descriptions of the rewards of virtue in the heavens and of the punishments of sin in the hells. Visions pass before us of beautiful groves full of fragrance and music, abounding in delicious fruits, and birds of gorgeous plumage, crystal streams embedded with pearls, unruffled lakes where the lotus blooms, palaces of gems, crowds of friends and lovers, endless revelations of truth, boundless graspings of power, all that can stir and enchant intellect, will, fancy, and heart. In some of the heavens the residents have no bodily form, but enjoy purely spiritual pleasures. In others they are self resplendent, and traverse the ether. They are many miles in height, one being described whose crown was four miles high and who wore on his person sixty wagon loads of jewels. The ordinary lifetime of the inhabitants of the dewa loka named Wasawartti equals nine billions two hundred and sixteen millions of our years. They breathe only once in sixteen hours.
The reverse of this picture is still more vigorously drawn, highly colored, and diversified in contents. The walls of the Hindu hell are over a hundred miles thick; and so dazzling is their brightness that it bursts the eyes which look at them anywhere within a distance of four hundred leagues.7 The poor creatures here, wrapped in shrouds of fire, writhe and yell in frenzy of pain. The very revelry and ecstasy of terror and anguish fill the whole region. The skins of some wretches are taken off from head to foot, and then scalding vinegar is poured over them. A glutton is punished thus: experiencing an insatiable hunger in a body as large as three mountains, he is tantalized with a mouth no larger than the eye of a needle.8 The infernal tormentors, throwing their victims down, take a flexible flame in each hand, and with these lash them alternately right and left. One demon, Rahu, is seventy six thousand eight hundred miles tall: the palm of his hand measures fifty thousand acres; and when he is enraged he rushes up the sky and swallows the sun or the moon, thus causing an eclipse! In the Asiatic Journal for 1840 is an article on "The Chinese Judges of the Dead," which describes a series of twenty four paintings of hell found in a Buddhist temple. Devils in human shapes are depicted pulling out the tongues of slanderers with redhot wires, pouring molten lead down the throats of liars, with burning prongs tossing souls upon mountains planted with hooks of iron reeking with the blood of those who have gone before, screwing the damned between planks, pounding them in husking mortars, grinding them in rice mills, while other fiends, in the shape of dogs, lap up their oozing gore. But the hardest sensibility must by this time cry, Hold!
With the turmoil and pain of entanglement in the vortex of births, and all the repulsive exposures of finite life, the Hindus contrast the idea of an infinite rest and bliss, an endless
7 Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 26.
8 Coleman, Mythology of the Hindus, p. 198.
exemption from evil and struggle, an immense receptivity of reposing power and quietistic contemplation. In consequence of their endlessly varied, constantly recurring, intensely earnest speculations and musings over this contrast of finite restlessness and pain with infinite peace and blessedness, a contrast which constitutes the preaching of their priests, saturates their sacred books, fills their thoughts, and broods over all their life, the Orientals are pervaded with a profound horror of individual existence, and with a profound desire for absorption into the Infinite Being. A few quotations from their own authors will illustrate this:
"A sentient being in the repetition of birth and death is like a worm in the midst of a nest of ants, like a lizard in the hollow of a bamboo that is burning at both ends."9 "Emancipation from all existence is the fulness of felicity."10 "The being who is still subject to birth may now sport in the beautiful gardens of heaven, now be cut to pieces in hell; now be Maha Brahma, now a degraded outcast; now sip nectar, now drink blood; now repose on a couch with gods, now be dragged through a thicket of thorns; now reside in a mansion of gold, now be exposed on a mountain of lava; now sit on the throne of the gods, now be impaled amidst hungry dogs; now be a king glittering with countless gems, now a mendicant taking a skull from door to door to beg alms; now eat ambrosia as the monarch of a dewa loka, now writhe and die as a bat in the shrivelling flame."11 "The Supreme Soul and the human soul do not differ, and pleasure or pain ascribable to the latter arises from its imprisonment in the body. The water of the Ganges is the same whether it run in the river's bed or be shut up in a decanter; but a drop of wine added to the water in the decanter imparts its flavor to the whole, whereas it would be lost in the river. The Supreme Soul, therefore, is beyond accident; but the human soul is afflicted by sense and passion. Happiness is only obtained in reunion with the Supreme Soul, when the dispersed individualities combine again with it, as the drops of water with the parent stream. Hence the slave should remember that he is separated from God by the body alone, and exclaim, perpetually, 'Blessed be the moment when I shall lift the veil from off that face! the veil of the face of my Beloved is the dust of my body.'"12 "A pious man was once born on earth, who, in his various transmigrations, had met eight hundred and twenty five thousand Buddhas. He remembered his former states, but could not enumerate how many times he had been a king, a beggar, a beast, an occupant of hell. He uttered these words: 'A hundred thousand years of the highest happiness on earth are not equal to the happiness of one day in the dewa lokas; and a hundred thousand years of the deepest misery on earth are not equal to the misery of one day in hell; but the misery of hell is reckoned by millions of centuries. Oh, how shall I escape, and obtain eternal bliss?'" 13
9 Eastern Monachism, p. 247.
10 Vishnu Purana, p. 568.
11 Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 454.
12 Asiatic Researches, vol. xvii. p. 298.
13 Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. iv. p. 114.
The literary products of the Eastern mind wonderfully abound with painful descriptions of the compromises, uncleannesses, and afflictions inseparably connected with existence. Volumes would be required to furnish an adequate representation of the vivid and inexhaustible amplification with which they set forth the direful disgusts and loathsome terrors associated with the series of ideas expressed by the words conception, birth, life, death, hell, and regeneration. The fifth chapter in the sixth book of the Vishnu Purana affords a good specimen of these details; but, to appreciate them fully, one must peruse dispersed passages in a hundred miscellaneous works:
"As long as man lives, he is immersed in afflictions, like the seed of the cotton amidst the down. . . . Where could man, scorched by the fires of the sun of this world, look for felicity, were it not for the shade afforded by the tree of emancipation? . . . Travelling the path of the world for many thousands of births, man attains only the weariness of bewilderment, and is smothered by the dust of imagination. When that dust is washed away by the bland water of real knowledge, then the weariness is removed. Then the internal man is at peace, and obtains supreme felicity."14
The result of these views is the awakening of an unquenchable desire to "break from the fetters of existence," to be "delivered from the whirlpool of transmigration." Both Brahmanism and Buddhism are in essence nothing else than methods of securing release from the chain of incarnated lives, and attaining to identification with the Infinite. There is a text in the Apocalypse which may be strikingly applied to this exemption from further metempsychosis: "Him that overcometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out forever." The testimony of all who have investigated the subject agrees with the following assertion by Professor Wilson: "The common end of every system studied by the Hindus is the ascertainment of the means by which perpetual exemption from the necessity of repeated births may be won."15 In comparison with this aim, every thing else is utterly insignificant. Prahlada, on being offered by Vishnu any boon he might ask, exclaimed, "Wealth, virtue, love, are as nothing; for even liberation is in his reach whose faith is firm in thee." And Vishnu replied, "Thou shalt, therefore, obtain freedom from existence."16 All true Orientals, however favored or persecuted by earthly fortune, still cry night and day upwards into the infinite, with outstretched arms and yearning voice,
"O Lord, our separate lives destroy! Merge in thy gold our souls' alloy: Pain is our own, and Thou art Joy!"
According to the system of Brahmanism, the creation is regularly called into being and again destroyed at the beginning and end of certain stupendous epochs called kalpas. Four thousand three hundred and twenty million years make a day of Brahma. At the end of this day the lower worlds are consumed by fire; and Brahma sleeps on the abyss for a night as long
14 Vishnu Parana, p. 650.
15 Sankhya Karika, preface, p. 3.
16 Vishnu Purana, p. 144.
as his day. During this night the saints, who in high Jana loka have survived the dissolution of the lower portions of the universe, contemplate the slumbering deity until he wakes and restores the mutilated creation. Three hundred and sixty of these days and nights compose a year of Brahma; a hundred such years measure his whole life. Then a complete destruction of all things takes place, every thing merging into the Absolute One, until he shall rouse himself renewedly to manifest his energies.17 Although created beings who have not obtained emancipation are destroyed in their individual forms at the periods of the general dissolution, yet, being affected by the good or evil acts of former existence, they are never exempted from their consequences, and when Brahma creates the world anew they are the progeny of his will, in the fourfold condition of gods, men, animals, and inanimate things.18 And Buddhism embodies virtually the same doctrine, declaring "the whole universe of sakwalas to be subject alternately to destruction and renovation, in a series of revolutions to which neither beginning nor end can be discovered."
What is the Brahmanic method of salvation, or secret of emancipation? Rightly apprehended in the depth and purity of the real doctrine, it is this. There is in reality but ONE SOUL: every thing else is error, illusion, misery. Whoever acquires the knowledge of this truth by personal perception is thereby liberated. He has won the absolute perfection of the unlimited Godhead, and shall never be born again. "Whosoever views the Supreme Soul as manifold, dies death after death." God is formless, but seems to assume form; as moonlight, impinging upon various objects, appears crooked or straight.19 Bharata says to the king of Sauriva, "The great end of all is not union of self with the Supreme Soul, because one substance cannot become another. The true wisdom, the genuine aim of all, is to know that Soul is one, uniform, perfect, exempt from birth, omnipresent, undecaying, made of true knowledge, dissociated with unrealities."20 "It is ignorance alone which enables Maya to impress the mind with a sense of individuality; for as soon as that is dispelled it is known that severalty exists not, and that there is nothing but one undivided Whole." 21 The Brahmanic scriptures say, "The Eternal Deity consists of true knowledge." "Brahma that is Supreme is produced of reflection."22 The logic runs thus. There is only One Soul, the absolute God. All beside is empty deception. That One Soul consists of true knowledge. Whoever attains to true knowledge, therefore, is absolute God, forever freed from the sphere of semblances.
The foregoing exposition is philosophical and scriptural Brahmanism. But there are numerous schismatic sects which hold opinions diverging from it in regard to the nature and destiny of the human soul. They may be considered in two classes. First, there are some who defend the idea of the personal immortality of the soul. The Siva Gnana Potham "establishes the doctrine of the soul's eternal existence as an individual being." 23 The Saiva school
17 Vishnu Purana, p. 25. Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 33, note.
18 Vishnu Parana, pp. 39, 116.
19 Colebrooke, Essays, vol. i. p. 359.
20 Vishnu Purana, p. 252.
21 Vans Kennedy, Ancient and Hindu Mythology, p. 201.
22 Vishnu Purana, pp. 546, 642.
23 Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. ii. p. 141.
teach that when, at the close of every great period, all other developed existences are rendered back to their primordial state, souls are excepted. These, once developed and delivered from the thraldom of their merit and demerit, will ever remain intimately united with Deity and clothed in the resplendent wisdom.24 Secondly, there are others and probably at the present time they include a large majority of the Brahmans who believe in the real being both of the Supreme Soul and of separate finite souls, conceiving the latter to be individualized parts of the former and their true destiny to consist in securing absorption into it. The relation of the soul to God, they maintain, is not that of ruled and ruler, but that of part and whole. "As gold is one substance still, however diversified as bracelets, tiaras, ear rings, or other things, so Vishnu is one and the same, although modified in the forms of gods, animals, and men. As the drops of water raised from the earth by the wind sink into the earth again when the wind subsides, so the variety of gods, men, and animals, which have been detached by the agitation of the qualities, are reunited, when the disturbance ceases, with the Eternal." 25 "The whole obtains its destruction in God, like bubbles in water." The Madhava sect believe that there is a personal All Soul distinct from the human soul. Their proofs are detailed in one of the Maha Upanishads.26 These two groups of sects, however, agree perfectly with the ancient orthodox Brahmans in accepting the fundamental dogma of a judicial metempsychosis, wherein each one is fastened by his acts and compelled to experience the uttermost consequences of his merit or demerit. They all coincide in one common aspiration as regards the highest end, namely, emancipation from the necessity of repeated births. The difference between the three is, that the one class of dissenters expect the fruition of that deliverance to be a finite personal immortality in heaven; the other interpret it as an unwalled absorption in the Over Soul, like a breath in the air; while the more orthodox believers regard it as the entire identity of the soul with the Infinite One.
Against the opinion that there is only one Soul for all bodies, as one string supports all the gems of a necklace, some Hindu philosophers argue that the plurality of souls is proved by the consideration that, if there were but one soul, then when any one was born, or died, or was lame, or deaf, or occupied, or idle, all would at once be born, die, be lame, deaf, occupied, or idle. But Professor Wilson says, "This doctrine of the multitudinous existence or individual incorporation of Soul clearly contradicts the Vedas. They affirm one only existent soul to be distributed in all beings. It is beheld collectively or dispersedly, like the reflection of the moon in still or troubled water. Soul, eternal, omnipresent, undisturbed, pure, one, is multiplied by the power of delusion, not of its own nature."27
All the Brahmanic sects unite in thinking that liberation from the net of births is to be obtained and the goal of their wishes to be reached by one means only; and that is knowledge, real wisdom, an adequate sight of the truth. Without this knowledge there is no possible emancipation; but there are three ways of seeking the needed knowledge.
24 Ibid. vol. iv. p. 15.
25 Vishnu Purana, p. 287.
26 Weber, Akademische Vorlesungen uber Indische Literaturgeschichte, s. 160.
27 Sankbya Karika, p. 70.
Some strive, by direct intellectual abstraction and effort, by metaphysical speculation, to grasp the true principles of being. Others try, by voluntary penance, self abnegation, and pain, to accumulate such a degree of merit, or to bring the soul into such a state of preparedness, as will compel the truth to reveal itself. And still others devote themselves to the worship of some chosen deity, by ritual acts and fervid contemplation, to obtain by his favor the needed wisdom. A few quotations may serve to illustrate the Brahmanic attempts at winning this one thing needful, the knowledge which yields exemption from all incarnate lives.
The Sankhya philosophy is a regular system of metaphysics, to be studied as one would study algebra. It presents to its disciples an exhaustive statement of the forms of being in twenty five categories, and declares, "He who knows the twenty five principles, whatever order of life he may have entered, and whether he wear braided hair, a top knot only, or be shaven, he is liberated." "This discriminative wisdom releases forever from worldly bondage."28 "The virtuous is born again in heaven, the wicked is born again in hell; the fool wanders in error, the wise man is set free." "By ignorance is bondage, by knowledge is deliverance." "When Nature finds that soul has discovered that it is to her the distress of migration is owing, she is put to shame by the detection, and will suffer herself to be seen no more."29 "Through knowledge the sage is absorbed into Supreme Spirit."30 "The Supreme Spirit attracts to itself him who meditates upon it, as the loadstone attracts the iron."31 "He who seeks to obtain a knowledge of the Soul is gifted with it, the Soul rendering itself conspicuous to him." "Man, having known that Nature which is without a beginning or an end, is delivered from the grasp of death." "Souls are absorbed in the Supreme Soul as the reflection of the sun in water returns to him on the removal of the water."32
The thought underlying the last statement is that there is only one Soul, every individual consciousness being but an illusory semblance, and that the knowledge of this fact constitutes the all coveted emancipation. As one diffusive breath passing through the perforations of a flute is distinguished as the several notes of the scale, so the Supreme Spirit is single, though, in consequence of acts, it seems manifold. As every placid lakelet holds an unreal image of the one real moon sailing above, so each human soul is but a deceptive reflection of the one veritable Soul, or God. It may be worth while to observe that Plotinus, as is well known, taught the doctrine of the absolute identity of each soul with the entire and indistinguishable entity of God:
"Though God extends beyond creation's rim, Yet every being holds the whole of him."
It belongs to an unextended substance, an immateriality, to be everywhere by totality, not by portions. If God be omnipresent, he cannot be so dividedly, a part of him here and a part
28 Ibid. pp. 1, 16.
29 Ibid. pp. 48, 142, 174.
30 Vishnu Purana, p. 57.
31 Ibid. p. 651.
32 Rammohun Roy, Translations from the Veda, 2d ed., London, 1832, pp. 69, 39, 10.
of him there; but the whole of him must be in every particle of matter, in every point of space, in all infinitude.
The Brahmanic religion is a philosophy; and it keeps an incomparably strong hold on the minds of its devotees. Its most vital and comprehensive principle is expressed in the following sentence: "The soul itself is not susceptible of pain, or decay, or death; the site of these things is nature; but nature is unconscious; the consciousness that pain exists is restricted to the soul, although the soul is not the actual seat of pain." This is the reason why every Hindu yearns so deeply to be freed from the meshes of nature, why he so anxiously follows the light of faith and penance, or the clew of speculation, through all mazes of mystery. It is that he may at last gaze on the central TRUTH, and through that sight seize the fruition of the supreme and eternal good of man in the unity of his selfhood with the Infinite, and so be born no more and experience no more trouble. It is very striking to contrast with this profound and gorgeous dream of the East, whatever form it assumes, the more practical and definite thought of the West, as expressed in these lines of Tennyson's "In Memoriam:"
"That each, who seems a separate whole, Should move his rounds, and, fusing all The skirts of self again, should fall Remerging in the general Soul, Is faith as vague as all unsweet: Eternal form shall still divide The eternal soul from all beside, And I shall know him when we meet."
But is it not still more significant to notice that, in the lines which immediately succeed, the love inspired and deep musing genius of the English thinker can find ultimate repose only by recurring to the very faith of the Hindu theosophist?
"And we shall sit at endless feast, Enjoying each the other's good: What vaster dream can hit the mood Of Love on earth! He seeks at least Upon the last and sharpest height, Before the spirits fade away, Some landing place, to clasp and say, Farewell! We lose ourselves in light!"
We turn now to the Buddhist doctrine of a future life as distinguished from the Brahmanic. The "Four Sublime Truths" of Buddhism, as they are called, are these: first, that there is sorrow; secondly, that every living person necessarily feels it; thirdly, that it is desirable to be freed from it; fourthly, that the only deliverance from it is by that pure knowledge which destroys all cleaving to existence. A Buddha is a being who, in consequence of having reached the Buddhaship, which implies the possession of infinite goodness, infinite power, and infinite wisdom, is able to teach men that true knowledge which secures emancipation.
The Buddhaship that is, the possession of Supreme Godhead is open to every one, though few ever acquire it. Most wonderful and tremendous is the process of its attainment. Upon a time, some being, perhaps then incarnate as a mosquito alighting on a muddy leaf in some swamp, pauses for a while to muse. Looking up through infinite stellar systems, with hungry love and boundless ambition, to the throne and sceptre of absolute immensity, he vows within himself, "I will become a Buddha." The total influences of his past, the forces of destiny, conspiring with his purpose, omnipotence is in that resolution. Nothing shall ever turn him aside from it. He might soon acquire for himself deliverance from the dreadful vortex of births; but, determined to achieve the power of delivering others from their miseries as sentient beings, he voluntarily throws himself into the stream of successive existences, and with divine patience and fortitude undergoes every thing.
From that moment, no matter in what form he is successively born, whether as a disgusting bug, a white elephant, a monarch, or a god, he is a Bodhisat, that is, a candidate pressing towards the Buddhaship. He at once begins practising the ten primary virtues, called paramitas, necessary for the securing of his aim. The period required for the full exercise of one of these virtues is a bhumi. Its duration is thus illustrated. Were a Bodhisat once in a thousand births to shed a single drop of blood, he would in the space of a bhumi shed more blood than there is water in a thousand oceans. On account of his merit he might always be born amidst the pleasures of the heavens; but since he could there make no progress towards his goal, he prefers being born in the world of men. During his gradual advance, there is no good he does not perform, no hardship he does not undertake, no evil he does not willingly suffer; and all for the benefit of others, to obtain the means of emancipating those whom he sees fastened by ignorance in the afflictive circle of acts. Wherever born, acting, or suffering, his eye is still turned towards that EMPTY THRONE, at the apex of the universe, from which the last Buddha has vaulted into Nirwana. The Buddhists have many scriptures, especially one, called the "Book of the Five Hundred and Fifty Births," detailing the marvellous adventures of the Bodhisat during his numerous transmigrations, wherein he exhibits for each species of being to which he belongs a model character and life.
At length the momentous day dawns when the unweariable Bodhisat enters on his well earned Buddhaship. From that time, during the rest of his life, he goes about preaching discourses, teaching every prepared creature he meets the method of securing eternal deliverance. Leaving behind in these discourses a body of wisdom sufficient to guide to salvation all who will give attentive ear and heart, the Buddha then his sublime work of disinterested love being completed receives the fruition of his toil, the super essential prize of the universe, the Infinite Good. In a word, he dies, and enters Nirwana. There is no more evil of any sort for him at all forever. The final fading echo of sorrow has ceased in the silence of perfect blessedness; the last undulation of the wave of change has rolled upon the shore of immutability.
The only historic Buddha is Sakya Muni, or Gotama, who was born at Kapila about six centuries before Christ. His teachings contain many principles in common with those of the Brahmans. But he revolted against their insufferable conceit and cruelty. He protested against their claim that no one could obtain emancipation until after being born as a Brahman and passing through the various rites and degrees of their order. In the face of the most powerful and arrogant priesthood in the world, he preached the perfect equality of all mankind, and the consequent abolition of castes. Whoever acquires a total detachment of affection from all existence is thereby released from birth and misery; and the means of acquiring that detachment are freely offered to all in his doctrine.
Thus did Gotama preach. He took the monopoly of religion out of the hands of a caste, and proclaimed emancipation to every creature that breathes. He established his system in the valley of the Ganges near the middle of the sixth century before Christ. It soon overran the whole country, and held sway until about eight hundred years after Christ, when an awful persecution and slaughter on the part of the uprising Brahmans drove it out of the land with sword and fire. "The colossal figure which for fourteen centuries had bestridden the Indian continent vanished suddenly, like a rainbow at sunset."33
Gotama's philosophy, in its ontological profundity, is of a subtlety and vastness that would rack the brain of a Fichte or a Schelling; but, popularly stated, so far as our present purpose demands, it is this. Existence is the one all inclusive evil; cessation of existence, or Nirwana, is the infinite good. The cause of existence is ignorance, which leads one to cleave to existing objects; and this cleaving leads to reproduction. If one would escape from the chain of existence, he must destroy the cause of his confinement in it, that is, evil desire, or the cleaving to existing objects. The method of salvation in Gotama's system is to vanquish and annihilate all desire for existing things. How is this to be done? By acquiring an intense perception of the miseries of existence, on the one hand, and an intense perception, on the other hand, of the contrasted desirableness of the state of emancipation, or Nirwana. Accordingly, the discourses of Gotama, and the sacred books of the Buddhists, are filled with vivid accounts of every thing disgusting and horrible connected with existence, and with vivid descriptions, consciously faltering with inadequacy, of every thing supremely fascinating in connection with Nirwana. "The three reflections on the impermanency, suffering, and unreality of the body are three gates leading to the city of Nirwana." The constant claim is, that whosoever by adequate moral discipline and philosophical contemplation attains to a certain degree of wisdom, a certain degree of intellectual insight, instead of any longer cleaving to existence, will shudder at the thought of it, and, instead of shrinking from death, will be ravished with unfathomable ecstasy by the prospect of Nirwana. Then, when he dies, he is free from all liability to a return.
When Gotama, early in life, had accidentally seen in succession a wretchedly decrepit old man, a loathsomely diseased man, and a decomposing dead man, then the three worlds of passion, matter, and spirit seemed to him like a house on fire, and he longed to be extricated from the dizzy whirl of existence, and to reach the still haven of Nirwana. Finding ere long that he had now, as the reward of his incalculable endurances through untold aons past, become Buddha, he said to himself, "You have borne the misery of the whole round of transmigrations, and have arrived at infinite wisdom, which is the highway to Nirwana, the