Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors]

Under the microscope we are carried back toward the beginning of the life of an individual being, but we are no closer to the solution of the mystery of existence. We can pass back beyond the stage where we see the structural differences of the four great branches of the animal kingdom are laid; yet, of all our scientific clews, even though to them the aid of the clearest, best-trained imagination is brought to bear, no one can lead us across the threshold of life with a measured, solid tread. This quest of the genesis of life by science is like the quest of the Holy Grail by the knights of King Arthur; and there will be no Sir Galahad to find it; for above this mystery no “clouds are broken in the sky;” no voice of a “correlated ” unity ever comes up to us from the chemic molecule and the living cell; no sharpest insight of vision will ever detect the likeness of unity between radiance of spirit and radiance of sun and star. This intellectual curiosity, “whose odors haunt our dreams of the perfect oneness of all that was and is,” will never find any thing closer than analogy between running streams and flow of thought; will find only analogy between the graceful geometric frostings on the window-pane under a December sky and the molecular architecture of the living eye forined in an inner darkness to match an external light.

It should be remembered that we cannot make any real advance in the quest for the origin either of a derived or a primal life unless we can get an intellectual representation of it under some of the known methods of physical nature, which methods can be reduced to formulas, or stated in some terms of equivalence. Simply to note and state co-existences and sequences, as so many differentiations and integrations, is not complete science, much less is it philosophy, though it may be knowledge. When, therefore, we have the successive stages of growth in the ovarian egg, from the minute, structureless bioplast up to the animal in its full functional activities-if then we cannot state by what processes each stage has been derived from the previous one, we have no scientific solution of the problem. And since science fails to give us any intellectual representation of the nisus at the beginning, as well as fails to put a complete nexus between the changes of growth, we call this life-quest an unsolvable problem.

Speaking, then, according to the truth of facts, we are constrained to say that the beginning of a reproduced life under the agency of animal force, and the origin of the first life under the pressure of the Divine Will, lying, as both do, outside of the known mathematical, mechanical, and chemical processes of nature, must always remain an unsolved and an unsolvable inystery.

ART. V. – THE RELIGION OF BABYLONIA AND

ASSYRIA.

[ocr errors]

(SECOND ARTICLE.] The Assyrian religion, as may be seen, has become decidedly solar and sidereal. The gods of the pantheon have become identified with planets and stars, thus assuming a double character, mythological and sidereal. The sun has different names (as in Egypt) at morning, evening, and midday: “the son of life," "the god of death,” and “the southern sun." The same cuneiform character, whose phonetic value is an, means both star and deity. Merodach,“ the circle of the sun,” is Mercury as a morning star, and Jupiter as an evening star, and is called by different names : "the messenger of the rising sun,” “the light of the heavenly spark," and so on, in the several months. The moon is “the star of Anunit” and “the star of the Tigris.” The sun is “the star of the Euphrates." Mercury is “the messenger of the rising sun;" Venus, " the proclaimer of the coming sun;" Ishtar, “ lady of the defenses of heaven;" Saturn, “the eldest born of the sun-god;” Jupiter is identified with several stars, as “the star of Merodach” and “the flame of the desert;” and Mars," the star of the seven names.” The stars are called “judges,” and the pole-star “the judge of heaven.” The colors of the garments of the Chaldean priests are symbolical of the heavenly bodies, to whose worship the priests are devoted. Red symbolizes Nergal, or Mars; blue symbolizes Nebo, or Mercury; and pale yellow symbolizes Ishtar, or Venus. Here we see the close connection between Assyrian mythology and stellar worship, and how the study of the stars became almost a religious duty.

The Assyrians possessed a regular ritual and rubric. Each day of the year was assigned to a special deity or a patron *

saint, and special services and ceremonies were observed. In the “ Babylonian Saints' Calendar,” which is of Accadian origin, sacred rites are prescribed in honor of twenty gods of the pantheon. The Assyrian word for sabbath is Sabattu, “a day of rest for the heart.” The sabbath was very rigidly observed. The flesh of birds and cooked fruits could not be eaten, nor garments changed, nor white robes worn. The king could not ride in his chariot; no laws could be made; no military commands issued; no medicine taken. It has been thought, however, that these restrictions refer to hebdomadal days of evil omen, while the true Assyrian sabbath was a “day of joy." . Each month was dedicated to a special god.t

“ Though religious uniformity,” says Rawlinson, “is certainly not the law of the empire, yet a religious character appears in many of the wars, and attempts seem to be made at least to diffuse every-where a knowledge and recognition of the gods of Assyria.” † Again he says: “In every way, religion seems to hold a marked and prominent place in the thoughts of the people, who fight more for the honor of their gods than even of their king, and aim at extending their belief as much as their dominion." Kings are set up and thrones cast down by the gods. Kings are responsible to the gods, and must rule in righteousness. The inscriptions contain many moral as well as political precepts, and, almost without exception, begin and end with prayer and praise to the principal deities. Assyria is “the empire of Bel,” and altars are "the footstools of the great gods.” | Babylonian inscriptions largely concern the erection of temples. Proper names frequently contain as elements the names of one or more gods. About two thirds of nearly a thousand Assyrian names, collected by Sir II. Rawlinson, have the name of a god for their chief element. Nebuchadnezzar is high-priest of Merodach. ** Nebo is “bestower of thrones in heaven and earth." Sennacherib introduces the Assyrian religion in conquered countries.tt Naram-Sin, son of Sargon I., is raised by his subjects to the rank of a deity, as is shown on a cylinder found by General di Cesnola among the archæological * Lenormant, “ Beginnings of History," p. 248, et seq. t" Records of the Past," vol. vii, pp. 155–170, Sayce. † “ Herodotus," vol. i, p. 398. $ “ Ancient Monarchies," vol. I, p. 241. 1 “Records of the Past," vol. xi, p. 20. T“ Ancient Monarchies," vol. ii, p. 249. ** " Records of the Past," vol. v, p. 123. # Ibid., vol. i, p. 27.

treasures of the Cyprian Kurium. Amar-agu before him had also been worshiped as a god.* People swear by the name of the gods and the king. Lawsuits are held in the temples.t Assurbanipal causes conquered kings to swear “ to worship the great gods.” † A monarch's success in war or the chase is ascribed to the help of his guardian deities. Hazael (?) brings his gods to Esarhaddon, who says: “I had pity on him; those gods, I repaired their injuries, the emblem of Ashur, my lord, and the writing of my own name I caused to be written upon them, and I restored them to him again." S When Esarhaddon dedicates a temple, he prays that the “bull of good fortune may never cease to watch over it.” || Sargon is “the mandatory of Bel, the lieutenant of Ashur.” He erects statues and altars to the great gods. “The god Sin shone on the top of the temples and shadowed the battlements (?)." I Nabonidus erects a temple to the moon,“ king of the stars upon stars,” in the city of Ur, and prays: “The fear of the great divinity in the hearts of their inhabitants fix thou firmly! that they may not transgress against the divinity.” “Fix thou firmly in his heart that he may never fall into sin.” ** Tiglath-Pileser I. dedicates twenty-five captured gods "for the honor of the temple of the queen of glory.” tt Ashur is one of his guardian gods.” He prays Anu and Bin to support the men of his government, establish the authority of his officers, bring rain, give victory, reduce hostile kings and keep them in allegiance to his descendants.5+ He desires to worship “honestly with a good heart and pure trust.” S$ In 2280 B.C. a powerful king of Elam, Kudur-Nanklundi, ravaged Erech, and carried off to Shushan the image of Ishtar. After 1635 years this image is recaptured and restored by Assurbanipal. Sargon sacrifices "pure victims, supreme sacrifices, expiatory holocausts ;” and offers frankincense vases in glass, chiseled objects in pure silver, heavy jewels, “sculptured bulls, winged quadrupeds, reptiles, fishes, and birds, symbols of abundance of an incomparable fecundity." 11 Tablets and cylinders with their sacred writings are deposited in the foundation stones of buildings.

*"Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch.," vol. v, p. 441. + Records of the Past," vol. v. p. 109. # Ibid., vol. I, p. 96. $ Ibid., vol. iji, p. 115. | Ibid., vol. iii, p. 123. | lbid., vol. xi, p. 33, et seq. ** I bid., vol. v, pp. 146–148. # Ibid., vol. v, p. 15. #1 Ibid., vol. v, p. 25. SS Ibid., vol. v, p. 26. || Ibid., vol. iii, p. 55. IT Ibid., vol. I, p. 29,

Among the Assyrians and Babylonians we meet with the same fundamental religious beliefs which are common to most religions—the primal innocency of man, the introduction of sin, human responsibility, the efficacy of prayers and sacrifices, a future life, and, with less certainty, the distinction of rewards and punishments. With these beliefs are others of a superstitious character, which we have already considered. We meet also with temples, altars, libations, sacrificial victims, prayers, hymns, pompous ceremonials and processions, gorgeous vestments, feasts and fasts, singing and dancing, and learned priests. Mingled with all are uncleanness, cruelty, and gross idolatry. The images of the gods are more frequently worshiped than the gods themselves. The king unites the priestly with his regal office, and sometimes arrogates to himself the attributes of the gods. The religion has become a mighty power, and can be wielded as an instrument of tyranny.

The Assyrians had their “Book of Worship," “Book of Magic,” “Book of Explanations,” “Book of Prayer," and “Book of Praise.” The collection of hymns Lenormant compares with the Rig Veda of the Hindus. We meet, again and again, with passages which powerfully confirm and illustrate the Holy Scriptures. Agreeing in the main features, yet differing in details, we have accounts of the creation, the flood, the tower of Babel, and the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. The fall of man is represented on seals. Here we have figures of our first parents; the tempting serpent, the “enemy of the gods," and, like the Zoroastrian Angrómainyush,“full to the brim with death;” and the fruit of the tree.* We have a curious account of the fall of the rebel angels, which we give on a future page. The flaming sword in the legend of the fight between Bel and the Dragon, and the sacred grove of Anu, guarded by a sword turning in all directions, may be compared with the “flaming sword” of Genesis iii, 24.f The Alapi, winged human-headed bulls, which guard the entrances of palaces and temples, were called Kirubi, Hebrew “cherubim.” Another word which comes to us from Assyria is important. The name “Shed” is

* The most ancient Accadian name of Babylon, Tin-tir-ki, signifies "the place of the tree of life.”

+ Lenormant has a profound discussion on The Kerubim and Revolving Sword in his “ Beginnings of History," chap. iii.

« ПредишнаНапред »