Page images

writings that have descended to us,) into different parts of Greece, in consequence of their communications with the gymnosophists. From Pythagoras it descended to Plato and Xenophanes, and, under different modifications, became a tenet of the academic and eleatic schools. I have already quoted the principle on which it is founded, from M. Anquetil du Perron's translation from the Persian, of the Oupnek'-hat, or Abridgement of the Veids*: the passage at large is as follows, and developes the entire doctrine as well as the principle: "The whole universe is the Creator, proceeds from the Creator, exists in him, and returns to him. The ignorant assert that the universe, in the beginning, did not exist in its Author, and that it was created out of nothing. O ye, whose hearts are pure! how could something arise out of nothing? This First Being alone, and without likeness, was the ALL in the beginning; he could multiply himself under different forms; he created fire from his essence, which is light, &c." So, in another passage of the Yagur Veid, "Thou art Brahma! thou art Vishnu! thou art Kodra! thou art Prajapat! thou art Deïonta! thou art air! thou art Andri! thou art the moon! thou art substance! thou art Djam! thou art the earth! thou art the world! O lord of the world! to thee humble adoration! O soul of the world! thou who superintendest the actions of the world! who destroyest the world! who createst the pleasures of the world! O life of the world! the visible and invisible worlds are the sport of thy power!

*Tom. i. Paris, 1802.

Thou art the sovereign, O universal soul! to thee humble adoration! O thou, of all mysteries the most mysterious! O thou who art exalted beyond all perception or imagination! thou who hast neither beginning nor end! to thee humble adoration!"*

As this doctrine became embraced by many of the Greek and Roman philosophers, it is not to be wondered at that it captivated still more of their poets; and hence we find it, with perhaps the exception of Empedocles and Lucretius, more or less pervading all of them, from Orpheus to Virgil. It is in reference to this that Aratus opens his Phænomena with that beautiful passage which is so forcibly appealed to by St. Paul in the course of his address to the Athenians on Mars' Hill+, of which I will beg your acceptance of the following version:


From God we spring, whom man can never trace,
Though seen, heard, tasted, felt in every place;
The loneliest path, by mortal seldom trod,

The crowded city, all is full of God;

Oceans and lakes, for God is all in all,

And we are all his offspring.

So Æschylus, in a passage still stronger in point, and imbued with the full spirit of Brahmism:

+ Acts, xvii. 28.

* See Transl. of Lucr. i. p. 282.
† Ἐκ Διὸς ἀρχώμεσθα, τὸν οὐδέποτ ̓ ἄνδρες ἐῶμεν
̓́Αῤῥητον· μεσταὶ δὲ Διὸς πᾶσαι μὲν ἀγκιαὶ,
Πᾶσαι δ ̓ ἀνθρώπων ἀγοραὶ· μεστὴ δὲ θάλασσα,
Καὶ λιμένες· πάντη δὲ Διὸς κεχρήμεθα πάντες·
Τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν.

Lib. i. 1.

Jupiter is the air;

Jupiter is the earth;

Jupiter is the heaven;
All is Jupiter. *

But perhaps the passage most express is one contained in a very ancient Greek poem entitled De Mundo, and ascribed to Orpheus, in the original highly beautiful, and of which, for want of a better, I present you with the following translation:

Jove first exists, whose thunders roll above;

Jove last, Jove midmost, all proceeds from Jove.
Female is Jove, immortal Jove is male;
Jove the broad earth- the heaven's irradiate pale.
Jove is the boundless spirit, Jove the fire
That warms the world with feeling and desire.
The sea is Jove, the sun, the lunar ball;

Jove king supreme, the sovereign source of all.
All power is his; to him all glory give,

For his vast form embraces all that live.†

This doctrine has not been confined to ancient times, or to the boundaries of India and the republics

* Ζεύς ἐστιν αἰθὴρ,

Ζεύς τε γὴ·
Ζεὺς δὲ οὐρανὸς,

Ζεὺς τὰ πάντα.

† Ζεὺς πρῶτος γένετο, Ζεὺς ὕστατος ἀρχικεραυνὸς·
Ζεὺς κεφαλὴ, Ζεὺς μέσσα· Διὸς δ ̓ ἐκ πάντα τέτυκται·
Ζεὺς ἄρσην γένετο, Ζεὺς ἄμβροτος ἔπλετο νύμφη·
Ζεὺς πυθμὴν γαῖης τὰ καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος·
Ζεὺς πνοιὴ παντῶν· Ζεὺς ἀκάματα πυρὸς ὁρμὴ·
Ζεὺς πόντου ῥίζα· Ζεὺς ἥλιος ἠδὲ σελήνη·
Ζεὺς βασιλεῦς· Ζεὺς αὐτὸς ἁπαντῶν ἀρχιγένεθλος·
Ἐν κράτος εἰς Δαϊμῶν γένετο, μέγας ἄρχος ἁπαντῶν·
Πάντα γὰρ ἐν μεγάλῳ Ζηνὸς τάδε σώματι κεῖται.

Ex. Apul.

of Greece and Rome; it has descended through every age, and has its votaries even in the present day. M. Anquetil du Perron, whom I have already spoken of, as the Latin translator of the Oupnek'hat, has himself distinctly avowed an inclination to it; the writings of M. Neckar are full of it*; and M. Isnard has professedly advanced and supported it in his work "Sur l'Immortalité de l'Ame," printed at Paris in 1802. I do not know that it exists at present to any great extent in our own country; but if we look back to something less than a century, we shall find it current among the philosophers of various schools, and especially that of which Lord Bolingbroke has been placed at the head, and hence running through every page of the celebrated Essay on Man, in the composition of which it is probable that Mr. Pope was imposed upon by his noble patron, and was not sufficiently alive to the full tendency of its principles. The critics on the Continent, however, perceived the tendency on its first appearance; and hence its author was generally, though incorrectly, denominated the modern Lucretius, and the poem itself was regarded as one of the most dangerous productions that ever issued from the press; as a most insidious attempt, by confining the whole of our views, our reasonings, and our expectations to the present state of things, to undermine the great doctrines of a future state and the immortality of the soul. In our own day we allow to it a very liberal extent of bold imagery and poetic licence, and with such allowance it may be perused without mischief: but a few verses

* See Sir W. Jones's Works, vol. i. p. 448.

alone are sufficient to prove its evil bearing, if strictly and literally interpreted. The following distich, for example, beautiful as it is in itself, discloses the very quintessence of Spinosism:

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body nature is, and God the soul:

and the general result drawn from the entire passage, which is too long to be quoted, is no less


In spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, WHATEVER is, is right.

If every thing be right at present, there is no necessity for a day of correction or retribution hereafter; and the chief argument afforded by nature in favour of a future existence is swept away in a moment. Unite the propositions contained in these two couplets, and illustrated through the whole poem, and it follows that the universe is God, and God the universe; that, amidst all the moral evils of life, the sufferings of virtue, and the triumphs of vice, it is in vain to expect any degree of compensation or adjustment in a future state; every thing being but an individual part of one stupendous whole, which could not possibly exist otherwise; and that the only consolation which remains for us under the pressure of pain or calamity is, that if we are not at ease, there are others that are so that if our own country is devoured by war, or desolated by pestilence, there are countries remote from us that know nothing of such afflictions. that the general good is superior to the general evil, and made to flow from it, and, consequently, that whatever is, is right:

[ocr errors]

« PreviousContinue »