Page images
PDF
EPUB

calculating-machine is of Asiatis invention; it had if not its origin at least its special development among the ancient Buddhists, and its 108 balls still slide through the modern Buddhist's hands as of old, measuring out the sacred formulas whose reiteration occupies so large a fraction of a pious life. It was not till toward the middle ages that the rosary passed into Mohammedan and Christian lands, and finding there conceptions of prayer which it was suited to accompany, has flourished ever since. How far the Buddhist devotional formulas themselves partake of the nature of prayer, is a question opening into instructive considerations, which need only be suggested here. By its derivation from Brahmanism and its fusion with the beliefs of rude spiritworshipping populations, Buddhism practically retains in no small measure a prayerful temper and even practice. Yet, according to strict and special Buddhist philosophy, where personal divinity has faded into metaphysical idea, even devotional utterances of desire are not prayers; as Köppen says, there is no “ Thou!" in them. It must be only with reservation that we class the rosary in Buddhist hands as an instrument of actual prayer. The same is true of the still more extreme development of mechanical religion, the prayer-mill of the Tibetan Buddhists. This was perhaps originally a symbolic “chakra” or wheel of the law, but has become a cylinder mounted on an axis, which by each rotation is considered to repeat the sentences written on the papers it is filled with, usually the “Om mani padme hûm!" Prayer-mills vary in size, from the little wooden toys held in the hand, to the great drums turned by wind or waterpower, which repeat their sentences by the million. The Buddhist idea, that “merit” is produced by the recitation of these sentences, may perhaps lead us to form an opinion of large application in the study of religion and superstition, namely, that the theory of prayers may explain the origin of charms. Charm-formulas are in' very many cases actual

See Köppen, 'Religion des Buddha,' vol. i. pp. 345, 556 ; vol. ii. pp. 303, 319. Compare Fergusson, "Tree and Serpent Worship,' pl. xlii.

prayers, and as such are intelligible. Where they are mere verbal forms, producing their effect on nature and man by some unexplained process, may not they or the types they were modelled on have been originally prayers, since dwindled into mystic sentences ?

The worshipper cannot always ask wisely what is for his good, therefore it may be well for him to pray that the greater power of the deity may be guided by his greater wisdom--this is a thought which expands and strengthens in the theology of the higher nations. The simple prayer of Sokrates, that the gods would give such things as are good, for they know best what are good, raises a strain of supplication which has echoed through Christendom from its earliest ages. Greatest of all changes which difference the prayers of lower from those of higher nations, is the working out of the general principle that the ethical element, so scanty and rudimentary in the lower forms of religion, becomes in the higher its most vital point; while it scarcely appears as though any savage prayer, authentically native in its origin, were ever directed to obtain moral goodness or to ask pardon for moral sin. Among the semi-civilized Aztecs, in the elaborate ritual which from its early record and its original characteristics seems to have at least a partial authenticity, we mark the appearance of ethical prayer. Such is the supplication concerning the newlyelect ruler: “Make him, Lord, as your true image, and permit him not to be proud and haughty in your throne and court; but vouchsafe, Lord, that he may calmly and carefully rule and govern them whom he has in charge, the people, and permit not, Lord, that he may injure or vex his subjects, nor without reason and justice cause loss to any; and permit not, Lord, that he may spot or soil your throne or court with any injustice or wrong, etc.”? Moral prayer, sometimes appearing in rudiment, sometimes shrunk into

Xenoph. Memorabilia Socrat. i. 3, 2. 2 Sahagun, “Retorica, etc., de la Gente Mexicana,' lib. vi. c. 4, in Kings. borough ; 'Antiquities of Mexico,' vol. v.

insignificance, sometimes overlaid by formalism, sometimes maintained firm and vigorous in the inmost life, has its place without as well as within the Jewish-Christian scheme. The ancient Aryan prayed: “Through want of strength, thou strong and bright god, have I gone wrong; have mercy, almighty, have mercy! .... Whenever we men, O Varuna, commit an offence before the heavenly host, whenever we break the law through thoughtlessness, have mercy, almighty, have mercy !”] The modern Parsi prays : “Of my sins which I have committed against the ruler Ormazd, against men, and the different kinds of men. .... Deceit, contempt, idol-worship, lies, I repent of. . . . . All and every kind of sin which men have committed because of me, or which I have committed because of men; pardon, I repent with confession !"2 As a general rule it would be misleading to judge utterances of this kind in the religions of classic Greece and Rome as betokening the intense habitual prayerfulness which pervades the records of Judaism, Mahommedanism, Christianity. Moralists admit that prayer can be made an instrument of evil, that it may give comfort and hope to the superstitious robber, that it may strengthen the heart of the soldier to slay his foes in an unrighteous war, that it may uphold the tyrant and the bigot in their persecution of freedom in life and thought. Philosophers dwell on the subjective operation of prayer, as acting not directly on outward events, but on the mind and will of the worshipper himself, which it influences and confirms. The one argument tends to guide prayer, the other to suppress it. Looking on prayer in its effect on man himself through the course of history, both must recognize it as eren in savage religion a means of strengthening emotion, of sustaining courage and exciting hope, while in higher faiths it becomes a great motive power of the ethical system, controlling and enforcing, under an ever-present sense of supernatural intercourse and aid, the emotions and energies of moral life.

1 Rig-Veda,' vii. 89. 3. Max Müller, ‘Chips,' vol. i. p. 39.
3 “Avesta,'tr. by Spiegel ; 'Khordah-Avesta,' Patet Qod.

Sacrifice has its apparent origin in the same early period of culture and its place in the same animistic scheme as prayer, with which through so long a range of history it has been carried on in the closest connexion. As prayer is a request made to a deity as if he were a man, so sacrifice is a gift made to a deity as if he were a man. The human types of both may be studied unchanged in social life to this day. The suppliant who bows before his chief, laying a gift at his feet and making his humble petition, displays the anthropomorphic model and origin at once of sacrifice and prayer. But sacrifice, though in its early stages as intelligible as prayer is in early and late stages alike, has passed in the course of religious history into transformed conditions, not only of the rite itself but of the intention with which the worshipper performs it. And theologians, having particularly turned their attention to the rite as it appears in the higher religions, have been apt to gloss over with mysticism ceremonies which, when traced ethnographically up from their savage forms, seem open to siinply rational interpretation. Many details of sacrifice have already been given incidentally here, as a means of elucidating the nature of the deities they are offered to. Moreover, a main part of the doctrine of sacrifice has been anticipated in examining the offerings to spirits of the dead, and indeed the ideal distinction between soul and deity breaks down among the lower races, when it appears how often the deities receiving sacrifice are themselves divine human souls. In now attempting to classify sacrifice in its course through the religions of the world, it seems a satisfactory plan to group the evidence as far as may be according to the manner in which the offering is given by the worshipper, and received by the deity. At the same time, the examples may be so arranged as to bring into view the principal lines along which the rite has undergone alteration. The ruder conception that the deity takes and values the offering for itself, gives place on the one hand to the idea of mere homage expressed by a gift, and on the other to the negative view

that the virtue lies in the worshipper depriving himself of something prized. These ideas may be broadly distinguished as the gift-theory, the homage-theory, and the abnegation-theory. Along all three the usual ritualistic change may be traced, from practical reality to formal ceremony. The originally valuable offering is compromised for a smaller tribute or a cheaper substitute, dwindling at last to a mere trifling token or symbol.

The gift-theory, as standing on its own independent basis, properly takes the first place. That most childlike kind of offering, the giving of a gift with as yet no definite thought how the receiver can take and use it, may be the most primitive as it is the most rudimentary sacrifice. Moreover, in tracing the history of the rite from level to level of culture, the same simple unshaped intention may still largely prevail, and much of the reason why it is often found difficult to ascertain what savages and barbarians suppose to become of the food and valuables they offer to the gods, may be simply due to ancient sacrificers knowing as little about it as modern ethnologists do, and caring less. Yet rude races begin and civilized races continue to furnish with the details of their sacrificial ceremonies the key also to their meaning, the explanation of the manner in which the offering is supposed to pass into the possession of the deity.

Beginning with cases in which this transmission is performed bodily, it appears that when the deity is the personal Water, Earth, Fire, Air, or a fetish-spirit animating or inhabiting such element, he can receive and sometimes actually consume the offerings given over to this material medium. How such notions may take shape is not ill shown in the quaintly rational thought noticed in old Peru, that the Sun drinks the libations poured out before him; and in modern Madagascar, that the Angatra drinks the arrack left for him in the leaf-cup. Do not they see the liquids diminish from day to day? 1 The sacrifice to Water

1 Garcilaso de la Vega, Commentarios Reales,' v. 19. Ellis, Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 421.

« PreviousContinue »