Page images
PDF
EPUB

In strong contrast with the schemes of savage future existence, I need but set before the reader's mind a salient point here and there in the doctrine of distinct and unquestionable moral retribution, as held in religions of the higher culture. The inner mystic doctrines of ancient Egypt may perhaps never be extracted now from the pictures and hieroglyphic formulas of the Book of the Dead.' But the ethnographer may satisfy himself of two important points as to the place which the Egyptian view of the future life occupies in the history of religion. On the one hand, the transmigration into animals, the connexion kept up between corpse and soul, the good and evil life beyond the tomb, the soul's passage into the dark western Hades or to the bright sun in heaven-all these are conceptions which connect the Egyptian religion with the religions of the ruder races of mankind. But on the other hand, the mixed ethical and ceremonial standard by which the dead are to be judged adapts these primitive and even savage thoughts to a higher social development, such as may be shown by fragments from that remarkable “negative confession ” which the dead must make before Osiris and the forty-two judges in Amenti. “() ye Lords of Truth! let me know you !

Rub ye away my faults. I have not privily done evil against mankind.

I have not told falsehoods in the tribunal of Truth.

I have not done any wicked thing. I have not made the labouring man do more than his task daily.

I have not calumniated the slave to his master.

I have not murdered. . I have not done fraud to men. I have not changed the measures of the country. I have not injured the images of the gods. I have not taken scraps of the bandages of the dead. I have not committed adultery. I have not withheld milk from the mouths of sucklings. I have not hunted wild animals in the pasturages. I have not netted

.

.

modified, with particular reference to the argument of Prof. Calderwood, on * Moral Philosophy and Savage Life' in 'Contemporary Review,' Jan. 1872. (Note to 2nd Ed.).

sacred birds.

. . I am pure! I am pure! I am

.

pure !1

The Vedic hymns, again, tell of endless happiness for the good in heaven with the gods, and speak also of the deep pit where the liars, the lawless, they who give no sacrifice, will be cast. The rival theories of continuance and retribution are seen in instructive coexistence in classic Greece and Rome. What seems the older belief holds its ground in the realm of Hades; that dim region of bodiless, smoke-like ghosts remains the home of the undistinguished crowd in the mécos Bios, the “middle life.” Yet at the same time the judgment-seat of Minos and Rhadamanthos, the joys of Elysium for the just and good, fiery Tartarus echoing with the wail of the wicked, represent the newer doctrine of a moral retribution. The idea of purgatorial suffering, which hardly seems to have entered the minds of the lower races, expands in immense vigour in the great Aryan religions of Asia. In Brahmanism and Buddhism, the working out of good and evil actions into their necessary consequence of happiness and misery is the very key to the philosophy of life, whether life's successive transmigrations be in animal, or human, or demon births on earth, or in luxurious heaven-palaces of gold and jewels, or in the agonizing hells where Oriental fancy riots in the hideous inventory of torture-caldrons of boiling oil and liquid fire; black dungeons and rivers of filth ; vipers, and vultures, and cannibals ; thorns, and spears, and red-hot pincers, and whips of flame. To the modern Hindu, it is true, ceremonial morality seems to take the upper hand, and the question of happiness or misery after death turns rather on ablutions and fasts, on sacrifices and gifts to brahmans, than on purity and beneficence of life. Buddhism in South

'Bunsen, 'Egypt's Place in Univ. Hist.' vol. iv. p. 618, etc. ; Birch's Introduction to and translation of the Book of the Dead,' ibid. vol. v. ; Wilkinson, ‘Ancient Eg.' vol. v.

For details see Max Müller, ‘Chips,' vol. i. p. 47 ; Pauly, “Real Encyclop.' and Smith's ‘Dic. of Biog. and Myth.'

VOL. 11.

H

East Asia, sadly degenerate from its once high estate, is apt to work out the doctrine of merit and demerit into debtor and creditor accounts kept in good and bad marks from day to day; to serve out so much tea in hot weather counts 1 to the merit-side, and putting a stop to one's women scolding for a month counts 1 likewise, but this may be balanced by the offence of letting them keep the bowls and plates dirty for a day, which counts 1 the wrong way ; and it appears that giving wood for two coffins, which count 30 marks each, and burying four bones, at 10 marks a-piece, would just be balanced by murdering a child, which counts 100 to the bad. It need hardly be said here that these two great religions of Asia must be judged rather in their records of long past ages, than in the lingering degeneration of their modern reality.

In the Khordah-Avesta, a document of the old Persian religion, the fate of good and wicked souls at death is pictured in a dialogue between Zarathustra (Zoroaster), and Ahura Mazda and Anra-Mainyu (Ormuzd and Ahriman). Zarathustra asks, “Ahura Mazda, Heavenly, Holiest, Creator of the corporeal world, Pure! When a pure man dies, where does his soul dwell during this night?” Then answers Ahura-Mazda : “Near his head it sits down, reciting the Gathả Ustavaiti, praying happiness for itself; 'Happiness be to the man who conduces to the happiness of each. May Ahura-Mazda create, ruling after his wish.'” On this night the soul sees as much joyfulness as the whole living world possesses; and so the second and the third night. When the lapse of the third night turns itself to light, then the soul of the pure man goes forward, recollecting itself by. the perfume of plants. A wind blows to meet it from the mid-day regions, a sweet-scented one, more sweet-scented than the other winds, and the soul of the pure man receives it-'Whence blows this wind, the sweetest-scented which I ever have smelt with the nose ?' Then comes to meet him

I 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' new ser. vol. ï. p. 210. See Bastian, 'Destl. Asien.'

his own law (his rule of life) in the figure of a maiden, beautiful, shining, with shining arms, powerful, well-grown, slender, large-bosomed, with praiseworthy body, noble, with brilliant face, one of fifteen years, as fair in her growth as the fairest creatures. Then to her speaks the soul of the pure man, asking, . What maiden art thou whom I have seen here as the fairest of maidens in body?' She answers, 'I am, O youth, thy good thoughts, words, and works, thy good law, the own law of thine own body. Thou hast made the pleasant yet pleasanter to me, the fair yet fairer, the desirable yet more desirable, the sitting in a high place sitting in a yet higher place. Then the soul of the pure man takes the first step and comes to the first paradise, the second and third step to the second and third paradise, the fourth step and arrives at the Eternal Lights. To the soul speaks a pure one deceased before, asking it, “How art thou, O pure deceased, come away from the fleshly dwellings, from the corporeal world hither to the invisible, from the perishable world hither to the imperishable. Hail! has it happened to thee long?' “ Then speaks AhuraMazda : “Ask not him whom thou askest, for he is come on the fearful way of trembling, the separation of body and soul. Bring him hither of the food, of the full fatness, that is the food for a youth who thinks, speaks, and does good, who is devoted to the good law after death—that is the food for a woman who especially thinks good, speaks good, does good, the following, obedient, pure after death.'" And now Zarathustra asks, when a wicked one dies, where his soul dwells ? He is told how, running about near the head, it utters the prayer, Ke maúm :-" Which land shall I praise, whither shall I go praying, ( Ahura Mazda ?” In this night it sees as much unjoyfulness as the whole living world; and so the second and the third night, and it goes at dawn to the impure place, recollecting itself by the stench. An evil-smelling wind comes towards him from the north, and with it the ugly hateful maiden who is his own wicked deeds, and the soul takes the fourth step into

the darkness without beginning, and a wicked soul asks how long-woe to thee !-art thou come ? and the mocking Anra-Mainyu, answering in words like the words of AhuraMazda to the good, bids food to be brought-poison, and mixed with poison, for them who think and speak and do evil, and follow the wicked law. The Parsi of our own time, following in obscure tradition the ancient Zoroastrian faith, before he prays for forgiveness for all that he ought to have thought, and said, and done, and has not, for all that he ought not to have thought, and said, and done, and has, confesses thus his faith of the future life :-“I am wholly without doubt in the existence of the good Mazadayaçnian faith, in the coming of the resurrection and the later body, in the stepping over the bridge Chinvat, in an invariable recompense of good deeds and their reward, and of bad deeds and their punishment."

In Jewish theology, the doctrine of future retribution appears after the Babylonish captivity, not in ambiguous terms, but as the strongly-expressed and intensely-felt religious conviction it has since remained among the children of Israel. Not long afterward, it received the sanction of Christianity.

A broad survey of the doctrine of the Future Life among the various nations of the world shows at once how difficult and how important is a systematic theory of its development. Looked at ethnographically, the general relations of the lower to the higher culture as to the belief in future existence may be defined somewhat as follows :-If we draw a line dividing civilization at the junction of savagery and barbarism-about where the Carib and New Zealander ends and the Aztec or Tatar begins, we may see clearly the difference of prevalent doctrine on either side. On the savage side, the theory of hovering ghosts is strong, rebirth in human or animal bodies is often thought of, but above all there prevails the expectation of a new life, most

Spiegel, “Avesta,' ed. Bleek, vol. iii. pp. 136, 163 ; see vol. i. pr. xviii. 90, 141; vol. ii. p. 68.

1

« PreviousContinue »