Графични страници
PDF файл

possible return of man to God. The idea of God's becoming man, and man's becoming God, is the mystic circle in which all their thoughts revolve. Nothing is more familiar to their minds than the possibility of divine incarnations, and the consequent possibility of human transformations. Somehow, God and man, the infinite and the finite spirit, must become one.

Is not this, too, in reality, the basis of all our western religions ? Nay, is it not the very essence of all religion, as a spiritual power intended to restore man to the lost image of God, and thus make him one with God ? The western mind indeed clings to the great fact of personality, maintaining not only the personality of man, but

, the personality of God; but it recognizes the possibility of interior and eternal unity, and consequently easily adopts the doctrine of a divine incarnation, and on the basis of this, the idea of a human transformation. Hence the incarna

" tion” and “ the new birth” are the fundamental and most profoundly cherished truths of Christianity.

In a word, from his very nature man longs for some special manifestation of God, in such form as he can appreciate, and on the ground of this, for some sacred and eternal union with the Source of being and happiness. He must have a Redeemer and a heaven; in default of which he

[ocr errors]

invents his Brahmas, his Krishnas and Osirises, his “lords many and gods many,” his Nigbans and Burchans, his Mount Merus and Elysian Fields.




ONE of the most interesting and well-developed religions of the ancient world, the remains of which yet linger in many parts of Asia, especially in Persia, is that of the Zend-Avesta, (Fire-kindler, or Living Word,) the sacred book of the Parsees, or ancient fire-worshippers. Considerable dispute exists as to the primitive form of this religion, and some apparently wellgrounded doubts have been cast upon the genuineness of the Zend-Avesta. Many learned men, however, allow it, in the main, to be the work or compilation of their great religious teacher, Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, who is supposed to have flourished before the time of Cyrus. Still the work is fragmentary, consisting mainly of occasional institutes, prayers, and other liturgical forms. Those most competent to form an opinion say that it has the appearance of a work consisting of some original materials, with successive additions and emendations. It was brought originally from India by Anquetil Du Perron, by whom it was translated and published in 1771, and has ever since been the subject of frequent discussion among Oriental scholars. Upon the whole, we are compelled, from the present state of the evidence, to conclude that its genuineness, or at least its extreme antiquity, is a matter of great doubt.* Zerdusht himself begins to appear almost as a mythic character.† Still the probability is, that there was such a personage, and that he gave form and pressure to the old Magian faith. Dean Prideaux and some other learned men think that the compiler of the Zend-Avesta derived much of his knowledge from the Hebrew Scriptures, perhaps from Daniel, and the Jewish exiles long resident among the Magi at the court of the Chaldean monarch. The supposition may not appear incredible, though not decisively confirmed by historical facts. Be this, however, as it may, it is well known that, while the Jews of Babylon preserved intact their own religious views, holding them, in the later days of their exile, with an exclusive and tenacious grasp, they communicated them extensively to others. It is also certain that at some period or other, perhaps at successive periods, Magianism was greatly modified from some extraneous source. If, then, we find in it sentiments akin to those of Judaism, it need occasion us no surprise. Still it has a character of its own, sufficiently indicating its mythical nature and human origin.

* At a recent meeting of the Bombay Asiatic Society, Dr. Wilson read the opinion of Professor Westergaard, of Copenhagen, “the first of Zend scholars,” that the sacred books of the Parsees have no such antiquity as has been claimed for them, but are written in a dialect of modern Persian, disguised by a corrupted alphabet.

+ “ Zoroaster,” says Niebuhr, Ancient Hist. i. p. 53, “ whatever has been said as to his historical existence, is for us no more than a mythical name.”

The primitive religious system of the ancient Persians, upon which it was ingrafted, was simply a worship of the elements of nature, fire, air, earth, and water, the winds and starry heavens, especially the sun, moon, and brighter planets. Having no temples, they sacrificed, upon the mountains, living animals, but without burning their bodies. From Media came new views and forms, which were probably incorporated with this service of nature, whence originated what is called the Medo-Persian or Magian religion. Hom, greatly venerated by his successors, was the founder of the Magi, and of the first form of the Magian faith. It was from Zerdusht, however, according to Persian tradition, that the system received its highest development. To him the composition of the Zend-Avesta is generally ascribed.

It teaches the doctrine of one supreme and eternal Being, (Zeruane Akherene, translated by some Time without Bounds; more correctly by

« ПредишнаНапред »