THE RUINS: MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES AND THE LAW OF
by C. F. VOLNEY
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XXI. Problem of Religious Contradictions
XXII. Origin and Filiation
of Religious Ideas
PROBLEM OF RELIGIOUS CONTRADICTIONS
The various groups having taken their places, an unbounded silence succeeded
to the murmurs of the multitude; and the legislator said:
Chiefs and doctors of mankind! You remark how the nations, living apart,
have hitherto followed different paths, each believing its own to be that
of truth. If, however, truth is one, and opinions are various, it is evident
that some are in error. If, then, such vast numbers of us are in the wrong,
who shall dare to say, "I am in the right?" Begin, therefore, by being indulgent
in your dissensions. Let us all seek truth as if no one possessed it. The
opinions which to this day have governed the world, originating from chance,
propagated in obscurity, admitted without discussion, accredited by a love
of novelty and imitation, have usurped their empire in a clandestine manner.
It is time, if they are well founded, to give a solemn stamp to their certainty,
and legitimize their existence. Let us summon them this day to a general
scrutiny, let each propound his creed, let the whole assembly be the judge,
and let that alone be acknowledged as true which is so for the whole human
Then, by order of position, the representative of the first standard on the
left was allowed to speak:
"You are not permitted to doubt," said their chief, "that our doctrine is
the only true and infallible one. FIRST, it is revealed by God himself--"
"So is ours," cried all the other standards, "and you are not permitted to
"But at least," said the legislator, "you must prove it, for we cannot believe
what we do not know."
"Our doctrine is proved," replied the first standard, "by numerous facts,
by a multitude of miracles, by resurrections of the dead, by rivers dried
up, by mountains removed--"
"And we also have numberless miracles," cried all the others, and each began
to recount the most incredible things.
"THEIR miracles," said the first standard, "are imaginary, or the fictions
of the evil spirit, who has deluded them."
"They are yours," said the others, "that are imaginary;" and each group,
speaking of itself, cried out:
"None but ours are true, all the others are false."
The legislator then asked: "Have you living witnesses of the facts?"
"No," replied they all; "the facts are ancient, the witnesses are dead, but
their writings remain."
"Be it so," replied the legislator; "but if they contradict each other, who
shall reconcile them?"
"Just judge!" cried one of the standards, "the proof that our witnesses have
seen the truth is, that they died to confirm it; and our faith is sealed
by the blood of martyrs."
"And ours too," said the other standards; "we have thousands of martyrs who
have died in the most excruciating torments, without ever denying the
Then the Christians of every sect, the Mussulmans, the Indians, the Japanese,
recited endless legends of confessors, martyrs, penitents, etc.
And one of these parties, having denied the martyrology of the others: "Well,"
said they, "we will then die ourselves to prove the truth of our belief."
And instantly a crowd of men, of every religion and of every sect, presented
themselves to suffer the torments of death. Many even began to tear their
arms, and to beat their heads and breasts, without discovering any symptom
But the legislator, preventing them--"O men!" said he, "hear my words with
patience. If you die to prove that two and two make four, will your death
add any thing to this truth?"
"No!" answered all.
"And if you die to prove that they make five, will that make them five?"
Again they all answered, "No."
"What, then, is your persuasion to prove, if it changes not the existence
of things? Truth is one--your persuasions are various; many of you, therefore,
are in error. Now, if man, as is evident, can persuade himself of error,
what is the persuasion of man to prove?
"If error has its martyrs, what is the sure criterion of truth?
"If the evil spirit works miracles, what is the distinctive character of
"Besides, why resort forever to incomplete and insufficient miracles? Instead
of changing the course of nature, why not rather change opinions? Why murder
and terrify men, instead of instructing and correcting them?
"O credulous, but opinionated mortals! none of us know what was done yesterday,
what is doing to-day even under our eyes; and we swear to what was done two
thousand years ago!
"Oh, the weakness and yet the pride of men! The laws of nature are unchangeable
and profound--our minds are full of illusion and frivolity--and yet we would
comprehend every thing--determine every thing! Forgetting that it is easier
for the whole human race to be in error, than to change the nature of the
"Well, then," said one of the doctors, "let us lay aside the evidence of
fact, since it is uncertain; let us come to argument-- to the proofs inherent
in the doctrine."
Then came forward, with a look of confidence, an Iman of the law of Mahomet;
and, having advanced into the circle, turned towards Mecca, and recited with
great fervor his confession of faith. "Praise be to God," said he, with a
solemn and imposing voice, "the light shines with full evidence, and the
truth has no need of examination." Then, showing the Koran, he exclaimed:
"Here is the light of truth in its proper essence. There is no doubt in this
book. It conducts with safety him who walks in darkness, and who receives
without discussion the divine word which descended on the prophet, to save
the simple and confound the wise. God has established Mahomet his minister
on earth; he has given him the world, that he may subdue with the sword whoever
shall refuse to receive his law. Infidels dispute, and will not believe;
their obduracy comes from God, who has hardened their hearts to deliver them
to dreadful punishments."*
* This passage contains the sense and nearly the very words of the first
chapter of the Koran; and the reader will observe in general, that, in the
pictures that follow, the writer has endeavored to give as accurately as
possible the letter and spirit of the opinions of each party.
At these words a violent murmur arose on all sides, and silenced the speaker.
"Who is this man," cried all the groups, "who thus insults us without a cause?
What right has he to impose his creed on us as conqueror and tyrant? Has
not God endowed us, as well as him, with eyes, understanding, and reason?
And have we not an equal right to use them, in choosing what to believe and
what to reject? If he attacks us, shall we not defend ourselves? If he likes
to believe without examination, must we therefore not examine before we
"And what is this luminous doctrine that fears the light? What is this apostle
of a God of clemency, who preaches nothing but murder and carnage? What is
this God of justice, who punishes blindness which he himself has made? If
violence and persecution are the arguments of truth, are gentleness and charity
the signs of falsehood?"
A man then advancing from a neighboring group, said to the Iman:
"Admitting that Mahomet is the apostle of the best doctrine,--the prophet
of the true religion,--have the goodness at least to tell us whether, in
the practice of his doctrine, we are to follow his son-in-law Ali, or his
vicars Omar and Aboubekre?"*
* These are the two grand parties into which the Mussulmans are divided.
The Turks have embraced the second, the Persians the first.
At the sound of these names a terrible schism arose among the Mussulmans
themselves. The partisans of Ali and those of Omar, calling out heretics
and blasphemers, loaded each other with execrations. The quarrel became so
violent that neighboring groups were obliged to interfere, to prevent their
coming to blows. At length, tranquillity being somewhat restored, the legislator
said to the Imans:
"See the consequences of your principles! If you yourselves were to carry
them into practice, you would destroy each other to the last man. Is it not
the first law of God that man should live?"
Then, addressing himself to the other groups, he continued:
"Doubtless this intolerant and exclusive spirit shocks every idea of justice,
and overturns the whole foundation of morals and society; but before we totally
reject this code of doctrine, is it not proper to hear some of its dogmas?
Let us not pronounce on the forms, without having some knowledge of the
The groups having consented, the Iman began to expound how God, having sent
to the nations lost in idolatry twenty-four thousand prophets, had finally
sent the last, the seal and perfection of all, Mahomet; on whom be the salvation
of peace: how, to prevent the divine word from being any longer perverted
by infidels, the supreme goodness had itself written the pages of the Koran.
Then, explaining the particular dogmas of Islamism, the Iman unfolded how
the Koran, partaking of the divine nature, was uncreated and eternal, like
its author: how it had been sent leaf by leaf, in twenty-four thousand nocturnal
apparitions of the angel Gabriel: how the angel announced himself by a gentle
knocking, which threw the prophet into a cold sweat: how in the vision of
one night he had travelled over ninety heavens, riding on the beast Borack,
half horse and half woman: how, endowed with the gift of miracles, he walked
in the sunshine without a shadow, turned dry trees to green, filled wells
and cisterns with water, and split in two the body of the moon: how, by divine
command, Mahomet had propagated, sword in hand, the religion the most worthy
of God by its sublimity, and the most proper for men by the simplicity of
its practice; since it consisted in only eight or ten points:--To profess
the unity of God; to acknowledge Mahomet as his only prophet; to pray five
times a day; to fast one month in the year; to go to Mecca once in our life;
to pay the tenth of all we possess; to drink no wine; to eat no pork; and
to make war upon the infidels.* He taught that by these means every Mussulman
becoming himself an apostle and martyr, should enjoy in this world many
blessings; and at his death, his soul, weighed in the balance of works, and
absolved by the two black angels, should pass the infernal pit on the bridge
as narrow as a hair and as sharp as the edge of a sword, and should finally
be received to a region of delight, which is watered with rivers of milk
and honey, and embalmed in all the perfumes of India and Arabia; and where
the celestial Houris--virgins always chaste--are eternally crowning with
repeated favors the elect of God, who preserve an eternal youth.
* Whatever the advocates for the philosophy and civilization of the Turks
may assert, to make war upon infidels is considered by them as an obligatory
precept and an act of religion. See Reland de Relig. Mahom.
At these words an involuntary smile was seen on all their lips; and the various
groups, reasoning on these articles of faith, exclaimed with one voice:
"Is it possible that reasonable beings can admit such reveries? Would you
not think it a chapter from The Thousand and One Nights?"
A Samoyede advanced into the circle: "The paradise of Mahomet," said he,
"appears to me very good; but one of the means of gaining it is embarrassing:
for if we must neither eat nor drink between the rising and setting sun,
as he has ordered, how are we to practise that fast in my country, where
the sun continues above the horizon six months without setting?"
"That is impossible," cried all the Mussulman doctors, to support the teaching
of the prophet; but a hundred nations having attested the fact, the infallibility
of Mahomet could not but receive a severe shock.
"It is singular," said an European, "that God should be constantly revealing
what takes place in heaven, without ever instructing us what is doing on
"For my part," said an American," I find a great difficulty in the pilgrimage.
For suppose twenty-five years to a generation, and only a hundred millions
of males on the globe,--each being obliged to go to Mecca once in his
life,--there must be four millions a year on the journey; and as it would
be impracticable for them to return the same year, the numbers would be
doubled--that is, eight millions: where would you find provisions, lodgings,
water, vessels, for this universal procession? Here must be miracles
"The proof," said a catholic doctor, "that the religion of Mahomet is not
revealed, is that the greater part of the ideas which serve for its basis
existed a long time before, and that it is only a confused mixture of truths
disfigured and taken from our holy religion and from that of the Jews; which
an ambitious man has made to serve his projects of domination, and his worldly
views. Look through his book; you will see nothing there but the histories
of the Bible and the Gospel travestied into absurd fables--into a tissue
of vague and contradictory declamations, and ridiculous or dangerous
"Analyze the spirit of these precepts, and the conduct of their apostle;
you will find there an artful and audacious character, which, to obtain its
end, works ably it is true, on the passions of the people it had to govern.
It is speaking to simple men, and it entertains them with miracles; they
are ignorant and jealous, and it flatters their vanity by despising science;
they are poor and rapacious, and it excites their cupidity by the hope of
pillage; having nothing at first to give them on earth, it tells them of
treasures in heaven; it teaches them to desire death as a supreme good; it
threatens cowards with hell; it rewards the brave with paradise; it sustains
the weak with the opinion of fatality; in short, it produces the attachment
it wants by all the allurements of sense, and all the power of the
"How different is the character of our religion! and how completely does
its empire, founded on the counteraction of the natural temper, and the
mortification of all our passions, prove its divine origin! How forcibly
does its mild and compassionate morality, its affections altogether spiritual,
attest its emanation from God! Many of its doctrines, it is true, soar above
the reach of the understanding, and impose on reason a respectful silence;
but this more fully demonstrates its revelation, since the human mind could
never have imagined such mysteries."
Then, holding the Bible in one hand and the four Gospels in the other, the
doctor began to relate that, in the beginning, God, after passing an eternity
in idleness, took the resolution, without any known cause, of making the
world out of nothing; that having created the whole universe in six days,
he found himself fatigued on the seventh; that having placed the first human
pair in a garden of delights, to make them completely happy, he forbade their
tasting a particular fruit which he placed within their reach; that these
first parents, having yielded to the temptation, all their race (which were
not yet born) had been condemned to bear the penalty of a fault which they
had not committed; that, after having left the human race to damn themselves
for four or five thousand years, this God of mercy ordered a well beloved
son, whom he had engendered without a mother, and who was as old as himself,
to go and be put to death on the earth; and this for the salvation of mankind;
of whom much the greater portion, nevertheless, have ever since continued
in the way of perdition; that to remedy this new difficulty, this same God,
born of a virgin, having died and risen from the dead, assumes a new existence
every day, and in the form of a piece of bread, multiplies himself by millions
at the voice of one of the basest of men. Then, passing on to the doctrine
of the sacraments, he was going to treat at large on the power of absolution
and reprobation, of the means of purging all sins by a little water and a
few words, when, uttering the words indulgence, power of the pope, sufficient
grace, and efficacious grace, he was interrupted by a thousand cries.
"It is a horrible abuse," cried the Lutherans, "to pretend to remit sins
"The notion of the real presence," cried the Calvinists, "is contrary to
the text of the Gospel."
"The pope has no right to decide anything of himself," cried the Jansenists;
and thirty other sects rising up, and accusing each other of heresies and
errors, it was no longer possible to hear anything distinctly.
Silence being at last restored, the Mussulmans observed to the legislator:
"Since you have rejected our doctrine as containing things incredible, can
you admit that of the Christians? Is not theirs still more contrary to common
sense and justice? A God, immaterial and infinite, to become a man! to have
a son as old as himself! This god-man to become bread, to be eaten and digested!
Have we any thing equal to that? Have the Christians an exclusive right of
setting up a blind faith? And will you grant them privileges of belief to
Some savage tribes then advanced: "What!" said they, "because a man and woman
ate an apple six thousand years ago, all the human race are damned? And you
call God just? What tyrant ever rendered children responsible for the faults
of their fathers? What man can answer for the actions of another? Does not
this overturn every idea of justice and of reason?"
Others exclaimed: "Where are the proofs, the witnesses of these pretended
facts? Can we receive them without examining the evidence? The least action
in a court of justice requires two witnesses; and we are ordered to believe
all this on mere tradition and hearsay!"
A Jewish Rabbin then addressing the assembly, said: "As to the fundamental
facts, we are sureties; but with regard to their form and their application,
the case is different, and the Christians are here condemned by their own
arguments. For they cannot deny that we are the original source from which
they are derived--the primitive stock on which they are grafted; and hence
the reasoning is very short: Either our law is from God, and then theirs
is a heresy, since it differs from ours, or our law is not from God, and
then theirs falls at the same time."
"But you must make this distinction," replied the Christian: "Your law is
from God as typical and preparative, but not as final and absolute: you are
the image of which we are the substance."
"We know," replied the Rabbin, "that such are your pretensions; but they
are absolutely gratuitous and false. Your system turns altogether on mystical
meanings, visionary and allegorical interpretations.* With violent distortions
on the letter of our books, you substitute the most chimerical ideas for
the true ones, and find in them whatever pleases you; as a roving imagination
will find figures in the clouds. Thus you have made a spiritual Messiah of
that which, in the spirit of our prophets, is only a temporal king. You have
made a redemption of the human race out of the simple re-establishment of
our nation. Your conception of the Virgin is founded on a single phrase,
of which you have changed the meaning. Thus you make from our Scriptures
whatever your fancy dictates; you even find there your trinity; though there
is not a word that has the most distant allusion to such a thing; and it
is an invention of profane writers, admitted into your system with a host
of other opinions, of every religion and of every sect, during the anarchy
of the first three centuries of your era."
* When we read the Fathers of the church, and see upon what arguments they
have built the edifice of religion, we are inexpressibly astonished with
their credulity or their knavery: but allegory was the rage of that period;
the Pagans employed it to explain the actions of their gods, and the Christians
acted in the same spirit when they employed it after their fashion.
At these words, the Christian doctors, crying sacrilege and blasphemy, sprang
forward in a transport of fury to fall upon the Jew; and a troop of monks,
in motley dresses of black and white, advanced with a standard on which were
painted pincers, gridirons, lighted fagots, and the words Justice, Charity,
Mercy.* "It is necessary," said they, "to make an example of these impious
wretches, and burn them for the glory of God." They began even to prepare
the pile, when a Mussulman answered in a strain of irony:
"This, then, is that religion of peace, that meek and beneficent system which
you so much extol! This is that evangelical charity which combats infidelity
with persuasive mildness, and repays injuries with patience! Ye hypocrites!
It is thus that you deceive mankind--thus that you propagate your accursed
errors! When you were weak, you preached liberty, toleration, peace; when
you are strong, you practise persecution and violence--"
* This description answers exactly to the banner of the Inquisition of Spanish
And he was going to begin the history of the wars and slaughters of Christianity,
when the legislator, demanding silence, suspended this scene of discord.
The monks, affecting a tone of meekness and humility, exclaimed: "It is not
ourselves that we would avenge; it is the cause of God; it is the glory of
God that we defend."
"And what right have you, more than we," said the Imans, "to constitute
yourselves the representatives of God? Have you privileges that we have not?
Are you not men like us?"
"To defend God," said another group, "to pretend to avenge him, is to insult
his wisdom and his power. Does he not know, better than men, what befits
"Yes," replied the monks, "but his ways are secret."
"And it remains for you to prove," said the Rabbins, "that you have the exclusive
privilege of understanding them."
Then, proud of finding supporters to their cause, the Jews thought that the
books of Moses were going to be triumphant, when the Mobed (high priest)
of the Parses obtained leave to speak.
"We have heard," said he, "the account of the Jews and Christians of the
origin of the world; and, though greatly mutilated, we find in it some facts
which we admit. But we deny that they are to be attributed to the legislator
of the Hebrews. It was not he who made known to men these sublime truths,
these celestial events. It was not to him that God revealed them, but to
our holy prophet Zoroaster: and the proof of this is in the very books that
they refer to. Examine with attention the laws, the ceremonies, the precepts
established by Moses in those books; you will not find the slightest indication,
either expressed or understood, of what constitutes the basis of the Jewish
and Christian theology. You nowhere find the least trace of the immortality
of the soul, or of a future life, or of heaven, or of hell, or of the revolt
of the principal angel, author of the evils of the human race. These ideas
were not known to Moses, and the reason is very obvious: it was not till
four centuries afterwards that Zoroaster first evangelized them in Asia.*
* See the Chronology of the Twelve Ages, in which I conceive myself to have
clearly proved that Moses lived about 1,400 years before Jesus Christ, and
Zoroaster about a thousand.
"Thus," continued the Mobed, turning to the Rabbins, "it was not till after
that epoch, that is to say, in the time of your first kings, that these ideas
began to appear in your writers; and then their appearance was obscure and
gradual, according to the progress of the political relations between your
ancestors and ours. It was especially when, having been conquered by the
kings of Nineveh and Babylon and transported to the banks of the Tygris and
the Euphrates, where they resided for three successive generations, that
they imbibed manners and opinions which had been rejected as contrary to
their law. When our king Cyrus had delivered them from slavery, their heart
was won to us by gratitude; they became our disciples and imitators; and
they admitted our dogmas in the revision of their books;* for your Genesis,
in particular, was never the work of Moses, but a compilation drawn up after
the return from the Babylonian captivity, in which are inserted the Chaldean
opinions of the origin of the world.
* In the first periods of the Christian church, not only the most learned
of those who have since been denominated heretics, but many of the orthodox
conceived Moses to have written neither the law nor the Pentateuch, but that
the work was a compilation made by the elders of the people and the Seventy,
who, after the death of Moses, collected his scattered ordinances, and mixed
with them things that were extraneous; similar to what happened as to the
Koran of Mahomet. See Les Clementines, Homel. 2. sect. 51. and Homel. 3.
Modern critics, more enlightened or more attentive than the ancients, have
found in Genesis in particular, marks of its having been composed on the
return from the captivity; but the principal proofs have escaped them. These
I mean to exhibit in an analysis of the book of Genesis, in which I shall
demonstrate that the tenth chapter, among others, which treats of the pretended
generations of the man called Noah, is a real geographical picture of the
world, as it was known to the Hebrews at the epoch of the captivity, which
was bounded by Greece or Hellas at the West, mount Caucasus at the North,
Persia at the East, and Arabia and Upper Egypt at the South. All the pretended
personages from Adam to Abraham, or his father Terah, are mythological beings,
stars, constellations, countries. Adam is Bootes: Noah is Osiris: Xisuthrus
Janus, Saturn; that is to say Capricorn, or the celestial Genius that opened
the year. The Alexandrian Chronicle says expressly, page 85, that Nimrod
was supposed by the Persians to be their first king, as having invented the
art of hunting, and that he was translated into heaven, where he appears
under the name of Orion.
"At first the pure followers of the law, opposing to the emigrants the letter
of the text and the absolute silence of the prophet, endeavored to repel
these innovations; but they ultimately prevailed, and our doctrine, modified
by your ideas, gave rise to a new sect.
"You expected a king to restore your political independence; we announced
a God to regenerate and save mankind. From this combination of ideas, your
Essenians laid the foundation of Christianity: and whatever your pretensions
may be, Jews, Christians, Mussulmans, you are, in your system of spiritual
beings, only the blundering followers of Zoroaster."
The Mobed, then passing on to the details of his religion, quoting from the
Zadder and the Zendavesta, recounted, in the same order as they are found
in the book of Genesis, the creation of the world in six gahans,* the formation
of a first man and a first woman, in a divine place, under the reign of perfect
good; the introduction of evil into the world by the great snake, emblem
of Ahrimanes; the revolt and battles of the Genius of evil and darkness against
Ormuzd, God of good and of light; the division of the angels into white and
black, or good and bad; their hierarchal orders, cherubim, seraphim, thrones,
dominions, etc.; the end of the world at the close of six thousand years;
the coming of the lamb, the regenerator of nature; the new world; the future
life, and the regions of happiness and misery; the passage of souls over
the bridge of the bottomless pit; the celebration of the mysteries of Mithras;
the unleavened bread which the initiated eat; the baptism of new-born children;
the unction of the dead; the confession of sins; and, in a word, he recited
so many things analagous to those of the three preceding religions, that
his discourse seemed like a commentary or a continuation of the Koran or
* Or periods, or in six gahan-bars, that is six periods of time. These periods
are what Zoroaster calls the thousands of God or of light, meaning the six
summer months. In the first, say the Persians, God created (arranged in order)
the heavens; in the second the waters; in the third the earth; in the fourth
trees; in the fifth animals; and in the sixth man; corresponding with the
account in Genesis. For particulars see Hyde, ch. 9, and Henry Lord, ch.
2, on the religion of the ancient Persians. It is remarkable that the same
tradition is found in the sacred books of the Etrurians, which relate that
the fabricator of all things had comprised the duration of his work in a
period of twelve thousand years, which period was distributed to the twelve
houses of the sun. In the first thousand, God made heaven and earth; in the
second the firmament; in the third the sea and the waters; in the fourth
the sun, moon and stars; in the fifth the souls of animals, birds, and reptiles;
in the sixth man. See Suidas, at the word Tyrrhena; which shows first the
identity of their theological and astrological opinions; and, secondly, the
identity, or rather confusion of ideas, between absolute and systematical
creation; that is, the periods assigned for renewing the face of nature,
which were at first the period of the year, and afterwards periods of 60,
of 600, of 25,000, of 36,000 and of 432,000 years.
** The modern Parses and the ancient Mithriacs, who are the same sect, observe
all the Christian sacraments, even the laying on of hands in confirmation.
The priest of Mithra, says Tertullian, (de Proescriptione, ch. 40) promises
absolution from sin on confession and baptism; and, if I rightly remember,
Mithra marks his soldiers in the forehead, with the chrism called in the
Egyptian Kouphi; he celebrates the sacrifice of bread, which is the resurrection,
and presents the crown to his followers, menacing them at the same time with
the sword, etc.
In these mysteries they tried the courage of the initiated with a thousand
terrors, presenting fire to his face, a sword to his breast, etc.; they also
offered him a crown, which he refused, saying, God is my crown: and this
crown is to be seen in the celestial sphere by the side of Bootes. The personages
in these mysteries were distinguished by the names of the animal constellations.
The ceremony of mass is nothing more than an imitation of these mysteries
and those of Eleusis. The benediction, the Lord be with you, is a literal
translation of the formula of admission chou-k, am, p-ka. See Beausob. Hist.
Du Manicheisme, vol. ii.
But the Jewish, Christian, and Mahometan doctors, crying out against this
recital, and treating the Parses as idolaters and worshippers of fire, charged
them with falsehood, interpolations, falsification of facts; and there arose
a violent dispute as to the dates of the events, their order and succession,
the origin of the doctrines, their transmission from nation to nation, the
authenticity of the books on which they are founded, the epoch of their
composition, the character of their compilers, and the validity of their
testimony. And the various parties, pointing out reciprocally to each other,
the contradictions, improbabilities, and forgeries, accused one another of
having established their belief on popular rumors, vague traditions, and
absurd fables, invented without discernment, and admitted without examination
by unknown, partial, or ignorant writers, at uncertain or unknown epochs.
A great murmur now arose from under the standards of the various Indian sects;
and the Bramins, protesting against the pretensions of the Jews and the Parses,
"What are these new and almost unheard of nations, who arrogantly set themselves
up as the sources of the human race, and the depositaries of its archives?
To hear their calculations of five or six thousand years, it would seem that
the world was of yesterday; whereas our monuments prove a duration of many
thousands of centuries. And for what reason are their books to be preferred
to ours? Are then the Vedes, the Chastres, and the Pourans inferior to the
Bibles, the Zendavestas, and the Zadders?* And is not the testimony of our
fathers and our gods as valid as that of the fathers and the gods of the
West? Ah! if it were permitted to reveal our mysteries to profane men! if
a sacred veil did not justly conceal them from every eye!"
These are the sacred volumes of the Hindoos; they are sometimes written Vedams,
Pouranams, Chastrans, because the Hindoos, like the Persians, are accustomed
to give a nasal sound to the terminations of their words, which we represent
by the affixes on and an, and the Portuguese by the affixes om and am. Many
of these books have been translated, thanks to the liberal spirit of Mr.
Hastings, who has founded at Calcutta a literary society, and a printing
press. At the same time, however, that we express our gratitude to this society,
we must be permitted to complain of its exclusive spirit; the number of copies
printed of each book being such as it is impossible to purchase them even
in England; they are wholly in the hands of the East India proprietors. Scarcely
even is the Asiatic Miscellany known in Europe; and a man must be very learned
in oriental antiquity before he so much as hears of the Jones's, the Wilkins's,
and the Halhed's, etc. As to the sacred books of the Hindoos, all that are
yet in our hands are the Bhagvat Geeta, the Ezour-Vedam, the Bagavadam, and
certain fragments of the Chastres printed at the end of the Bhagvat Geeta.
These books are in Indostan what the Old and New Testament are in Christendom,
the Koran in Turkey, the Zadder and the Zendavesta among the Parses, etc.
When I have taken an extensive survey of their contents, I have sometimes
asked myself, what would be the loss to the human race if a new Omar condemned
them to the flames; and, unable to discover any mischief that would ensue,
I call the imaginary chest that contains them, the box of Pandora.
The Bramins stopping short at these words: "How can we admit your doctrine,"
said the legislator, "if you will not make it known? And how did its first
authors propagate it, when, being alone possessed of it, their own people
were to them profane? Did heaven reveal it to be kept a secret?"*
* The Vedas or Vedams are the sacred volumes of the Hindoos, as the Bibles
with us. They are three in number; the Rick Veda, the Yadjour Veda, and the
Sama Veda; they are so scarce in India, that the English could with great
difficulty find an original one, of which a copy is deposited in the British
Museum; they who reckon four Vedas, include among them the Attar Veda, concerning
ceremonies, but which is lost. There are besides commentaries named Upanishada,
one of which was published by Anquetil du Peron, and entitled Oupnekhat,
a curious work. The date of these books is more than twenty-five centuries
prior to our era; their contents prove that all the reveries of the Greek
metaphysicians come from India and Egypt. Since the year 1788, the learned
men of England are working in India a mine of literature totally unknown
in Europe, and which proves that the civilization of India ascends to a very
remote antiquity. After the Vedas come the Chastras amounting to six. They
treat of theology and the Sciences. Afterwards eighteen Pouranas, treating
of Mythology and History. See the Bahgouet-guita, the Baga Vadam, and the
But the Bramins persisting in their silence: "Let them have the honor of
the secret," said a European: "Their doctrine is now divulged; we have their
books, and I can give you the substance of them."
Then beginning with an abstract of the four Vedes, the eighteen Pourans,
and the five or six Chastres, he recounted how a being, infinite, eternal,
immaterial and round, after having passed an eternity in self-contemplation,
and determining at last to manifest himself, separated the male and female
faculties which were in him, and performed an act of generation, of which
the Lingam remains an emblem; how that first act gave birth to three divine
powers, Brama, Bichen or Vichenou, and Chib or Chiven;* whose functions were--the
first to create, the second to preserve, and the third to destroy, or change
the form of the universe. Then, detailing the history of their operations
and adventures, he explained how Brama, proud of having created the world
and the eight bobouns, or spheres of probation, thought himself superior
to Chib, his equal; how his pride brought on a battle between them, in which
these celestial globes were crushed like a basket of eggs; how Brama, vanquished
in this conflict, was reduced to serve as a pedestal to Chib, metamorphosed
into a Lingam; how Vichenou, the god mediator, has taken at different times
to preserve the world, nine mortal forms of animals; how first, in shape
of a fish, he saved from the universal deluge a family who repeopled the
earth; how afterwards, in the form of a tortoise,** he drew from the sea
of milk the mountain Mandreguiri (the pole); then, becoming a boar, he tore
the belly of the giant Ereuniachessen, who was drowning the earth in the
abyss of Djole, from whence he drew it out with his tusks; how, becoming
incarnate in a black shepherd, and under the name of Christ-en, he delivered
the world of the enormous serpent Calengem, and then crushed his head, after
having been wounded by him in the heel.
* These names are differently pronounced according to the different dialects;
thus they say Birmah, Bremma, Brouma. Bichen has been turned into Vichen
by the easy exchange of a B for a V, and into Vichenou by means of a grammatical
affix. In the same manner Chib, which is synonymous with Satan, and signifies
adversary, is frequently written Chiba and Chiv-en; he is called also Rouder
and Routr-en, that is, the destroyer.
** This is the constellation testudo, or the lyre, which was at first a tortoise,
on account of its slow motion round the Pole; then a lyre, because it is
the shell of this reptile on which the strings of the lyre are mounted. See
an excellent memoir of M. Dupuis sur l'Origine des Constellations.
Then, passing on to the history of the secondary Genii, he related how the
Eternal, to display his own glory, created various orders of angels, whose
business it was to sing his praises and to direct the universe; how a part
of these angels revolted under the guidance of an ambitious chief, who strove
to usurp the power of God, and to govern all; how God plunged them into a
world of darkness, there to undergo the punishment for their crimes; how
at last, touched with compassion, he consented to release them, to receive
them into favor, after they should undergo a long series of probations; how,
after creating for this purpose fifteen orbits or regions of planets, and
peopling them with bodies, he ordered these rebel angels to undergo in them
eighty-seven transmigrations; he then explained how souls, thus purified,
returned to the first source, to the ocean of life and animation from which
they had proceeded; and since all living creatures contain portions of this
universal soul, he taught how criminal it was to deprive them of it. He was
finally proceeding to explain the rites and ceremonies, when, speaking of
offerings and libations of milk and butter made to gods of copper and wood,
and then of purifications by the dung and urine of cows, there arose a universal
murmur, mixed with peals of laughter, which interrupted the orator.
Each of the different groups began to reason on that religion: "They are
idolators," said the Mussulmans; "and should be exterminated." "They are
deranged in their intellect," said the followers of Confucius; "we must try
to cure them." "What ridiculous gods," said others, "are these puppets, besmeared
with grease and smoke! Are gods to be washed like dirty children, from whom
you must brush away the flies, which, attracted by honey, are fouling them
with their excrements!"
But a Bramin exclaimed with indignation: "These are profound mysteries,--emblems
of truth, which you are not worthy to hear."
"And in what respect are you more worthy than we?" exclaimed a Lama of Tibet.
"Is it because you pretend to have issued from the head of Brama, and the
rest of the human race from the less noble parts of his body? But to support
the pride of your distinctions of origin and castes, prove to us in the first
place that you are different from other men; establish, in the next place,
as historical facts, the allegories which you relate; show us, indeed, that
you are the authors of all this doctrine; for we will demonstrate, if necessary,
that you have only stolen and disfigured it; that you are only the imitators
of the ancient paganism of the West; to which, by an ill assorted mixture,
you have allied the pure and spiritual doctrine of our gods--a doctrine totally
detached from the senses, and entirely unknown on earth till Beddou taught
it to the nations."*
* All the ancient opinions of the Egyptian and Grecian theologians are to
be found in India, and they appear to have been introduced, by means of the
commerce of Arabia and the vicinity of Persia, time immemorial.
A number of groups having asked what was this doctrine, and who was this
god, of whom the greater part had never heard the name, the Lama resumed
"In the beginning, a sole-existent and self-existent God, having passed an
eternity in the contemplation of his own being, resolved to manifest his
perfections out of himself, and created the matter of the world. The four
elements being produced, but still in a state of confusion, he breathed on
the face of the waters, which swelled like an immense bubble in form of an
egg, which unfolding, became the vault or orb of heaven, enclosing the world.*
Having made the earth, and the bodies of animals, this God, essence of motion,
imparted to them a part of his own being to animate them; for this reason,
the soul of everything that breathes being a portion of the universal soul,
no one of them can perish; they only change their form and mould in passing
successively into different bodies. Of all these forms, the one most pleasing
to God is that of man, as most resembling his own perfections. When a man,
by an absolute disengagement from his senses, is wholly absorbed in self-
contemplation, he then discovers the divinity, and becomes himself God. Of
all the incarnations of this kind that God has hitherto taken, the greatest
and most solemn was that in which he appeared thirty centuries ago in Kachemire,
under the name of Fot or Beddou, to preach the doctrines of self-denial and
* This cosmogony of the Lamas, the Bonzes, and even the Bramins, as Henry Lord asserts, is literally that of the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians, says Porphyry, call Kneph, intelligence, or efficient cause of the universe. They relate that this God vomited an egg, from which was produced another God named Phtha or Vulcan, (igneous principle or the sun) and they add, that this egg is the world. Euseb. Proep. Evang. p. 115.
They represent, says the same author in another place, the God Kneph, or
efficient cause, under the form of a man in deep blue (the color of the sky)
having in his hand a sceptre, a belt round his body, and a small bonnet royal
of light feathers on his head, to denote how very subtile and fugacious the
idea of that being is. Upon which I shall observe that Kneph in Hebrew signifies
a wing, a feather, and that this color of sky-blue is to be found in the
majority of the Indian Gods, and is, under the name of Narayan, one of their
most distinguishing epithets.
Then, pursuing the history of Fot, the Lama continued:
"He was born from the right flank of a virgin of royal blood, who did not
cease to be a virgin for having become a mother; that the king of the country,
uneasy at his birth, wished to destroy him, and for this purpose ordered
a massacre of all the males born at that period, that being saved by shepherds,
Beddou lived in the desert till the age of thirty years, at which time he
began his mission to enlighten men and cast out devils; that he performed
a multitude of the most astonishing miracles; that he spent his life in fasting
and severe penitence, and at his death, bequeathed to his disciples a book
containing his doctrines."
And the Lama began to read:
"He that leaveth his father and mother to follow me," says Fot, "becomes
a perfect Samanean (a heavenly man).
"He that practices my precepts to the fourth degree of perfection, acquires
the faculty of flying in the air, of moving heaven and earth, of prolonging
or shortening his life (rising from the dead).
"The Samanean despises riches, and uses only what is strictly necessary;
he mortifies his body, silences his passions, desires nothing, forms no
attachments, meditates my doctrines without ceasing, endures injuries with
patience, and bears no malice to his neighbor.
"Heaven and earth shall perish," says Fot: "despise therefore your bodies,
which are composed of the four perishable elements, and think only of your
"Listen not to the flesh: fear and sorrow spring from the passions: stifle
the passions and you destroy fear and sorrow.
"Whoever dies without having embraced my religion," says Fot, "returns among
men, until he embraces it."
The Lama was going on with his reading, when the Christians interrupted him,
crying out that this was their own religion adulterated--that Fot was no
other than Jesus himself disfigured, and that the Lamas were the Nestorians
and the Manicheans disguised and bastardized.*
* This is asserted by our missionaries, and among others by Georgi in his
unfinished work of the Thibetan alphabet: but if it can be proved that the
Manicheans were but plagiarists, and the ignorant echo of a doctrine that
existed fifteen hundred years before them, what becomes of the declarations
of Georgi? See upon this subject, Beausob. Hist. du Manicheisme.
But the Lama, supported by the Chamans, Bonzes, Gonnis, Talapoins of Siam,
of Ceylon, of Japan, and of China, proved to the Christians, even from their
own authors, that the doctrine of the Samaneans was known through the East
more than a thousand years before the Christian era; that their name was
cited before the time of Alexander, and that Boutta, or Beddou, was known
* The eastern writers in general agree in placing the birth of Beddou 1027
years before Jesus Christ, which makes him the contemporary of Zoroaster,
with whom, in my opinion, they confound him. It is certain that his doctrine
notoriously existed at that epoch; it is found entire in that of Orpheus,
Pythagoras, and the Indian gymnosophists. But the gymnosophists are cited
at the time of Alexander as an ancient sect already divided into Brachmans
and Samaneans. See Bardesanes en Saint Jerome, Epitre a Jovien. Pythagoras
lived in the ninth century before Jesus Christ; See chronology of the twelve
ages; and Orpheus is of still greater antiquity. If, as is the case, the
doctrine of Pythagoras and that of Orpheus are of Egyptian origin, that of
Beddou goes back to the common source; and in reality the Egyptian priests
recite, that Hermes as he was dying said: "I have hitherto lived an exile
from my country, to which I now return. Weep not for me, I ascend to the
celestial abode where each of you will follow in his turn: there God is:
this life is only death."--Chalcidius in Thinaeum.
Such was the profession of faith of the Samaneans, the sectaries of Orpheus,
and the Pythagoreans. Farther, Hermes is no other than Beddou himself; for
among the Indians, Chinese, Lamas, etc., the planet Mercury and the corresponding
day of the week (Wednesday) bear the name of Beddou, and this accounts for
his being placed in the rank of mythological beings, and discovers the illusion
of his pretended existence as a man; since it is evident that Mercury was
not a human being, but the Genius or Decan, who, placed at the summer solstice,
opened the Egyptian year; hence his attributes taken from the constellation
Syrius, and his name of Anubis, as well as that of Esculapius, having the
figure of a man and the head of a dog: hence his serpent, which is the Hydra,
emblem of the Nile (Hydor, humidity); and from this serpent he seems to have
derived his name of Hermes, as Remes (with a schin) in the oriental languages,
signifies serpent. Now Beddou and Hermes being the same names, it is manifest
of what antiquity is the system ascribed to the former. As to the name of
Samanean, it is precisely that of Chaman, still preserved in Tartary, China,
and India. The interpretation given to it is, man of the woods, a hermit
mortifying the flesh, such being the characteristic of this sect; but its
literal meaning is, celestial (Samaoui) and explains the system of those
who are called by it.--The system is the same as that of the sectaries of
Orpheus, of the Essenians, of the ancient Anchorets of Persia, and the whole
eastern country. See Porphyry, de Abstin. Animal.
These celestial and penitent men carried in India their insanity to such
an extreme as to wish not to touch the earth, and they accordingly lived
in cages suspended from the trees, where the people, whose admiration was
not less absurd, brought them provisions. During the night there were frequent
robberies, rapes and murders, and it was at length discovered that they were
committed by those men, who, descending from their cages, thus indemnified
themselves for their restraint during the day. The Bramins, their rivals,
embraced the opportunity of exterminating them; and from that time their
name in India has been synonymous with hypocrite. See Hist. de la Chine,
in 5 vols. quarto, at the note page 30; Hist. de Huns, 2 vols. and preface
to the Ezour- Vedam.
Then, retorting the pretensions of the Christians against themselves: "Prove
to us," said the Lama, "that you are not Samaneans degenerated, and that
the man you make the author of your sect is not Fot himself disguised. Prove
to us by historical facts that he even existed at the epoch you pretend;
for, it being destitute of authentic testimony,* we absolutely deny it; and
we maintain that your very gospels are only the books of some Mithriacs of
Persia, and the Essenians of Syria, who were a branch of reformed
* There are absolutely no other monuments of the existence of Jesus Christ
as a human being, than a passage in Josephus (Antiq. Jud. lib. 18, c.3,)
a single phrase in Tacitus (Annal. lib. 15, c. 44), and the Gospels. But
the passage in Josephus is unanimously acknowledged to be apocryphal, and
to have been interpolated towards the close of the third century, (See Trad.
de joseph, par M. Gillet); and that of Tacitus in so vague and so evidently
taken from the deposition of the Christians before the tribunals, that it
may be ranked in the class of evangelical records. It remains to enquire
of what authority are these records. "All the world knows," says Faustus,
who, though a Manichean, was one of the most learned men of the third century,
"All the world knows that the gospels were neither written by Jesus Christ,
nor his apostles, but by certain unknown persons, who rightly judging that
they should not obtain belief respecting things which they had not seen,
placed at the head of their recitals the names of contemporary apostles."
See Beausob. vol. i. and Hist. des Apologistes de la Relig. Chret. par Burigni,
a sagacious writer, who has demonstrated the absolute uncertainty of those
foundations of the Christian religion; so that the existence of Jesus is
no better proved than that of Osiris and Hercules, or that of Fot or Beddou,
with whom, says M. de Guignes, the Chinese continually confound him, for
they never call Jesus by any other name than Fot. Hist. de Huns.
** That is to say, from the pious romances formed out of the sacred legends
of the mysteries of Mithra, Ceres, Isis, etc., from whence are equally derived
the books of the Hindoos and the Bonzes. Our missionaries have long remarked
a striking resemblance between those books and the gospels. M. Wilkins expressly
mentions it in a note in the Bhagvat Geeta. All agree that Krisna, Fot, and
Jesus have the same characteristic features: but religious prejudice has
stood in the way of drawing from this circumstance the proper and natural
inference. To time and reason must it be left to display the truth.
At these words, the Christians set up a general cry, and a new dispute was
about to begin; when a number of Chinese Chamans, and Talapoins of Siam,
came forward and said that they would settle the whole controversy. And one
of them speaking for the whole exclaimed: "It is time to put an end to these
frivolous contests by drawing aside the veil from the interior doctrine that
Fot himself revealed to his disciples on his death bed.*
* The Budsoists have two doctrines, the one public and ostensible, the other
interior and secret, precisely like the Egyptian priests. It may be asked,
why this distinction? It is, that as the public doctrine recommends offerings,
expiations, endowments, etc., the priests find their profit in preaching
it to the people; whereas the other, teaching the vanity of worldly things,
and attended with no lucre, it is thought proper to make it known only to
adepts. Can the teachers and followers of this religion be better classed
than under the heads of knavery and credulity?
"All these theological opinions," continued he, "are but chimeras. All the
stories of the nature of the gods, of their actions and their lives, are
but allegories and mythological emblems, under which are enveloped ingenious
ideas of morals, and the knowledge of the operations of nature in the action
of the elements and the movement of the planets.
"The truth is, that all is reduced to nothing--that all is illusion, appearance,
dream; that the moral metempsychosis is only the figurative sense of the
physical metempsychosis, or the successive movement of the elements of bodies
which perish not, but which, having composed one body, pass when that is
dissolved, into other mediums and form other combinations. The soul is but
the vital principle which results from the properties of matter, and from
the action of the elements in those bodies where they create a spontaneous
movement. To suppose that this product of the play of the organs, born with
them, matured with them, and which sleeps with them, can subsist when they
cease, is the romance of a wandering imagination, perhaps agreeable enough,
but really chimerical.
God itself is nothing more than the moving principle, the occult force inherent
in all beings--the sum of their laws and properties-- the animating principle;
in a word, the soul of the universe; which on account of the infinite variety
of its connections and its operations, sometimes simple, sometimes multiple,
sometimes active, sometimes passive, has always presented to the human mind
an unsolvable enigma. All that man can comprehend with certainty is, that
matter does not perish; that it possesses essentially those properties by
which the world is held together like a living and organized being; that
the knowledge of these laws with respect to man is what constitutes wisdom;
that virtue and merit consist in their observance; and evil, sin, and vice,
in the ignorance and violation of them; that happiness and misery result
from these by the same necessity which makes heavy bodies descend and light
ones rise, and by a fatality of causes and effects, whose chain extends from
the smallest atom to the greatest of the heavenly bodies."*
* These are the very expressions of La Loubre, in his description of the
kingdom of Siam and the theology of the Bronzes. Their dogmas, compared with
those of the ancient philosophers of Greece and Italy, give a complete
representation of the whole system of the Stoics and Epicureans, mixed with
astrological superstitious, and some traits of Pythagorism.
At these words, a crowd of theologians of every sect cried out that this
doctrine was materialism, and that those who profess it were impious atheists,
enemies to God and man, who must be exterminated. "Very well," replied the
Chamans, "suppose we are in error, which is not impossible, since the first
attribute of the human mind is to be subject to illusion; but what right
have you to take away from men like yourselves, the life which Heaven has
given them? If Heaven holds us guilty and in abhorrence, why does it impart
to us the same blessings as to you? And if it treats us with forbearance,
what authority have you to be less indulgent? Pious men! who speak of God
with so much certainty and confidence, be so good as to tell us what it is;
give us to comprehend what those abstract and metaphysical beings are, which
you call God and soul, substance without matter, existence without body,
life without organs or sensation. If you know those beings by your senses
or their reflections, render them in like manner perceptible to us; or if
you speak of them on testimony and tradition, show us a uniform account,
and give a determinate basis to our creed."
There now arose among the theologians a great controversy respecting God
and his nature, his manner of acting, and of manifesting himself; on the
nature of the soul and its union with the body; whether it exists before
the organs, or only after they are formed; on the future life, and the other
world. And every sect, every school, every individual, differing on all these
points, and each assigning plausible reasons, and respectable though opposite
authorities for his opinion, they fell into an inextricable labyrinth of
Then the legislator, having commanded silence and recalled the dispute to
its true object, said: "Chiefs and instructors of nations; you came together
in search of truth. At first, every one of you, thinking he possessed it,
demanded of the others an implicit faith; but perceiving the contrariety
of your opinions, you found it necessary to submit them to a common rule
of evidence, and to bring them to one general term of comparison; and you
agreed that each should exhibit the proofs of his doctrine. You began by
alleging facts; but each religion and every sect, being equally furnished
with miracles and martyrs, each producing an equal number of witnesses, and
offering to support them by a voluntary death, the balance on this first
point, by right of parity, remained equal.
"You then passed to the trial of reasoning; but the same arguments applying
equally to contrary positions--the same assertions, equally gratuitous, being
advanced and repelled with equal force, and all having an equal right to
refuse his assent, nothing was demonstrated. What is more, the confrontation
of your systems has brought up more and extraordinary difficulties; for amid
the apparent or adventitious diversities, you have discovered a fundamental
resemblance, a common groundwork; and each of you pretending to be the inventor,
and first depositary, have taxed each other with adulterations and plagiarisms;
and thence arises a difficult question concerning the transmission of religious
ideas from people to people.
"Finally, to complete your embarrassment: when you endeavored to explain
your doctrines to each other, they appeared confused and foreign, even to
their adherents; they were founded on ideas inaccessible to your senses;
you consequently had no means of judging of them, and you confessed yourselves
in this respect to be only the echoes of your fathers. Hence follows this
other question: how came they to the knowledge of your fathers, who themselves
had no other means than you to conceive them? So that, on the one hand, the
succession of these ideas being unknown, and on the other, their origin and
existence being a mystery, all the edifice of your religious opinions becomes
a complicated problem of metaphysics and history.
"Since, however, these opinions, extraordinary as they may be, must have
had some origin; since even the most abstract and fantastical ideas have
some physical model, it may be useful to recur to this origin, and discover
this model--in a word, to find out from what source the human understanding
has drawn these ideas, at present so obscure, of God, of the soul, of all
immaterial beings, which make the basis of so many systems; to unfold the
filiation which they have followed, and the alterations which they have undergone
in their transmissions and ramifications. If, then, there are any persons
present who have made a study of these objects, let them come forward, and
endeavor, in the face of nations, to dissipate the obscurity in which their
opinions have so long remained."
ORIGIN AND FILIATION OF RELIGIOUS IDEAS
At these words, a new group, formed in an instant by men from various standards,
but not distinguished by any, came forward into the circle; and one of them
spoke in the name of the whole:
"Delegates, friends of evidence and virtue! It is not surprising that the
subject in question should be enveloped in so many clouds, since, besides
its inherent difficulties, thought itself has always been encumbered with
superadded obstacles peculiar to this study, where all free enquiry and
discussion have been interdicted by the intolerance of every system. But
now that our views are permitted to expand, we will expose to open day, and
submit to the judgment of nations, that which unprejudiced minds, after long
researches, have found to be the most reasonable; and we do this, not with
the pretension of imposing a new creed, but with the hope of provoking new
lights, and obtaining better information.
"Doctors and instructors of nations! You know what thick darkness covers
the nature, the origin, the history of the dogmas which you teach. Imposed
by authority, inculcated by education, and maintained by example, they pass
from age to age, and strengthen their empire from habit and inattention.
But if man, enlightened by reflection and experience, brings to mature
examination the prejudices of his childhood, he soon discovers a multitude
of incongruities and contradictions which awaken his sagacity and excite
his reasoning powers.
"At first, remarking the diversity and opposition of the creeds which divide
the nations, he takes courage to question the infallibility which each of
them claims, and arming himself with their reciprocal pretensions, he conceives
that his senses and his reason, derived immediately from God, are a law not
less holy, a guide not less sure, than the mediate and contradictory codes
of the prophets.
"If he then examines the texture of these codes themselves, he observes that
their laws, pretended to be divine, that is, immutable and eternal, have
arisen from circumstances of times, places, and persons; that they have issued
one from the other, in a kind of genealogical order, borrowing from each
other reciprocally a common and similar fund of ideas, which every lawgiver
modifies according to his fancy.
If he ascends to the source of these ideas, he finds it involved in the night
of time, in the infancy of nations, even to the origin of the world, to which
they claim alliance; and there, placed in the darkness of chaos, in the empire
of fables and traditions, they present themselves, accompanied with a state
of things so full of prodigies, that it seems to forbid all access to the
judgment: but this state itself excites a first effort of reason, which resolves
the difficulty; for if the prodigies, found in the theological systems, have
really existed--if, for instance, the metamorphoses, the apparitions, the
conversations with one or many gods, recorded in the books of the Indians,
the Hebrews, the Parses, are historical events, he must agree that nature
in those times was totally different from what it is at present; that the
present race of men are quite another species from those who then existed;
and, therefore, he ought not to trouble his head about them.
"If, on the contrary, these miraculous events have really not existed in
the physical order of things, then he readily conceives that they are creatures
of the human intellect; and this faculty being still capable of the most
fantastical combinations, explains at once the phenomenon of these monsters
in history. It only remains, then, to find how and wherefore they have been
formed in the imagination. Now, if we examine with care the subjects of these
intellectual creations, analyze the ideas which they combine and associate,
and carefully weigh all the circumstances which they allege, we shall find
that this first obscure and incredible state of things is explained by the
laws of nature. We find that these stories of a fabulous kind have a figurative
sense different from the apparent one; that these events, pretended to be
marvellous, are simple and physical facts, which, being misconceived or
misrepresented, have been disfigured by accidental causes dependent on the
human mind, by the confusion of signs employed to represent the ideas, the
want of precision in words, permanence in language, and perfection in writing;
we find that these gods, for instance, who display such singular characters
in every system, are only the physical agents of nature, the elements, the
winds, the stars, and the meteors, which have been personified by the necessary
mechanism of language and of the human understanding; that their lives, their
manners, their actions, are only their mechanical operations and connections;
and that all their pretended history is only the description of these phenomena,
formed by the first naturalists who observed them, and misconceived by the
vulgar who did not understand them, or by succeeding generations who forgot
them. In a word, all the theological dogmas on the origin of the world, the
nature of God, the revelation of his laws, the manifestation of his person,
are known to be only the recital of astronomical facts, only figurative and
emblematical accounts of the motion of the heavenly bodies. We are convinced
that the very idea of a God, that idea at present so obscure, is, in its
first origin, nothing but that of the physical powers of the universe, considered
sometimes as a plurality by reason of their agencies and phenomena, sometimes
as one simple and only being by reason of the universality of the machine
and the connection of its parts; so that the being called God has been sometimes
the wind, the fire, the water, all the elements; sometimes the sun, the stars,
the planets, and their influence; sometimes the matter of the visible world,
the totality of the universe; sometimes abstract and metaphysical qualities,
such as space, duration, motion, intelligence; and we everywhere see this
conclusion, that the idea of God has not been a miraculous revelation of
invisible beings, but a natural offspring of the human intellect--an operation
of the mind, whose progress it has followed and whose revolutions it has
undergone, in all the progress that has been made in the knowledge of the
physical world and its agents.
"It is then in vain that nations attribute their religion to heavenly
inspirations; it is in vain that their dogmas pretend to a primeval state
of supernatural events: the original barbarity of the human race, attested
by their own monuments,* belies these assertions at once. But there is one
constant and indubitable fact which refutes beyond contradiction all these
doubtful accounts of past ages. From this position, that man acquires and
receives no ideas but through the medium of his senses,** it follows with
certainty that every notion which claims to itself any other origin than
that of sensation and experience, is the erroneous supposition of a posterior
reasoning: now, it is sufficient to cast an eye upon the sacred systems of
the origin of the world, and of the actions of the gods, to discover in every
idea, in every word, the anticipation of an order of things which could not
exist till a long time after. Reason, strengthened by these contradictions,
rejecting everything that is not in the order of nature, and admitting no
historical facts but those founded on probabilities, lays open its own system,
and pronounces itself with assurance.
* It is the unanimous testimony of history, and even of legends, that the
first human beings were every where savages, and that it was to civilize
them, and teach them to make bread, that the Gods manifested themselves.
** The rock on which all the ancients have split, and which has occasioned
all their errors, has been their supposing the idea of God to be innate and
co-eternal with the soul; and hence all the reveries developed in Plato and
Jamblicus. See the Timoeus, the Phedon, and De Mysteriis Egyptiorum, sect.
I, c. 3.
"Before one nation had received from another nation dogmas already invented;
before one generation had inherited ideas acquired by a preceding generation,
none of these complicated systems could have existed in the world. The first
men, being children of nature, anterior to all events, ignorant of all science,
were born without any idea of the dogmas arising from scholastic disputes;
of rites founded on the practice of arts not then known; of precepts framed
after the development of passions; or of laws which suppose a language, a
state of society not then in being; or of God, whose attributes all refer
to physical objects, and his actions to a despotic state of government; or
of the soul, or of any of those metaphysical beings, which we are told are
not the objects of sense, and for which, however, there can be no other means
of access to the understanding. To arrive at so many results, the necessary
circle of preceding facts must have been observed; slow experience and repeated
trials must have taught the rude man the use of his organs; the accumulated
knowledge of successive generations must have invented and improved the means
of living; and the mind, freed from the cares of the first wants of nature,
must have raised itself to the complicated art of comparing ideas, of digesting
arguments, and seizing abstract similitudes.
I. Origin of the idea of God: Worship of the elements and
of the physical powers of nature.
"It was not till after having overcome these obstacles, and gone through
a long career in the night of history, that man, reflecting on his condition,
began to perceive that he was subjected to forces superior to his own, and
independent of his will. The sun enlightened and warmed him, the fire burned
him, the thunder terrified him, the wind beat upon him, the water overwhelmed
him. All beings acted upon him powerfully and irresistibly. He sustained
this action for a long time, like a machine, without enquiring the cause;
but the moment he began his enquiries, he fell into astonishment; and, passing
from the surprise of his first reflections to the reverie of curiosity, he
began a chain of reasoning.
"First, considering the action of the elements on him, he conceived an idea
of weakness and subjection on his part, and of power and domination on theirs;
and this idea of power was the primitive and fundamental type of every idea
"Secondly, the action of these natural existences excited in him sensations
of pleasure or pain, of good or evil; and by a natural effect of his
organization, he conceived for them love or aversion; he desired or dreaded
their presence; and fear or hope gave rise to the first idea of religion.
"Then, judging everything by comparison, and remarking in these beings a
spontaneous movement like his own, he supposed this movement directed by
a will,--an intelligence of the nature of his own; and hence, by induction,
he formed a new reasoning. Having experienced that certain practices towards
his fellow creatures had the effect to modify their affections and direct
their conduct to his advantage, he resorted to the same practices towards
these powerful beings of the universe. He reasoned thus with himself: When
my fellow creature, stronger than I, is disposed to do me injury, I abase
myself before him, and my prayer has the art to calm him. I will pray to
these powerful beings who strike me. I will supplicate the intelligences
of the winds, of the stars, of the waters, and they will hear me. I will
conjure them to avert the evil and give me the good that is at their disposal;
I will move them by my tears, I will soften them by offerings, and I shall
"Thus simple man, in the infancy of his reason, spoke to the sun and to the
moon; he animated with his own understanding and passions the great agents
of nature; he thought by vain sounds, and vain actions, to change their
inflexible laws. Fatal error! He prayed the stone to ascend, the water to
mount above its level, the mountains to remove, and substituting a fantastical
world for the real one, he peopled it with imaginary beings, to the terror
of his mind and the torment of his race.
"In this manner the ideas of God and religion have sprung, like all others,
from physical objects; they were produced in the mind of man from his sensations,
from his wants, from the circumstances of his life, and the progressive state
of his knowledge.
"Now, as the ideas of God had their first models in physical agents, it followed
that God was at first varied and manifold, like the form under which he appeared
to act. Every being was a Power, a Genius; and the first men conceived the
universe filled with innumerable gods.
"Again the ideas of God have been created by the affections of the human
heart; they became necessarily divided into two classes, according to the
sensations of pleasure or pain, love or hatred, which they inspired.
"The forces of nature, the gods and genii, were divided into beneficent and
malignant, good and evil powers; and hence the universality of these two
characters in all the systems of religion.
"These ideas, analogous to the condition of their inventors, were for a long
time confused and ill-digested. Savage men, wandering in the woods, beset
with wants and destitute of resources, had not the leisure to combine principles
and draw conclusions; affected with more evils than they found pleasures,
their most habitual sentiment was that of fear, their theology terror; their
worship was confined to a few salutations and offerings to beings whom they
conceived as greedy and ferocious as themselves. In their state of equality
and independence, no man offered himself as mediator between men and gods
as insubordinate and poor as himself. No one having superfluities to give,
there existed no parasite by the name of priest, no tribute by the name of
victim, no empire by the name of altar. Their dogmas and their morals were
the same thing, it was only self-preservation; and religion, that arbitrary
idea, without influence on the mutual relations of men, was a vain homage
rendered to the visible powers of nature.
"Such was the necessary and original idea of God."
And the orator, addressing himself to the savage nations, continued:
"We appeal to you, men who have received no foreign and factitious ideas;
tell us, have you ever gone beyond what I have described? And you, learned
doctors, we call you to witness; is not this the unanimous testimony of all
* It clearly results, says Plutarch, from the verses of Orpheus and the sacred
books of the Egyptians and Phrygians, that the ancient theology, not only
of the Greeks, but of all nations, was nothing more than a system of physics,
a picture of the operations of nature, wrapped up in mysterious allegories
and enigmatical symbols, in a manner that the ignorant multitude attended
rather to their apparent than to their hidden meaning, and even in what they
understood of the latter, supposed there to be something more deep than what
they perceived. Fragment of a work of Plutarch now lost, quoted by Eusebius,
Proepar. Evang. lib. 3, ch. 1, p. 83.
The majority of philosophers, says Porphyry, and among others Haeremon (who
lived in Egypt in the first age of Christianity), imagine there never to
have been any other world than the one we see, and acknowledged no other
Gods of all those recognized by the Egyptians, than such as are commonly
called planets, signs of the Zodiac, and constellations; whose aspects, that
is, rising and setting, are supposed to influence the fortunes of men; to
which they add their divisions of the signs into decans and dispensers of
time, whom they style lords of the ascendant, whose names, virtues in relieving
distempers, rising, setting, and presages of future events, are the subjects
of almanacs (for be it observed, that the Egyptian priests had almanacs the
exact counterpart of Matthew Lansberg's); for when the priests affirmed that
the sun was the architect of the universe, Chaeremon presently concludes
that all their narratives respecting Isis and Osiris, together with their
other sacred fables, referred in part to the planets, the phases of the moon,
and the revolution of the sun, and in part to the stars of the daily and
nightly hemispheres and the river Nile; in a word, in all cases to physical
and natural existences and never to such as might be immaterial and incorporeal.
. . .
All these philosophers believe that the acts of our will and the motion of
our bodies depend on those of the stars to which they are subjected, and
they refer every thing to the laws of physical necessity, which they call
destiny or Fatum, supposing a chain of causes and effects which binds, by
I know not what connection, all beings together, from the meanest atom to
the supremest power and primary influence of the Gods; so that, whether in
their temples or in their idols, the only subject of worship is the power
of destiny. Porphyr. Epist. ad Janebonem.
II. Second system: Worship of the Stars, or Sabeism
"But those same monuments present us likewise a system more methodical and
more complicated--that of the worship of all the stars; adored sometimes
in their proper forms, sometimes under figurative emblems and symbols; and
this worship was the effect of the knowledge men had acquired in physics,
and was derived immediately from the first causes of the social state; that
is, from the necessities and arts of the first degree, which are among the
elements of society.
"Indeed, as soon as men began to unite in society, it became necessary for
them to multiply the means of subsistence, and consequently to attend to
agriculture: agriculture, to be carried on with success, requires the observation
and knowledge of the heavens. It was necessary to know the periodical return
of the same operations of nature, and the same phenomena in the skies; indeed
to go so far as to ascertain the duration and succession of the seasons and
the months of the year. It was indispensable to know, in the first place,
the course of the sun, who, in his zodiacal revolution, shows himself the
supreme agent of the whole creation; then, of the moon, who, by her phases
and periods, regulates and distributes time; then, of the stars, and even
of the planets, which by their appearance and disappearance on the horizon
and nocturnal hemisphere, marked the minutest divisions. Finally, it was
necessary to form a whole system of astronomy,* or a calendar; and from these
works there naturally followed a new manner of considering these predominant
and governing powers. Having observed that the productions of the earth had
a regular and constant relation with the heavenly bodies; that the rise,
growth, and decline of each plant kept pace with the appearance, elevation,
and declination of the same star or the same group of stars; in short, that
the languor or activity of vegetation seemed to depend on celestial influences,
men drew from thence an idea of action, of power, in those beings, superior
to earthly bodies; and the stars, dispensing plenty or scarcity, became powers,
genii,** gods, authors of good and evil.
* It continues to be repeated every day, on the indirect authority of the
book of Genesis, that astronomy was the invention of the children of Noah.
It has been gravely said, that while wandering shepherds in the plains of
Shinar, they employed their leisure in composing a planetary system: as if
shepherds had occasion to know more than the polar star; and if necessity
was not the sole motive of every invention! If the ancient shepherds were
so studious and sagacious, how does it happen that the modern ones are so
stupid, ignorant, and inattentive? And it is a fact that the Arabs of the
desert know not so many as six constellations, and understand not a word
** It appears that by the word genius, the ancients denoted a quality, a
generative power; for the following words, which are all of one family, convey
this meaning: generare, genos, genesis, genus, gens.
"As the state of society had already introduced a regular hierarchy of ranks,
employments and conditions, men, continuing to reason by comparison, carried
their new notions into their theology, and formed a complicated system of
divinities by gradation of rank, in which the sun, as first god,* was a military
chief or a political king: the moon was his wife and queen; the planets were
servants, bearers of commands, messengers; and the multitude of stars were
a nation, an army of heroes, genii, whose office was to govern the world
under the orders of their chiefs. All the individuals had names, functions,
attributes, drawn from their relations and influences; and even sexes, from
the gender of their appellations.**
* The Sabeans, ancient and modern, says Maimonides, acknowledge a principal
God, the maker and inhabitant of heaven; but on account of his great distance
they conceive him to be inaccessible; and in imitation of the conduct of
people towards their kings, they employ as mediators with him, the planets
and their angels, whom they call princes and potentates, and whom they suppose
to reside in those luminous bodies as in palaces or tabernacles, etc.
** According as the gender of the object was in the language of the nation
masculine or feminine, the Divinity who bore its name was male or female.
Thus the Cappadocians called the moon God, and the sun Goddess: a circumstance
which gives to the same beings a perpetual variety in ancient mythology.
"And as the social state had introduced certain usages and ceremonies, religion,
keeping pace with the social state, adopted similar ones; these ceremonies,
at first simple and private, became public and solemn; the offerings became
rich and more numerous, and the rites more methodical; they assigned certain
places for the assemblies, and began to have chapels and temples; they instituted
officers to administer them, and these became priests and pontiffs: they
established liturgies, and sanctified certain days, and religion became a
civil act, a political tie.>BR> "But in this arrangement, religion
did not change its first principles; the idea of God was always that of physical
beings, operating good or evil, that is, impressing sensations of pleasure
or pain: the dogma was the knowledge of their laws, or their manner of acting;
virtue and sin, the observance or infraction of these laws; and morality,
in its native simplicity, was the judicious practice of whatever contributes
to the preservation of existence, the well-being of one's self and his fellow
* We may add, says Plutarch, that these Egyptian priests always regarded
the preservation of health as a point of the first importance, and as
indispensably necessary to the practice of piety and the service of the gods.
See his account of Isis and Osiris, towards the end.
"Should it be asked at what epoch this system took its birth, we shall answer
on the testimony of the monuments of astronomy itself; that its principles
appear with certainty to have been established about seventeen thousand years
ago,* and if it be asked to what people it is to be attributed, we shall
answer that the same monuments, supported by unanimous traditions, attribute
it to the first tribes of Egypt; and when reason finds in that country all
the circumstances which could lead to such a system; when it finds there
a zone of sky, bordering on the tropic, equally free from the rains of the
equator and the fogs of the North;** when it finds there a central point
of the sphere of the ancients, a salubrious climate, a great, but manageable
river, a soil fertile without art or labor, inundated without morbid exhalations,
and placed between two seas which communicate with the richest countries,
it conceives that the inhabitant of the Nile, addicted to agriculture from
the nature of his soil, to geometry from the annual necessity of measuring
his lands, to commerce from the facility of communications, to astronomy
from the state of his sky, always open to observation, must have been the
first to pass from the savage to the social state; and consequently to attain
the physical and moral sciences necessary to civilized life.
* The historical orator follows here the opinion of M. Dupuis, who, in his
learned memoirs concerning the Origin of the Constellations and Origin of
all Worship, has assigned many plausible reasons to prove that Libra was
formerly the sign of the vernal, and Aries of the autumnal equinox; that
is, that since the origin of the actual astronomical system, the precession
of the equinoxes has carried forward by seven signs the primitive order of
the zodiac. Now estimating the precession at about seventy years and a half
to a degree, that is, 2,115 years to each sign; and observing that Aries
was in its fifteenth degree, 1,447 years before Christ, it follows that the
first degree of Libra could not have coincided with the vernal equinox more
lately than 15,194 years before Christ; now, if you add 1790 years since
Christ, it appears that 16,984 years have elapsed since the origin of the
Zodiac. The vernal equinox coincided with the first degree of Aries, 2,504
years before Christ, and with the first degree of Taurus 4,619 years before
Christ. Now it is to be observed, that the worship of the Bull is the principal
article in the theological creed of the Egyptians, Persians, Japanese, etc.;
from whence it clearly follows, that some general revolution took place among
these nations at that time. The chronology of five or six thousand years
in Genesis is little agreeable to this hypothesis; but as the book of Genesis
cannot claim to be considered as a history farther back than Abraham, we
are at liberty to make what arrangements we please in the eternity that preceded.
See on this subject the analysis of Genesis, in the first volume of New
Researches on Ancient History; see also Origin of Constellatians, by Dupuis,
1781; the Origin of Worship, in 3 vols. 1794, and the Chronological Zodiac,
** M. Balli, in placing the first astronomers at Selingenakoy, near the Bailkal
paid no attention to this twofold circumstance: it equally argues against
their being placed at Axoum on account of the rains, and the Zimb fly of
which Mr. Bruce speaks.
"It was, then, on the borders of the upper Nile, among a black race of men,
that was organized the complicated system of the worship of the stars, considered
in relation to the productions of the earth and the labors of agriculture;
and this first worship, characterized by their adoration under their own
forms and natural attributes, was a simple proceeding of the human mind.
But in a short time, the multiplicity of the objects of their relations,
and their reciprocal influence, having complicated the ideas, and the signs
that represented them, there followed a confusion as singular in its cause
as pernicious in its effects.
III. Third system. Worship of Symbols, or Idolatry
"As soon as this agricultural people began to observe the stars with attention,
they found it necessary to individualize or group them; and to assign to
each a proper name, in order to understand each other in their designation.
A great difficulty must have presented itself in this business: First, the
heavenly bodies, similar in form, offered no distinguishing characteristics
by which to denominate them; and, secondly, the language in its infancy and
poverty, had no expressions for so many new and metaphysical ideas. Necessity,
the usual stimulus of genius, surmounted everything. Having remarked that
in the annual revolution, the renewal and periodical appearance of terrestrial
productions were constantly associated with the rising and setting of certain
stars, and to their position as relative to the sun, the fundamental term
of all comparison, the mind by a natural operation connected in thought these
terrestrial and celestial objects, which were connected in fact; and applying
to them a common sign, it gave to the stars, and their groups, the names
of the terrestrial objects to which they answered.*
* "The ancients," says Maimonides, "directing all their attention to agriculture,
gave names to the stars derived from their occupation during the year." More
Neb. pars 3.
"Thus the Ethopian of Thebes named stars of inundation, or Aquarius, those
stars under which the Nile began to overflow;* stars of the ox or the bull,
those under which they began to plow; stars of the lion, those under which
that animal, driven from the desert by thirst, appeared on the banks of the
Nile; stars of the sheaf, or of the harvest virgin, those of the reaping
season; stars of the lamb, stars of the two kids, those under which these
precious animals were brought forth: and thus was resolved the first part
of the difficulty.
* This must have been June.
"Moreover, man having remarked in the beings which surrounded him certain
qualities distinctive and proper to each species, and having thence derived
a name by which to designate them, he found in the same source an ingenious
mode of generalizing his ideas; and transferring the name already invented
to every thing which bore any resemblance or analogy, he enriched his language
with a perpetual round of metaphors.
"Thus the same Ethiopian having observed that the return of the inundation
always corresponded with the rising of a beautiful star which appeared towards
the source of the Nile, and seemed to warn the husbandman against the coming
waters, he compared this action to that of the animal who, by his barking,
gives notice of danger, and he called this star the dog, the barker (Sirius).
In the same manner he named the stars of the crab, those where the sun, having
arrived at the tropic, retreated by a slow retrograde motion like the crab
or cancer. He named stars of the wild goat, or Capricorn, those where the
sun, having reached the highest point in his annuary tract, rests at the
summit of the horary gnomon, and imitates the goat, who delights to climb
the summit of the rocks. He named stars of the balance, or libra, those where
the days and nights, being equal, seemed in equilibrium, like that instrument;
and stars of the scorpion, those where certain periodical winds bring vapors,
burning like the venom of the scorpion. In the same manner he called by the
name of rings and serpents the figured traces of the orbits of the stars
and the planets, and such was the general mode of naming all the stars and
even the planets, taken by groups or as individuals, according to their relations
with husbandry and terrestrial objects, and according to the analogies which
each nation found between them and the objects of its particular soil and
* The ancients had verbs from the substantives crab, goat, tortoise, as the
French have at present the verbs serpenter, coquetter. The history of all
languages is nearly the same.
"From this it appeared that abject and terrestrial beings became associated
with the superior and powerful inhabitants of heaven; and this association
became stronger every day by the mechanism of language and the constitution
of the human mind. Men would say by a natural metaphor: The bull spreads
over the earth the germs of fecundity (in spring) he restores vegetation
and plenty: the lamb (or ram) delivers the skies from the maleficent powers
of winter; he saves the world from the serpent (emblem of the humid season)
and restores the empire of goodness (summer, joyful season): the scorpion
pours out his poison on the earth, and scatters diseases and death. The same
of all similar effects.
"This language, understood by every one, was attended at first with no
inconvenience; but in the course of time, when the calendar had been regulated,
the people, who had no longer any need of observing the heavens, lost sight
of the original meaning of these expressions; and the allegories remaining
in common use became a fatal stumbling block to the understanding and to
reason. Habituated to associate to the symbols the ideas of their archetypes,
the mind at last confounded them: then the same animals, whom fancy had
transported to the skies, returned again to the earth; but being thus returned,
clothed in the livery of the stars, they claimed the stellary attributes,
and imposed on their own authors. Then it was that the people, believing
that they saw their gods among them, could pray to them with more convenience:
they demanded from the ram of their flock the influences which might be expected
from the heavenly ram; they prayed the scorpion not to pour out his venom
upon nature; they revered the crab of the sea, the scarabeus of the mud,
the fish of the river; and by a series of corrupt but inseparable analogies,
they lost themselves in a labyrinth of well connected absurdities.
"Such was the origin of that ancient whimsical worship of the animals; such
is the train of ideas by which the character of the divinity became common
to the vilest of brutes, and by which was formed that theological system,
extremely comprehensive, complicated, and learned, which, rising on the borders
of the Nile, propagated from country to country by commerce, war, and conquest,
overspread the whole of the ancient world; and which, modified by time,
circumstances and prejudices, is still seen entire among a hundred nations,
and remains as the essential and secret basis of the theology of those even
who despise and reject it."
Some murmurs at these words being heard from various groups: "Yes!" continued
the orator, "hence arose, for instance, among you, nations of Africa, the
adoration of your fetiches, plants, animals, pebbles, pieces of wood, before
which your ancestors would not have had the folly to bow, if they had not
seen in them talismans endowed with the virtue of the stars.*
* The ancient astrologers, says the most learned of the Jews (Maimonides),
having sacredly assigned to each planet a color, an animal, a tree, a metal,
a fruit, a plant, formed from them all a figure or representation of the
star, taking care to select for the purpose a proper moment, a fortunate
day, such as the conjunction of the star, or some other favorable aspect.
They conceived that by their magic ceremonies they could introduce into those
figures or idols the influences of the superior beings after which they were
modeled. These were the idols that the Chaldean-Sabeans adored; and in the
performance of their worship they were obliged to be dressed in the proper
color. The astrologers, by their practices, thus introduced idolatry, desirous
of being regarded as the dispensers of the favors of heaven; and as agriculture
was the sole employment of the ancients, they succeeded in persuading them
that the rain and other blessings of the seasons were at their disposal.
Thus the whole art of agriculture was exercised by rules of astrology, and
the priests made talismans or charms which were to drive away locusts, flies,
etc. See Maimonides, More Nebuchim, pars 3, c. 29.
The priests of Egypt, Persia, India, etc., pretended to bind the Gods to
their idols, and to make them come from heaven at their pleasure. They threatened
the sun and moon, if they were disobedient, to reveal the secret mysteries,
to shake the skies, etc., etc. Euseb. Proecep. Evang. p. 198, and Jamblicus
de Mysteriis Aegypt.
"Here, ye nations of Tartary, is the origin of your marmosets, and of all
that train of animals with which your chamans ornament their magical robes.
This is the origin of those figures of birds and of snakes which savage nations
imprint upon their skins with sacred and mysterious ceremonies.
"Ye inhabitants of India! in vain you cover yourselves with the veil of mystery:
the hawk of your god Vichenou is but one of the thousand emblems of the sun
in Egypt; and your incarnations of a god in the fish, the boar, the lion,
the tortoise, and all his monstrous adventures, are only the metamorphoses
of the sun, who, passing through the signs of the twelve animals (or the
zodiac), was supposed to assume their figures, and perform their astronomical
* These are the very words of Jamblicus de Symbolis Aegyptiorum, c. 2, sect.
7. The sun was the grand Proteus, the universal metamorphist.
"People of Japan, your bull, which breaks the mundane egg, is only the bull
of the zodiac, which in former times opened the seasons, the age of creation,
the vernal equinox. It is the same bull Apis which Egypt adored, and which
your ancestors, Jewish Rabbins, worshipped in the golden calf. This is still
your bull, followers of Zoroaster, which, sacrificed in the symbolic mysteries
of Mithra, poured out his blood which fertilized the earth. And ye Christians,
your bull of the Apocalypse, with his wings, symbol of the air, has no other
origin; and your lamb of God, sacrificed, like the bull of Mithra, for the
salvation of the world, is only the same sun, in the sign of the celestial
ram, which, in a later age, opening the equinox in his turn, was supposed
to deliver the world from evil, that is to say, from the constellation of
the serpent, from that great snake, the parent of winter, the emblem of the
Ahrimanes, or Satan of the Persians, your school masters. Yes, in vain does
your imprudent zeal consign idolaters to the torments of the Tartarus which
they invented; the whole basis of your system is only the worship of the
sun, with whose attributes you have decorated your principal personage. It
is the sun which, under the name of Horus, was born, like your God, at the
winter solstice, in the arms of the celestial virgin, and who passed a childhood
of obscurity, indigence, and want, answering to the season of cold and frost.
It is he that, under the name of Osiris, persecuted by Typhon and by the
tyrants of the air, was put to death, shut up in a dark tomb, emblem of the
hemisphere of winter, and afterwards, ascending from the inferior zone towards
the zenith of heaven, arose again from the dead triumphant over the giants
and the angels of destruction.
"Ye priests! who murmur at this relation, you wear his emblems all over your
bodies; your tonsure is the disk of the sun; your stole is his zodiac;* your
rosaries are symbols of the stars and planets. Ye pontiffs and prelates!
your mitre, your crozier, your mantle are those of Osiris; and that cross
whose mystery you extol without comprehending it, is the cross of Serapis,
traced by the hands of Egyptian priests on the plan of the figurative world;
which, passing through the equinoxes and the tropics, became the emblem of
the future life and of the resurrection, because it touched the gates of
ivory and of horn, through which the soul passed to heaven."
* "The Arabs," says Herodotus, "shave their heads in a circle and about the
temples, in imitation of Bacchus (that is the sun), who shaves himself is
this manner." Jeremiah speaks also of this custom. The tuft of hair which
the Mahometans preserve, is taken also from the sun, who was painted by the
Egyptians at the winter solstice, as having but a single hair upon his head.
. . .
The robes of the goddess of Syria and of Diana of Ephesus, from whence are
borrowed the dress of the priests; have the twelve animals of the zodiac
painted on them. . . .
Rosaries are found upon all the Indian idols, constructed more than four
thousand years ago, and their use in the East has been universal from time
immemorial. . . .
The crozier is precisely the staff of Bootes or Osiris. (See plate.)
All the Lamas wear the mitre or cap in the shape of a cone, which was an
emblem of the sun.
At these words, the doctors of all the groups began to look at each other
with astonishment; but no one breaking silence, the orator proceeded:
"Three principal causes concur to produce this confusion of ideas: First,
the figurative expressions under which an infant language was obliged to
describe the relations of objects; expressions which, passing afterwards
from a limited to a general sense, and from a physical to a moral one, caused,
by their ambiguities and synonymes, a great number of mistakes.
"Thus, it being first said that the sun had surmounted, or finished, twelve
animals, it was thought afterwards that he had killed them, fought them,
conquered them; and of this was composed the historical life of Hercules.*
* See the memoir of Dupuis on the Origin of the Constellations, before
"It being said that he regulated the periods of rural labor, the seed time
and the harvest, that he distributed the seasons and occupations, ran through
the climates and ruled the earth, etc., he was taken for a legislative king,
a conquering warrior; and they framed from this the history of Osiris, of
Bacchus, and others of that description.
"Having said that a planet entered into a sign, they made of this conjunction
a marriage, an adultery, an incest.* Having said that the planet was hid
or buried, when it came back to light, and ascended to its exaltation, they
said that it had died, risen again, was carried into heaven, etc.
* These are the very words of Plutarch in his account of Isis and Osiris.
The Hebrews say, in speaking of the generations of the Patriarchs, et ingressus
est in eam. From this continual equivoke of ancient language, proceeds every
"A second cause of confusion was the material figures themselves, by which
men first painted thoughts; and which, under the name of hieroglyphics, or
sacred characters, were the first invention of the mind. Thus, to give warning
of the inundation, and of the necessity of guarding against it, they painted
a boat, the ship Argo; to express the wind, they painted the wing of a bird;
to designate the season, or the month, they painted the bird of passage,
the insect, or the animal which made its appearance at that period; to describe
the winter, they painted a hog or a serpent, which delight in humid places,
and the combination of these figures carried the known sense of words and
phrases.* But as this sense could not be fixed with precision, as the number
of these figures and their combinations became excessive, and overburdened
the memory, the immediate consequence was confusion and false interpretations.
Genius afterwards having invented the more simple art of applying signs to
sounds, of which the number is limited, and painting words, instead of thoughts,
alphabetical writing thus threw into disuetude hieroglyphical painting; and
its signification, falling daily into oblivion, gave rise to a multitude
of illusions, ambiguities, and errors.
* The reader will doubtless see with pleasure some examples of ancient
"The Egyptians (says Hor-appolo) represent eternity by the figures of the
sun and moon. They designate the world by the blue serpent with yellow scales
(stars, it is the Chinese Dragon). If they were desirous of expressing the
year, they drew a picture of Isis, who is also in their language called Sothis,
or dog-star, one of the first constellations, by the rising of which the
year commences; its inscription at Sais was, It is I that rise in the
constellation of the Dog.
"They also represent the year by a palm tree, and the month by one of its
branches, because it is the nature of this tree to produce a branch every
month. They farther represent it by the fourth part of an acre of land."
The whole acre divided into four denotes the bissextile period of four years.
The abbreviation of this figure of a field in four divisions, is manifestly
the letter ha or het, the seventh in the Samaritan alphabet; and in general
all the letters of the alphabet are merely astronomical hieroglyphics; and
it is for this reason that the mode of writing is from right to left, like
the march of the stars.--"They denote a prophet by the image of a dog, because
the dog star (Anoubis) by its rising gives notice of the inundation. Noubi,
in Hebrew signifies prophet--They represent inundation by a lion, because
it takes place under that sign: and hence, says Plutarch, the custom of placing
at the gates of temples figures of lions with water issuing from their mouths.--
They express the idea of God and destiny by a star. They also represent God,
says Porphyry, by a black stone, because his nature is dark and obscure.
All white things express the celestial and luminous Gods: all circular ones
the world, the moon, the sun, the orbits; all semicircular ones, as bows
and crescents are descriptive of the moon. Fire and the Gods of Olympus they
represent by pyramids and obelisks (the name of the sun, Baal, is found in
this latter word): the sun by a cone (the mitre of Osiris): the earth, by
a cylinder (which revolves): the generative power of the air by the phalus,
and that of the earth by a triangle, emblem of the female organ. Euseb. Proecep.
Evang. p. 98.
"Clay, says Jamblicus de Symbolis, sect. 7, c. 2. denotes matter, the generative
and nutrimental power, every thing which receives the warmth and fermentation
"A man sitting upon the Lotos or Nenuphar, represents the moving spirit (the
sun) which, in like manner as that plant lives in the water without any
communication with clay, exists equally distinct from matter, swimming in
empty space, resting on itself: it is round also in all its parts, like the
leaves, the flowers, and the fruit of the Lotos. (Brama has the eyes of the
Lotos, says Chasler Nesdirsen, to denote his intelligence: his eye swims
over every thing, like the flower of the Lotos on the waters.) A man at the
helm of a ship, adds Jamblicus, is descriptive of the sun which governs all.
And Porphyry tells us that the sun is also represented by a man in a ship
resting upon an amphibious crocodile (emblem of air and water).
"At Elephantine they worshipped the figure of a man in a sitting posture,
painted blue, having the head of a ram, and the horns of a goat which encompassed
a disk; all which represented the sun and moon's conjunction at the sign
of the ram; the blue color denoting the power of the moon, at the period
of junction, to raise water into the clouds. Euseb. Proecep. Evang. p. 116.
"The hawk is an emblem of the sun and of light, on account of his rapid flight
and his soaring into the highest regions of the air where light abounds.
A fish is the emblem of aversion, and the Hippopotamus of violence, because
it is said to kill its father and to ravish its mother. Hence, says Plutarch,
the emblematical inscription of the temple of Sais, where we see painted
on the vestibule, 1. A child, 2. An old man, 3. A hawk, 4. A fish, 5. A
hippopotamus: which signify, 1. Entrance, into life, 2. Departure, 3. God,
4. Hates, 5. Injustice. See Isis and Osiris.
"The Egyptians, adds he, represent the world by a Scarabeus, because this
insect pushes, in a direction contrary to that in which it proceeds, a ball
containing its eggs, just as the heaven of the fixed stars causes the revolution
of the sun, (the yolk of an egg) in an opposite direction to its own.
"They represent the world also by the number five, being that of the elements,
which, says Diodorus, are earth, water, air, fire, and ether, or spiritus.
The Indians have the same number of elements, and according to Macrobius's
mystics, they are the supreme God, or primum mobile, the intelligence, or
mens, born of him, the soul of the world which proceeds from him, the celestial
spheres, and all things terrestrial. Hence, adds Plutarch, the analogy between
the Greek pente, five, and pan all.
"The ass," says he again, "is the emblem of Typhon, because like that animal
he is of a reddish color. Now Typhon signifies whatever is of a mirey or
clayey nature; (and in Hebrew I find the three words clay, red, and ass to
be formed from the same root hamr. Jamblicus has farther told us that clay
was the emblem of matter and he elsewhere adds, that all evil and corruption
proceeded from matter; which compared with the phrase of Macrobius, all is
perishable, liable to change in the celestial sphere, gives us the theory,
first physical, then moral, of the system of good and evil of the
"Finally, a third cause of confusion was the civil organization of ancient
states. When the people began to apply themselves to agriculture, the formation
of a rural calendar, requiring a continued series of astronomical observations,
it became necessary to appoint certain individuals charged with the functions
of watching the appearance and disappearance of certain stars, to foretell
the return of the inundation, of certain winds, of the rainy season, the
proper time to sow every kind of grain. These men, on account of their service,
were exempt from common labor, and the society provided for their maintenance.
With this provision, and wholly employed in their observations, they soon
became acquainted with the great phenomena of nature, and even learned to
penetrate the secret of many of her operations. They discovered the movement
of the stars and planets, the coincidence of their phases and returns with
the productions of the earth and the action of vegetation; the medicinal
and nutritive properties of plants and fruits; the action of the elements,
and their reciprocal affinities. Now, as there was no other method of
communicating the knowledge of these discoveries but the laborious one of
oral instruction, they transmitted it only to their relations and friends,
it followed therefore that all science and instruction were confined to a
few families, who, arrogating it to themselves as an exclusive privilege,
assumed a professional distinction, a corporation spirit, fatal to the public
welfare. This continued succession of the same researches and the same labors,
hastened, it is true, the progress of knowledge; but by the mystery which
accompanied it, the people were daily plunged in deeper shades, and became
more superstitious and more enslaved. Seeing their fellow mortals produce
certain phenomena, announce, as at pleasure, eclipses and comets, heal diseases,
and handle venomous serpents, they thought them in alliance with celestial
powers; and, to obtain the blessings and avert the evils which they expected
from above, they took them for mediators and interpreters; and thus became
established in the bosom of every state sacrilegious corporations of hypocritical
and deceitful men, who centered all powers in themselves; and the priests,
being at once astronomers, theologians, naturalists, physicians, magicians,
interpreters of the gods, oracles of men, and rivals of kings, or their
accomplices, established, under the name of religion, an empire of mystery
and a monopoly of instruction, which to this day have ruined every nation.
. . ."
Here the priests of all the groups interrupted the orator, and with loud
cries accused him of impiety, irreligion, blasphemy; and endeavored to cut
short his discourse; but the legislator observing that this was only an
exposition of historical facts, which, if false or forged, would be easily
refuted; that hitherto the declaration of every opinion had been free, and
without this it would be impossible to discover the truth, the orator
"Now, from all these causes, and from the continual associations of ill-assorted
ideas, arose a mass of disorders in theology, in morals, and in traditions;
first, because the animals represented the stars, the characters of the animals,
their appetites, their sympathies, their aversions, passed over to the gods,
and were supposed to be their actions; thus, the god Ichneumon made war against
the god Crocodile; the god Wolf liked to eat the god Sheep; the god Ibis
devoured the god Serpent; and the deity became a strange, capricious, and
ferocious being, whose idea deranged the judgment of man, and corrupted his
morals and his reason.
"Again, because in the spirit of their worship every family, every nation,
took for its special patron a star or a constellation, the affections or
antipathies of the symbolic animal were transferred to its sectaries; and
the partisans of the god Dog were enemies to those of the god Wolf;* those
who adored the god Ox had an abhorrence to those who ate him; and religion
became the source of hatred and hostility,--the senseless cause of frenzy
* These are properly the words of Plutarch, who relates that those various
worships were given by a king of Egypt to the different towns to disunite
and enslave them, and these kings had been taken from the cast of priests.
See Isis and Osiris.
"Besides, the names of those animal-stars having, for this same reason of
patronage, been conferred on countries, nations, mountains, and rivers, these
objects were taken for gods, and hence followed a mixture of geographical,
historical, and mythological beings, which confounded all traditions.
"Finally, by the analogy of actions which were ascribed to them, the god-stars,
having been taken for men, for heroes, for kings, kings and heroes took in
their turn the actions of gods for models, and by imitation became warriors,
conquerors, proud, lascivious, indolent, sanguinary; and religion consecrated
the crimes of despots, and perverted the principles of government.
IV. Fourth system. Worship of two Principles, or Dualism
"In the mean time, the astronomical priests, enjoying peace and abundance
in their temples, made every day new progress in the sciences, and the system
of the world unfolding gradually to their view, they raised successively
various hypotheses as to its agents and effects, which became so many theological
"The voyages of the maritime nations and the caravans of the nomads of Asia
and Africa, having given them a knowledge of the earth from the Fortunate
Islands to Serica, and from the Baltic to the sources of the Nile, the comparison
of the phenomena of the various zones taught them the rotundity of the earth,
and gave birth to a new theory. Having remarked that all the operations of
nature during the annual period were reducible to two principal ones, that
of producing and that of destroying; that on the greater part of the globe
these two operations were performed in the intervals of the two equinoxes;
that is to say, during the six months of summer every thing was procreating
and multiplying, and that during winter everything languished and almost
died; they supposed in Nature two contrary powers, which were in a continual
state of contention and exertion; and considering the celestial sphere in
this view, they divided the images which they figured upon it into two halves
or hemispheres; so that the constellations which were on the summer heaven
formed a direct and superior empire; and those which were on the winter heaven
composed an antipode and inferior empire. Therefore, as the constellations
of summer accompanied the season of long, warm, and unclouded days, and that
of fruits and harvests, they were considered as the powers of light, fecundity,
and creation; and, by a transition from a physical to a moral sense, they
became genii, angels of science, of beneficence, of purity and virtue. And
as the constellations of winter were connected with long nights and polar
fogs, they were the genii of darkness, of destruction, of death; and by
transition, angels of ignorance, of wickedness, of sin and vice. By this
arrangement the heaven was divided into two domains, two factions; and the
analogy of human ideas already opened a vast field to the errors of imagination;
but the mistake and the illusion were determined, if not occasioned by a
particular circumstance. (Observe plate Astrological Heaven of the
"In the projection of the celestial sphere, as traced by the astronomical
priests,* the zodiac and the constellations, disposed in circular order,
presented their halves in diametrical opposition; the hemisphere of winter,
antipode of that of summer, was adverse, contrary, opposed to it. By a continual
metaphor, these words acquired a moral sense; and the adverse genii, or angels,
became revolted enemies.** From that moment all the astronomical history
of the constellations was changed into a political history ; the heavens
became a human state, where things happened as on the earth. Now, as the
earthly states, the greater part despotic, had already their monarchs, and
as the sun was apparently the monarch of the skies, the summer hemisphere
(empire of light) and its constellations (a nation of white angels) had for
king an enlightened God, a creator intelligent and good. And as every rebel
faction must have its chief, the heaven of winter, the subterranean empire
of darkness and woe, and its stars, a nation of black angels, giants and
demons, had for their chief a malignant genius, whose character was applied
by different people to the constellation which to them was the most remarkable.
In Egypt it was at first the Scorpion, first zodiacal sign after Libra, and
for a long time chief of the winter signs ; then it was the Bear, or the
polar Ass, called Typhon, that is to say, deluge,** on account of the rains
which deluge the earth during the dominion of that star. At a later period,***
in Persia,**** it was the Serpent, who, under the name of Abrimanes, formed
the basis of the system of Zoroaster; and it is the same, O Christians and
Jews! that has become your serpent of Eve (the celestial virgin,) and that
of the cross; in both cases it is the emblem of Satan, the enemy and great
adversary of the Ancient of Days, sung by Daniel.
* The ancient priests had three kinds of spheres, which it may be useful
to make known to the reader.
"We read in Eusebius," says Porphyry, "that Zoroaster was the first who,
having fixed upon a cavern pleasantly situated in the mountains adjacent
to Persia, formed the idea of consecrating it to Mithra (the sun) creator
and father of all things: that is to say, having made in this cavern several
geometrical divisions, representing the seasons and the elements, he imitated
on a small scale the order and disposition of the universe by Mithra. After
Zoroaster, it became a custom to consecrate caverns for the celebration of
mysteries: so that in like manner as temples were dedicated to the Gods,
rural altars to heroes and terrestrial deities, etc., subterranean abodes
to infernal deities, so caverns and grottoes were consecrated to the world,
to the universe, and to the nymphs: and from hence Pythagoras and Plato borrowed
the idea of calling the earth a cavern, a cave, de Antro Nympharum.
Such was the first projection of the sphere in relief; though the Persians
give the honor of the invention to Zoroaster, it is doubtless due to the
Egyptians; for we may suppose from this projection being the most simple
that it was the most ancient; the caverns of Thebes, full of similar pictures,
tend to strengthen this opinion.
The following was the second projection: "The prophets or hierophants," says
Bishop Synnesius, "who had been initiated in the mysteries, do not permit
the common workmen to form idols or images of the Gods; but they descend
themselves into the sacred caves, where they have concealed coffers containing
certain spheres upon which they construct those images secretly and without
the knowledge of the people, who despise simple and natural things and wish
for prodigies and fables." (Syn. in Calvit.) That is, the ancient priests
had armillary spheres like ours; and this passage, which so well agrees with
that of Chaeremon, gives us the key to all their theological astrology.
Lastly, they had flat models of the nature of Plate V. with the difference
that they were of a very complicated nature, having every fictitious division
of decan and subdecan, with the hieroglyphic signs of their influence. Kircher
has given us a copy of one of them in his Egyptian Oedipus, and Gybelin a
figured fragment in his book of the calendar (under the name of the Egyptian
Zodiac). The ancient Egyptians, says the astrologer Julius Firmicus, (Astron.
lib. ii. and lib. iv., c. 16), divide each sign of the Zodiac into three
sections; and each section was under the direction of an imaginary being
whom they called decan or chief of ten; so that there were three decans a
month, and thirty- six a year. Now these decans, who were also called Gods
(Theoi), regulated the destinies of mankind--and they were placed particularly
in certain stars. They afterwards imagined in every ten three other Gods,
whom they called arbiters; so that there were nine for every month, and these
were farther divided into an infinite number of powers. The Persians and
Indians made their spheres on similar plans; and if a picture thereof were
to be drawn from the description given by Scaliger at the end of Manilius,
we should find in it a complete explanation of their hieroglyphics, for every
article forms one.
** If it was for this reason the Persians always wrote the name of Ahrimanes
inverted thus: ['Ahrimanes' upside down and backwards].
*** Typhon, pronounced Touphon by the Greeks, is precisely the touphan of
the Arabs, which signifies deluge; and these deluges in mythology are nothing
more than winter and the rains, or the overflowing of the Nile: as their
pretended fires which are to destroy the world, are simply the summer season.
And it is for this reason that Aristotle (De Meteor, lib. I. c. xiv), says,
that the winter of the great cyclic year is a deluge; and its summer a
conflagration. "The Egyptians," says Porphyry, "employ every year a talisman
in remembrance of the world: at the summer solstice they mark their houses,
flocks and trees with red, supposing that on that day the whole world had
been set on fire. It was also at the same period that they celebrated the
pyrric or fire dance." And this illustrates the origin of purification by
fire and by water; for having denominated the tropic of Cancer the gate of
heaven, and the genial heat of celestial fire, and that of Capricorn the
gate of deluge or of water, it was imagined that the spirit or souls who
passed through these gates in their way to and from heaven, were roasted
or bathed: hence the baptism of Mithra; and the passage through flames, observed
throughout the East long before Moses.
**** That is when the ram became the equinoctial sign, or rather when the
alteration of the skies showed that it was no longer the bull.
"In Syria, it was the hog or wild boar, enemy of Adonis; because in that
country the functions of the Northern Bear were performed by the animal whose
inclination for mire and dirt was emblematic of winter. And this is the reason,
followers of Moses and Mahomet! that you hold him in horror, in imitation
of the priests of Memphis and Balbec, who detested him as the murderer of
their God, the sun. This likewise, O Indians! is the type of your Chib-en;
and it has been likewise the Pluto of your brethren, the Romans and Greeks;
in like manner, your Brama, God the creator, is only the Persian Ormuzd,
and the Egyptian Osiris, whose very name expresses creative power, producer
of forms. And these gods received a worship analogous to their attributes,
real or imaginary; which worship was divided into two branches, according
to their characters. The good god receives a worship of love and joy, from
which are derived all religious acts of gaiety, such as festivals, dances,
banquets, offerings of flowers, milk, honey, perfumes; in a word, everything
grateful to the senses and to the soul.* The evil god, on the contrary, received
a worship of fear and pain; whence originated all religious acts of the gloomy
sort,** tears, desolations, mournings, self-denials, bloody offerings, and
* All the ancient festivals respecting the return and exaltation of the sun
were of this description: hence the hilaria of the Roman calendar at the
period of the passage, Pascha, of the vernal equinox. The dances were imitations
of the march of the planets. Those of the Dervises still represent it to
** "Sacrifices of blood," says Porphyry, "were only offered to Demons and
evil Genii to avert their wrath. Demons are fond of blood, humidity, stench."
Apud. Euseb. Proep. Ev., p. 173.
"The Egyptians," says Plutarch, "only offer bloody victims to Typhon. They
sacrifice to him a red ox, and the animal immolated is held in execration
and loaded with all the sins of the people." The goat of Moses. See Isis
Strabo says, speaking of Moses, and the Jews, "Circumcision and the prohibition
of certain kinds of meat sprung from superstition." And I observe, respecting
the ceremony of circumcision, that its object was to take from the symbol
of Osiris, (Phallus) the pretended obstacle to fecundity: an obstacle which
bore the seal of Typhon, "whose nature," says Plutarch, "is made up of all
that hinders, opposes, causes obstruction."
"Hence arose that distinction of terrestrial beings into pure and impure,
sacred and abominable, according as their species were of the number of the
constellations of one of these two gods, and made part of his domain; and
this produced, on the one hand, the superstitions concerning pollutions and
purifications; and, on the other, the pretended efficacious virtues of amulets
"You conceive now," continued the orator, addressing himself to the Persians,
the Indians, the Jews, the Christians, the Mussulmans, "you conceive the
origin of those ideas of battles and rebellions, which equally abound in
all your mythologies. You see what is meant by white and black angels, your
cherubim and seraphim, with heads of eagles, of lions, or of bulls; your
deus, devils, demons, with horns of goats and tails of serpents; your thrones
and dominions, ranged in seven orders or gradations, like the seven spheres
of the planets; all beings acting the same parts, and endowed with the same
attributes in your Vedas, Bibles, and Zend- avestas, whether they have for
chiefs Ormuzd or Brama, Typhon or Chiven, Michael or Satan;--whether they
appear under the form of giants with a hundred arms and feet of serpents,
or that of gods metamorphosed into lions, storks, bulls or cats, as they
are in the sacred fables of the Greeks and Egyptians. You perceive the successive
filiation of these ideas, and how, in proportion to their remoteness from
their source, and as the minds of men became refined, their gross forms have
been polished, and rendered less disgusting.
"But in the same manner as you have seen the system of two opposite principles
or gods arise from that of symbols, interwoven into its texture, your attention
shall now be called to a new system which has grown out of this, and to which
this has served in its turn as the basis and support.
V. Moral and Mystical Worship, or System of a Future State
"Indeed, when the vulgar heard speak of a new heaven and another world, they
soon gave a body to these fictions; they erected therein a real theatre of
action, and their notions of astronomy and geography served to strengthen,
if not to originate, this illusion.
"On the one hand, the Phoenician navigators who passed the pillars of Hercules,
to fetch the tin of Thule and the amber of the Baltic, related that at the
extremity of the world, the end of the ocean (the Mediterranean), where the
sun sets for the countries of Asia, were the Fortunate Islands, the abode
of eternal spring; and beyond were the hyperborean regions, placed under
the earth (relatively to the tropics) where reigned an eternal night.* From
these stories, misunderstood, and no doubt confusedly related, the imagination
of the people composed the Elysian fields,** regions of delight, placed in
a world below, having their heaven, their sun, and their stars; and Tartarus,
a place of darkness, humidity, mire, and frost. Now, as man, inquisitive
of that which he knows not, and desirous of protracting his existence, had
already interrogated himself concerning what was to become of him after his
death, as he had early reasoned on the principle of life which animates his
body, and which leaves it without deforming it, and as he had imagined airy
substances, phantoms, and shades, he fondly believed that he should continue,
in the subterranean world, that life which it was too painful for him to
lose; and these lower regions seemed commodious for the reception of the
beloved objects which he could not willingly resign.
* Nights of six months duration.
** Aliz, in the Phoenician or Hebrew language signifies dancing and joyous.
"On the other hand, the astrological and geological priests told such stories
and made such descriptions of their heavens, as accorded perfectly well with
these fictions. Having, in their metaphorical language, called the equinoxes
and solstices the gates of heaven, the entrance of the seasons, they explained
these terrestrial phenomena by saying, that through the gate of horn (first
the bull, afterwards the ram) and through the gate of Cancer, descended the
vivifying fires which give life to vegetation in the spring, and the aqueous
spirits which bring, at the solstice, the inundation of the Nile; that through
the gate of ivory (Libra, formerly Sagittarius, or the bowman) and that of
Capricorn, or the urn, the emanations or influences of the heavens returned
to their source, and reascended to their origin; and the Milky Way, which
passed through the gates of the solstices, seemed to be placed there to serve
them as a road or vehicle.* Besides, in their atlas, the celestial scene
presented a river (the Nile, designated by the windings of the hydra), a
boat, (the ship Argo) and the dog Sirius, both relative to this river, whose
inundation they foretold. These circumstances, added to the preceding, and
still further explaining them, increased their probability, and to arrive
at Tartarus or Elysium, souls were obliged to cross the rivers Styx and Acheron
in the boat of the ferryman Charon, and to pass through the gates of horn
or ivory, guarded by the dog Cerberus. Finally, these inventions were applied
to a civil use, and thence received a further consistency.
*See Macrob. Som. Scrip. c. 12.
"Having remarked that in their burning climate the putrefaction of dead bodies
was a cause of pestilential diseases, the Egyptians, in many of their towns,
had adopted the practice of burying their dead beyond the limits of the inhabited
country, in the desert of the West. To go there, it was necessary to pass
the channels of the river, and consequently to be received into a boat, and
pay something to the ferryman, without which the body, deprived of sepulture,
must have been the prey of wild beasts. This custom suggested to the civil
and religious legislators the means of a powerful influence on manners; and,
addressing uncultivated and ferocious men with the motives of filial piety
and a reverence for the dead, they established, as a necessary condition,
their undergoing a previous trial, which should decide whether the deceased
merited to be admitted to the rank of the family in the black city. Such
an idea accorded too well with all the others, not to be incorporated with
them: the people soon adopted it; and hell had its Minos and its Rhadamanthus,
with the wand, the bench, the ushers, and the urn, as in the earthly and
civil state. It was then that God became a moral and political being, a lawgiver
to men, and so much the more to be dreaded, as this supreme legislator, this
final judge, was inaccessible and invisible. Then it was that this fabulous
and mythological world, composed of such odd materials and disjointed parts,
became a place of punishments and of rewards, where divine justice was supposed
to correct what was vicious and erroneous in the judgment of men. This spiritual
and mystical system acquired the more credit, as it took possession of man
by all his natural inclinations. The oppressed found in it the hope of indemnity,
and the consolation of future vengeance; the oppressor, expecting by rich
offerings to purchase his impunity, formed out of the errors of the vulgar
an additional weapon of oppression; the chiefs of nations, the kings and
priests, found in this a new instrument of domination by the privilege which
they reserved to themselves of distributing the favors and punishments of
the great judge, according to the merit or demerit of actions, which they
took care to characterize as best suited their system.
"This, then, is the manner in which an invisible and imaginary world has
been introduced into the real and visible one; this is the origin of those
regions of pleasure and pain, of which you Persians have made your regenerated
earth, your city of resurrection, placed under the equator, with this singular
attribute, that in it the blessed cast no shade.* Of these materials, Jews
and Christians, disciples of the Persians, have you formed your New Jerusalem
of the Apocalypse, your paradise, your heaven, copied in all its parts from
the astrological heaven of Hermes: and your hell, ye Mussulmans, your bottomless
pit, surmounted by a bridge, your balance for weighing souls and good works,
your last judgment by the angels Monkir and Nekir, are likewise modeled from
the mysterious ceremonies of the cave of Mithras** and your heaven differs
not in the least from that of Osiris, of Ormuzd, and of Brama.
* There is on this subject a passage in Plutarch, so interesting and explanatory
of the whole of this system, that we shall cite it entire. Having observed
that the theory of good and evil had at all times occupied the attention
of philosophers and theologians, he adds: "Many suppose there to be two gods
of opposite inclinations, one delighting in good, the other in evil; the
first of these is called particularly by the name of God, the second by that
of Genius or Demon. Zoroaster has denominated them Oromaze and Ahrimanes,
and has said that of whatever falls under the cognizance of our senses, light
is the best representation of the one, and darkness and ignorance of the
other. He adds, that Mithra is an intermediate being, and it is for this
reason the Persians call Mithra the mediator or intermediator. Each of these
Gods has distinct plants and animals consecrated to him: for example, dogs,
birds and hedge-hogs belong to the good Genius, and all aquatic animals to
the evil one.
"The Persians also say, that Oromaze was born or formed out of the purest
light; Ahrimanes, on the contrary, out of the thickest darkness: that Oromaze
made six gods as good as himself, and Ahrimanes opposed to them six wicked
ones: that Oromaze afterwards multiplied himself threefold (Hermes trismegistus)
and removed to a distance as remote from the sun as the sun is remote from
the earth that he there formed stars, and, among others, Sirius, which he
placed in the heavens as a guard and sentinel. He made also twenty-four other
Gods, which he inclosed in an egg; but Ahrimanes created an equal number
on his part, who broke the egg, and from that moment good and evil were mixed
(in the universe). But Ahrimanes is one day to be conquered, and the earth
to be made equal and smooth, that all men may live happy.
"Theopompus adds, from the books of the Magi, that one of these Gods reigns
in turn every three thousand years during which the other is kept in subjection;
that they afterwards contend with equal weapons during a similar portion
of time, but that in the end the evil Genius will fall (never to rise again).
Then men will become happy, and their bodies cast no shade. The God who mediates
all these things reclines at present in repose, waiting till he shall be
pleased to execute them." See Isis and Osiris.
There is an apparent allegory through the whole of this passage. The egg
is the fixed sphere, the world: the six Gods of Oromaze are the six signs
of summer, those of Ahrimanes the six signs of winter. The forty-eight other
Gods are the forty-eight constellations of the ancient sphere, divided equally
between Ahrimanes and Oronmze. The office of Sirius, as guard and sentinel,
tells us that the origin of these ideas was Egyptian: finally, the expression
that the earth is to become equal and smooth, and that the bodies of happy
beings are to cast no shade, proves that the equator was considered as their
** In the caves which priests every where constructed, they celebrated mysteries
which consisted (says Origen against Celsus) in imitating the motion of the
stars, the planets and the heavens. The initiated took the name of
constellations, and assumed the figures of animals. One was a lion, another
a raven, and a third a ram. Hence the use of masks in the first representation
of the drama. See Ant. Devoile, vol. iii., p. 244. "In the mysteries of Ceres
the chief in the procession called himself the creator; the bearer of the
torch was denominated the sun; the person nearest to the altar, the moon;
the herald or deacon, Mercury. In Egypt there was a festival in which the
men and women represented the year, the age, the seasons, the different parts
of the day, and they walked in precession after Bacchus. Athen. lib. v.,
ch. 7. In the cave of Mithra was a ladder with seven steps, representing
the seven spheres of the planets, by means of which souls ascended and descended.
This is precisely the ladder in Jacob's vision, which shows that at that
epoch a the whole system was formed. There is in the French king's library
a superb volume of pictures of the Indian Gods, in which the ladder is
represented with the souls of men mounting it."
VI. Sixth System. The Animated World, or Worship of the Universe
under diverse Emblems
"While the nations were wandering in the dark labyrinth of mythology and
fables, the physical priests, pursuing their studies and enquiries into the
order and disposition of the universe, came to new conclusions, and formed
new systems concerning powers and first causes.
"Long confined to simple appearances, they saw nothing in the movement of
the stars but an unknown play of luminous bodies rolling round the earth,
which they believed the central point of all the spheres; but as soon as
they discovered the rotundity of our planet, the consequences of this first
fact led them to new considerations; and from induction to induction they
rose to the highest conceptions in astronomy and physics.
"Indeed, after having conceived this luminous idea, that the terrestrial
globe is a little circle inscribed in the greater circle of the heavens,
the theory of concentric circles came naturally into their hypothesis, to
determine the unknown circle of the terrestrial globe by certain known portions
of the celestial circle; and the measurement of one or more degrees of the
meridian gave with precision the whole circumference. Then, taking for a
compass the known diameter of the earth, some fortunate genius applied it
with a bold hand to the boundless orbits of the heavens; and man, the inhabitant
of a grain of sand, embracing the infinite distances of the stars, launches
into the immensity of space and the eternity of time: there he is presented
with a new order of the universe of which the atom-globe which he inhabited
appeared no longer to be the centre; this important post was reserved to
the enormous mass of the sun; and that body became the flaming pivot of eight
surrounding spheres, whose movements were henceforth subjected to precise
"It was indeed a great effort for the human mind to have undertaken to determine
the disposition and order of the great engines of nature; but not content
with this first effort, it still endeavored to develop the mechanism, and
discover the origin and the instinctive principle. Hence, engaged in the
abstract and metaphysical nature of motion and its first cause, of the inherent
or incidental properties of matter, its successive forms and its extension,
that is to say, of time and space unbounded, the physical theologians lost
themselves in a chaos of subtile reasoning and scholastic controversy.*
* Consult the Ancient Astronomy of M. Bailly, and you will find our assertions
respecting the knowledge of the priests amply proved.
"In the first place, the action of the sun on terrestrial bodies, teaching
them to regard his substance as a pure and elementary fire, they made it
the focus and reservoir of an ocean of igneous and luminous fluid, which,
under the name of ether, filled the universe and nourished all beings.
Afterwards, having discovered, by a physical and attentive analysis, this
same fire, or another perfectly resembling it, in the composition of all
bodies, and having perceived it to be the essential agent of that spontaneous
movement which is called life in animals and vegetation in plants, they conceived
the mechanism and harmony of the universe, as of a homogeneous whole, of
one identical body, whose parts, though distant, had nevertheless an intimate
relation;* and the world was a living being, animated by the organic circulation
of an igneous and even electrical fluid,** which, by a term of comparison
borrowed first from men and animals, had the sun for a heart and a
* These are the very words of Jamblicus. De Myst. Egypt.
** The more I consider what the ancients understood by ether and spirit,
and what the Indians call akache, the stronger do I find the analogy between
it and the electrial fluid. A luminous fluid, principle of warmth and motion,
pervading the universe, forming the matter of the stars, having small round
particles, which insinuate themselves into bodies, and fill them by dilating
itself, be their extent what it will. What can more strongly resemble
*** Natural philosophers, says Macrobius, call the sun the heart of the world.
Som. Scrip. c. 20. The Egyptians, says Plutarch, call the East the face,
the North the right side, and the South the left side of the world, because
there the heart is placed. They continually compare the universe to a man;
and hence the celebrated microcosm of the Alchymists. We observe, by the
bye, that the Alchymists, Cabalists, Free-masons, Magnetisers, Martinists,
and every other such sort of visionaries, are but the mistaken disciples
of this ancient school: we say mistaken, because, in spite of their pretensions,
the thread of the occult science is broken.
"From this time the physical theologians seem to have divided into several
classes; one class, grounding itself on these principles resulting from
observation; that nothing can be annihilated in the world; that the elements
are indestructible; that they change their combinations but not their nature;
that the life and death of beings are but the different modifications of
the same atoms; that matter itself possesses properties which give rise to
all its modes of existence; that the world is eternal,* or unlimited in space
and duration; said that the whole universe was God; and, according to them,
God was a being, effect and cause, agent and patient, moving principle and
thing moved, having for laws the invariable properties that constitute fatality;
and this class conveyed their idea by the emblem of Pan (the great whole);
or of Jupiter, with a forehead of stars, body of planets, and feet of animals;
or of the Orphic Egg,** whose yolk, suspended in the center of a liquid,
surrounded by a vault, represented the globe of the sun, swimming in ether
in the midst of the vault of heaven;*** sometimes by a great round serpent,
representing the heavens where they placed the moving principle, and for
that reason of an azure color, studded with spots of gold, (the stars) devouring
his tail--that is, folding and unfolding himself eternally, like the revolutions
of the spheres; sometimes by that of a man, having his feet joined together
and tied, to signify immutable existence, wrapped in a cloak of all colors,
like the face of nature, and bearing on his head a sphere of gold,**** emblem
of the sphere of the stars; or by that of another man, sometimes seated on
the flower of the lotos borne on the abyss of waters, sometimes lying on
a pile of twelve cushions, denoting the twelve celestial signs. And here,
Indians, Japanese, Siamese, Tibetans, and Chinese, is the theology, which,
founded by the Egyptians and transmitted to you, is preserved in the pictures
which you compose of Brama, of Beddou, of Somona-Kodom of Omito. This, ye
Jews and Christians, is likewise the opinion of which you have preserved
a part in your God moving on the face of the waters, by an allusion to the
wind*5 which, at the beginning of the world, that is, the departure of the
sun from the sign of Cancer, announced the inundation of the Nile, and seemed
to prepare the creation.
* See the Pythagorean, Ocellus Lacunus.
** Vide Oedip. Aegypt. Tome II., page 205.
*** This comparison of the sun with the yolk of an egg refers: 1. To its
round and yellow figure; 2. To its central situation; 3. To the germ or principle
of life contained in the yolk. May not the oval form of the egg allude to
the elipsis of the orbs? I am inclined to this opinion. The word Orphic offers
a farther observation. Macrobius says (Som. Scrip. c. 14. and c. 20), that
the sun is the brain of the universe, and that it is from analogy that the
skull of a human being is round, like the planet, the seat of intelligence.
Now the word Oerph signifies in Hebrew the brain and its seat (cervix): Orpheus,
then, is the same as Bedou or Baits; and the Bonzes are those very Orphics
which Plutarch represents as quacks, who ate no meat, vended talismans and
little stones, and deceived individuals, and even governments themselves.
See a learned memoir of Freret sur les Orphiques, Acad. des Inscrp. vol.
25, in quarto.
**** See Porphyry in Eusebus. Proep. Evang., lib. 3, p. 115.>BR> *5
The Northern or Etesian wind, which commences regularly at the solstice,
with the inundation.
VII. Seventh System. Worship of the SOUL of the WORLD, that
is to say, the Element of Fire, vital Principle of the Universe
"But others, disgusted at the idea of a being at once effect and cause, agent
and patient, and uniting contrary natures in the same nature, distinguished
the moving principle from the thing moved; and premising that matter in itself
was inert they pretended that its properties were communicated to it by a
distinct agent, of which itself was only the cover or the case. This agent
was called by some the igneous principle, known to be the author of all motion;
by others it was supposed to be the fluid called ether, which was thought
more active and subtile; and, as in animals the vital and moving principle
was called a soul, a spirit, and as they reasoned constantly by comparisons,
especially those drawn from human beings, they gave to the moving principle
of the universe the name of soul, intelligence, spirit; and God was the vital
spirit, which extended through all beings and animated the vast body of the
world. And this class conveyed their idea sometimes by Youpiter,* essence
of motion and animation, principle of existence, or rather existence itself;
sometimes by Vulcan or Phtha, elementary principle of fire; or by the altar
of Vesta, placed in the center of her temple like the sun in the heavens;
sometimes by Kneph, a human figure, dressed in dark blue, having in one hand
a sceptre and a girdle (the zodiac), with a cap of feathers to express the
fugacity of thought, and producing from his mouth the great egg.
* This is the true pronunciation of the Jupiter of the Latins. . . . Existence
itself. This is the signification of the word You.
"Now, as a consequence of this system, every being containing in itself a
portion of the igneous and etherial fluid, common and universal mover, and
this fluid soul of the world being God, it followed that the souls of all
beings were portions of God himself partaking of all his attributes, that
is, being a substance indivisible, simple, and immortal; and hence the whole
system of the immortality of the soul, which at first was eternity.*
* In the system of the first spiritualists, the soul was not created with,
or at the same time as the body, in order to be inserted in it: its existence
was supposed to be anterior and from all eternity. Such, in a few words,
is the doctrine of Macrobius on this head. Som. Seip. passim.
"There exists a luminous, igneous, subtile fluid, which under the name of
ether and spiritus, fills the universe. It is the essential principle and
agent of motion and life, it is the Deity. When an earthly body is to be
animated, a small round particle of this fluid gravitates through the milky
way towards the lunar sphere; where, when it arrives, it unites with a grosser
air, and becomes fit to associate with matter: it then enters and entirely
fills the body, animates it, suffers, grows, increases, and diminishes with
it; lastly, when the body dies, and its gross elements dissolve, this
incorruptible particle takes its leave of it, and returns to the grand ocean
of ether, if not retained by its union with the lunar air: it is this air
or gas, which, retaining the shape of the body, becomes a phantom or ghost,
the perfect representation of the deceased. The Greeks called this phantom
the image or idol of the soul; the Pythagoreans, its chariot, its frame;
and the Rabbinical school, its vessel, or boat. When a man had conducted
himself well in this world, his whole soul, that is its chariot and ether,
ascended to the moon, where a separation took place: the chariot lived in
the lunar Elysium, and the ether returned to the fixed sphere, that is, to
God: for the fixed heaven, says Macrobius, was by many called by the name
of God (c. 14). If a man had not lived virtuously, the soul remained on earth
to undergo purification, and was to wander to and fro, like the ghosts of
Homer, to whom this doctrine must have been known, since he wrote after the
time of Pherecydes and Pythagoras, who were its promulgators in Greece. Herodotus
upon this occasion says, that the whole romance of the soul and its
transmigrations was invented by the Egyptians, and propagated in Greece by
men, who pretended to be its authors. I know their names, adds he, but shall
not mention them (lib. 2). Cicero, however, has positively informed us, that
it was Pherecydes, master of Pythagoras. Tuscul. lib. 1, sect. 16. Now admitting
that this system was at that period a novelty, it accounts for Solomon's
treating it as a fable, who lived 130 years before Pherecydes. "Who knoweth,"
said he, "the spirit of a man that it goeth upwards? I said in my heart
concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them and
that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth
the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the
one dieth, so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath, so that a man
hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity." Eccles. c. iii: v.
And such had been the opinion of Moses, as a translator of Herodotus (M.
Archer of the Academy of Inscriptions) justly observes in note 389 of the
second book; where he says also that the immortality of the soul was not
introduced among the Hebrews till their intercourse with the Assyrians. In
other respects, the whole Pythagorean system, properly analysed, appears
to be merely a system of physics badly understood.
"Hence, also its transmigrations, known by the name of metempsychosis, that
is, the passage of the vital principle from one body to another; an idea
which arose from the real transmigration of the material elements. And behold,
ye Indians, ye Boudhists, ye Christians, ye Mussulmans! whence are derived
all your opinions on the spirituality of the soul; behold what was the source
of the dreams of Pythagoras and Plato, your masters, who were themselves
but the echoes of another, the last sect of visionary philosophers, which
we will proceed to examine.
VIII. Eighth system. The WORLD-MACHINE: Worship of the Demi-
Ourgos, or Grand Artificer.
"Hitherto the theologians, employing themselves in examining the fine and
subtile substances of ether or the generating fire, had not, however, ceased
to treat of beings palpable and perceptible to the senses; and theology continued
to be the theory of physical powers, placed sometimes exclusively in the
stars, and sometimes disseminated through the universe; but at this period,
certain superficial minds, losing the chain of ideas which had directed them
in their profound studies, or ignorant of the facts on which they were founded,
distorted all the conclusions that flowed from them by the introduction of
a strange and novel chimera. They pretended that this universe, these heavens,
these stars, this sun, differed in no respect from an ordinary machine; and
applying to this first hypothesis a comparison drawn from the works of art,
they raised an edifice of the most whimsical sophisms. A machine, said they,
does not make itself; it has had an anterior workman; its very existence
proves it. The world is a machine; therefore it had an artificer.*
* All the arguments of the spiritualists are founded on this. See Macrobius,
at the end of the second book, and Plato, with the comments of Marcilius
"Here, then, is the Demi-Ourgos or grand artificer, constituted God autocratical
and supreme. In vain the ancient philosophy objected to this by saying that
the artificer himself must have had parents and progenitors; and that they
only added another step to the ladder by taking eternity from the world,
and giving it to its supposed author. The innovators, not content with this
first paradox, passed on to a second; and, applying to their artificer the
theory of the human understanding, they pretended that the Demi-Ourgos had
framed his machine on a plan already existing in his understanding. Now,
as their masters, the naturalists, had placed in the regions of the fixed
stars the great primum mobile, under the name of intelligence and reason,
so their mimics, the spiritualists, seizing this idea, applied it to their
Demi-Ourgos, and making it a substance distinct and self-existent, they called
it mens or logos (reason or word). And, as they likewise admitted the existence
of the soul of the world, or solar principle, they found themselves obliged
to compose three grades of divine beings, which were: first, the Demi-Ourgos,
or working god; secondly, the logos, word or reason; thirdly, the spirit
or soul (of the world).* And here, Christians! is the romance on which you
have founded your trinity; here is the system which, born a heretic in the
temples of Egypt, transported a pagan into the schools of Greece and Italy,
is now found to be good, catholic, and orthodox, by the conversion of its
partisans, the disciples of Pythagoras and Plato, to Christianity.
* These are the real types of the Christian Trinity
"It is thus that God, after having been, First, The visible and various action
of the meteors and the elements;
"Secondly, The combined powers of the stars, considered in their relations
to terrestrial beings;
Thirdly, These terrestrial beings themselves, by confounding the symbols
with their archetypes;
Fourthly, The double power of nature in its two principal operations of producing
"Fifthly, The animated world, with distinction of agent and patient, of effect
"Sixthly, The solar principle, or the element of fire considered as the only
"Has thus become, finally, in the last resort, a chimerical and abstract
being, a scholastic subtilty, of substance without form, a body without a
figure, a very delirium of the mind, beyond the power of reason to comprehend.
But vainly does it seek in this last transformation to elude the senses;
the seal of its origin is imprinted upon it too deep to be effaced; and its
attributes, all borrowed from the physical attributes of the universe, such
as immensity, eternity, indivisibility, incomprehensibility; or on the moral
affections of man, such as goodness, justice, majesty; its names* even, all
derived from the physical beings which were its types, and especially from
the sun, from the planets, and from the world, constantly bring to mind,
in spite of its corrupters, indelible marks of its real nature.
* In our last analysis we found all the names of the Deity to be derived
from some material object in which it was supposed to reside. We have given
a considerable number of instances; let us add one more relative to our word
God. This is known to be the Deus of the Latins, and the Theos of the Greeks.
Now by the confession of Plato (in Cratylo), of Macrobius (Saturn, lib. 1,
c. 24,) and of Plutarch (Isis and Osiris) its root is thein, which signifies
to wander, like planein, that is to say, it is synonymous with planets; because,
add our authors, both the ancient Greeks and Barbarians particularly worshipped
the planets. I know that such enquiries into etymologies have been much decried:
but if, as is the case, words are the representative signs of ideas, the
genealogy of the one becomes that of the other, and a good etymological
dictionary would be the most perfect history of the human understanding.
It would only be necessary in this enquiry to observe certain precautions,
which have hitherto been neglected, and particularly to make an exact comparison
of the value of the letters of the different alphabets. But, to continue
our subject, we shall add, that in the Phoenician language, the word thah
(with ain) signifies also to wander, and appears to be the derivation of
thein. If we suppose Deus to be derived from the Greek Zeus, a proper name
of You-piter, having zaw, I live, for its root, its sense will be precisely
that of you, and will mean soul of the world, igneous principle. (See note
p. 143). Div-us, which only signifies Genius, God of the second order, appears
to me to come from the oriental word div substituted for dib, wolf and chacal,
one of the emblems of the sun. At Thebes, says Macrobius, the sun was painted
under the form of a wolf or chacal, for there are no wolves in Egypt. The
reason of this emblem, doubtless, is that the chacal, like the cock announces
by its cries the sun's rising; and this reason is confirmed by the analogy
of the words lykos, wolf, and lyke, light of the morning, whence comes lux.
Dius, which is to be understood also of the sun, must be derived from dih,
a hawk. "The Egyptians," says Porphyry (Euseb. Proecep. Evang. p. 92,) "represent
the sun under the emblem of a hawk, because this bird soars to the highest
regions of air where light abounds." And in reality we continually see at
Cairo large flights of these birds, hovering in the air, from whence they
descend not but to stun us with their shrieks, which are like the monosyllable
dih: and here, as in the preceding example, we find an analogy between the
word dies, day, light, and dius, god, sun.
"Such is the chain of ideas which the human mind had already run through
at an epoch previous to the records of history; and since their continuity
proves that they were the produce of the same series of studies and labors,
we have every reason to place their origin in Egypt, the cradle of their
first elements. This progress there may have been rapid; because the physical
priests had no other food, in the retirement of the temples, but the enigma
of the universe, always present to their minds; and because in the political
districts into which that country was for a long time divided, every state
had its college of priests, who, being by turns auxiliaries or rivals, hastened
by their disputes the progress of science and discovery.*
* One of the proofs that all these systems were invented in Egypt, is that
this is the only country where we see a complete body of doctrine formed
from the remotest antiquity.
Clemens Alexandrinus has transmitted to us (Stromat. lib. 6,) a curious detail
of the forty-two volumes which were borne in the procession of Isis. "The
priest," says he, "or chanter, carries one of the symbolic instruments of
music, and two of the books of Mercury; one containing hymns of the gods,
the other the list of kings. Next to him the horoscope (the regulator of
time,) carries a palm and a dial, symbols of astrology; he must know by heart
the four books of Mercury which treat of astrology: the first on the order
of the planets, the second on the risings of the sun and moon, and the two
last on the rising and aspect of the stars. Then comes the sacred author,
with feathers on his head (like Kneph) and a book in his hand, together with
ink, and a reed to write with, (as is still the practice among the Arabs).
He must be versed in hieroglyphics, must understand the description of the
universe, the course of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, be acquainted
with the division of Egypt into thirty-six nomes, with the course of the
Nile, with instruments, measures, sacred ornaments, and sacred places. Next
comes the stole bearer, who carries the cubit of justice, or measure of the
Nile, and a cup for the libations; he bears also in the procession ten volumes
on the subject of sacrifices, hymns, prayers, offerings, ceremonies, festivals.
Lastly arrives the prophet, bearing in his bosom a pitcher, so as to be exposed
to view; he is followed by persons carrying bread (as at the marriage of
Cana.) This prophet, as president of the mysteries, learns ten other sacred
volumes, which treat of the laws, the gods, and the discipline of the priests.
Now there are in all forty-two volumes, thirty-six of which are studied and
got by heart by these personages, and the remaining six are set apart to
be consulted by the pastophores; they treat of medicine, the construction
of the human body (anatomy), diseases, remedies, instruments, etc., etc."
We leave the reader to deduce all the consequences of an Encyclopedia. It
is ascribed to Mercury; but Jamblicus tells us that each book, composed by
priests, was dedicated to that god, who, on account of his title of genius
or decan opening the zodiac, presided over every enterprise. He is the Janus
of the Romans, and the Guianesa of the Indians, and it is remarkable that
Yanus and Guianes are homonymous. In short it appears that these books are
the source of all that has been transmitted to us by the Greeks and Latins
in every science, even in alchymy, necromancy, etc. What is most to be regretted
in their loss is that part which related to the principles of medicine and
diet, in which the Egyptians appear to have made a considerable progress,
and to have delivered many useful observations
"There happened early on the borders of the Nile, what has since been repeated
in every country; as soon as a new system was formed its novelty excited
quarrels and schisms; then, gaining credit by persecution itself, sometimes
it effaced antecedent ideas, sometimes it modified and incorporated them;
then, by the intervention of political revolutions, the aggregation of states
and the mixture of nations confused all opinions; and the filiation of ideas
being lost, theology fell into a chaos, and became a mere logogriph of old
traditions no longer understood. Religion, having strayed from its object
was now nothing more than a political engine to conduct the credulous vulgar;
and it was used for this purpose, sometimes by men credulous themselves and
dupes of their own visions, and sometimes by bold and energetic spirits in
pursuit of great objects of ambition.
IX. Religion of Moses, or Worship of the Soul of the World
"Such was the legislator of the Hebrews; who, wishing to separate his nation
from all others, and to form a distinct and solitary empire, conceived the
design of establishing its basis on religious prejudices, and of raising
around it a sacred rampart of opinions and of rites. But in vain did he prescribe
the worship of the symbols which prevailed in lower Egypt and in Phoenicia;*
for his god was nevertheless an Egyptian god, invented by those priests of
whom Moses had been the disciple; and Yahouh,** betrayed by its very name,
essence (of beings), and by its symbol, the burning bush, is only the soul
of the world, the moving principle which the Greeks soon after adopted under
the same denomination in their you- piter, regenerating being, and under
that of Ei, existence,*** which the Thebans consecrated by the name of Kneph,
which Sais worshipped under the emblem of Isis veiled, with this inscription:
I am al that has been, all that is, and all that is to come, and no mortal
has raised my veil; which Pythagoras honored under the name of Vesta, and
which the stoic philosophy defined precisely by calling it the principle
of fire. In vain did Moses wish to blot from his religion every thing which
had relation to the stars; many traits call them to mind in spite of all
he has done. The seven planetary luminaries of the great candlestick; the
twelve stones, or signs in the Urim of the high priests; the feast of the
two equinoxes, (entrances and gates of the two hemispheres); the ceremony
of the lamb, (the celestial ram then in his fifteenth degree); lastly, the
name even of Osiris preserved in his song,**** and the ark, or coffer, an
imitation of the tomb in which that God was laid, all remain as so many witnesses
of the filiation of his ideas, and of their extraction from the common
* "At a certain period," says Plutarch (de Iside) "all the Egyptians have
their animal gods painted. The Thebans are the only people who do not employ
painters, because they worship a god whose form comes not under the senses,
and cannot be represented." And this is the god whom Moses, educated at
Heliopolis, adopted; but the idea was not of his invention.
** Such is the true pronunciation of the Jehovah of the moderns, who violate,
in this respect, every rule of criticism; since it is evident that the ancients,
particularly the eastern Syrians and Phoenicians, were acquainted neither
with the J nor the P which are of Tartar origin. The subsisting usage of
the Arabs, which we have re-established here, is confirmed by Diodorus, who
calls the god of Moses Iaw, (lib. 1), and Iaw and Yahouh are manifestly the
same word: the identity continues in that of You-piter; but in order to render
it more complete, we shall demonstrate the signification to be the same.
In Hebrew, that is to say, in one of the dialects of the common language
of lower Asia, Yahouh is the participle of the verb hih, to exist, to be,
and signifies existing: in other words, the principle of life, the mover
or even motion (the universal soul of beings). Now what is Jupiter? Let us
hear the Greeks and Latins explain their theology. "The Egyptians," says
Diodorus, after Manatho, priest of Memphis, "in giving names to the five
elements, called spirit, or ether, You-piter, on account of the true meaning
of that word: for spirit is the source of life, author of the vital principle
in animals; and for this reason they considered him as the father, the generator
of beings." For the same reason Homer says, father, and king of men and gods.
(Diod. lib. 1, sect 1).
"Theologians," says Macrobius, "consider You-piter as the soul of the world."
Hence the words of Virgil: " Muses let us begin with You-piter; the world
is full of You-piter." (Somn. Scrip., ch. 17). And in the Saturnalia, he
says, "Jupiter is the sun himself." It was this also which made Virgil say,
"The spirit nourishes the life (of beings), and the soul diffused through
the vast members (of the universe), agitates the whole mass, and forms but
one immense body."
"Ioupiter," says the ancient verses of the Orphic sect, which originated
in Egypt; verses collected by Onomacritus in the days of Pisistratus, "Ioupiter,
represented with the thunder in his hand, is the beginning, origin, end,
and middle of all things: a single and universal power, he governs every
thing; heaven, earth, fire, water, the elements, day, and night. These are
what constitute his immense body: his eyes are the sun and moon: he is space
and eternity: in fine," adds Porphyry. "Jupiter is the world, the universe,
that which constitutes the essence and life of all beings. Now," continues
the same author, "as philosophers differed in opinion respecting the nature
and constituent parts of this god, and as they could invent no figure that
should represent all his attributes, they painted him in the form of a man.
He is in a sitting posture, in allusion to his immutable essence; the upper
part of his body is uncovered, because it is in the upper regions of the
universe (the stars) that he most conspicuously displays himself. He is covered
from the waist downwards, because respecting terrestrial things he is more
secret and concealed. He holds a scepter in his left hand, because on the
left side is the heart, and the heart is the seat of the understanding, which,
(in human beings) regulates every action." Euseb. Proeper. Evang., p 100.
The following passage of the geographer and philosopher, Strabo, removes
every doubt as to the identity of the ideas of Moses and those of the heathen
"Moses, who was one of the Egyptian priests, taught his followers that it
was an egregious error to represent the Deity under the form of animals,
as the Egyptians did, or in the shape of man, as was the practice of the
Greeks and Africans. That alone is the Deity, said he, which constitutes
heaven, earth, and every living thing; that which we call the world, the
sum of all things, nature; and no reasonable person will think of representing
such a being by the image of any one of the objects around us. It is for
this reason, that, rejecting every species of images or idols, Moses wished
the Deity to be worshipped without emblems, and according to his proper nature;
and he accordingly ordered a temple worthy of him to be erected, etc. Geograph.
lib. 16, p. 1104, edition of 1707.
The theology of Moses has, then, differed in no respect from that of his
followers, that is to say, from that of the Stoics and Epicureans, who consider
the Deity as the soul of the world. This philosophy appears to have taken
birth, or to have been disseminated when Abraham came into Egypt (200 years
before Moses), since he quitted his system of idols for that of the god Yahouh;
so that we may place its promulgation about the seventeenth or eighteenth
century before Christ; which corresponds with what we have said before.
As to the history of Moses, Diodorus properly represents it when he says,
lib. 34 and 40, "That the Jews were driven out of Egypt at a time of dearth,
when the country was full of foreigners, and that Moses, a man of extraordinary
prudence seized this opportunity of establishing his religion in the mountains
of Judea." It will seem paradoxical to assert, that the 600,000 armed men
whom he conducted thither ought to be reduced to 6,000; but I can confirm
the assertion by so many proofs drawn from the books themselves, that it
will be necessary to correct an error which appears to have arisen from the
mistake of the transcribers.
*** This was the monosyllable written on the gates of the temple of Delphos.
Plutarch has made it the subject of a dissertation.
**** These are the literal expressions of the book of Deuteronomy, chap.
XXXII. "The works of Tsour are perfect." Now Tsour has been translated by
the word creator; its proper signification is to give forms, and this is
one of the definitions of Osiris in Plutarch.
"Such also was Zoroaster; who, five centuries after Moses, and in the time
of David, revived and moralized among the Medes and Bactrians, the whole
Egyptian system of Osiris and Typhon, under the names Ormuzd and Ahrimanes;
who called the reign of summer, virtue and good; the reign of winter, sin
and evil; the renewal of nature in spring, creation of the world; the conjunction
of the spheres at secular periods, resurrection; and the Tartarus and Elysium
of the astrologers and geographers were named future life, hell and paradise.
In a word, he did nothing but consecrate the existing dreams of the mystical
XI. Budsoism, or Religion of the Samaneans
"Such again are the propagators of the dismal doctrine of the Samaneans;
who, on the basis of the Metempsychosis, have erected the misanthropic system
of self-denial, and of privations; who, laying it down as a principle that
the body is only a prison where the soul lives in an impure confinement,
that life is only a dream, an illusion, and the world only a passage to another
country, to a life without end, placed virtue and perfection in absolute
immobility, in the destruction of all sentiment, in the abnegation of physical
organs, in the annihilation of all our being; whence resulted fasts, penances,
macerations, solitude, contemplations, and all the practices of the deplorable
delirium of the Anchorites.
XII. Brahmism, or Indian System
"And such, too, were the founders of the Indian System; who, refining after
Zoroaster on the two principles of creation and destruction, introduced an
intermediary principle, that of preservation, and on their trinity in unity,
of Brama, Chiven, and Vichenou, accumulated the allegories of their ancient
traditions, and the alembicated subtilities of their metaphysics.
"These are the materials which existed in a scattered state for many centuries
in Asia; when a fortuitous concourse of events and circumstances, on the
borders of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, served to form them into
XIII. Christianity, or the Allegorical Worship of the Sun,
under the cabalistical names of Chrish-en, or Christ, and Ye-sus or Jesus
"In constituting a separate nation, Moses strove in vain to defend it against
the invasion of foreign ideas. An invisible inclination, founded on the affinity
of their origin, had constantly brought back the Hebrews towards the worship
of the neighboring nations; and the commercial and political relations which
necessarily existed between them, strengthened this propensity from day to
day. As long as the constitution of the state remained entire, the coercive
force of the government and the laws opposed these innovations, and retarded
their progress; nevertheless the high places were full of idols; and the
god Sun had his chariot and horses painted in the palaces of the kings, and
even in the temples of Yahouh; but when the conquests of the sultans of Nineveh
and Babylon had dissolved the bands of civil power, the people, left to
themselves and solicited by their conquerors, restrained no longer their
inclination for profane opinions, and they were publicly established in Judea.
First, the Assyrian colonies, which came and occupied the lands of the tribes,
filled the kingdom of Samaria with dogmas of the Magi, which very soon penetrated
into the kingdom of Judea. Afterwards, Jerusalem being subjugated, the Egyptians,
the Syrians, the Arabs, entering this defenceless country, introduced their
opinions; and the religion of Moses was doubly mutilated. Besides the priests
and great men, being transported to Babylon and educated in the sciences
of the Chaldeans, imbibed, during a residence of seventy years, the whole
of their theology; and from that moment the dogmas of the hostile Genius
(Satan), the archangel Michael,* the ancient of days (Ormuzd), the rebel
angels, the battles in heaven, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection,
all unknown to Moses, or rejected by his total silence respecting them, were
introduced and naturalized among the Jews.
* "The names of the angels and of the months, such as Gabriel, Michael, Yar,
Nisan, etc., came from Babylon with the Jews:" says expressly the Talmud
of Jerusalem. See Beousob. Hist. du Manich. Vol. II, p. 624, where he proves
that the saints of the Almanac are an imitation of the 365 angels of the
Persians; and Jamblicus in his Egyptian Mysteries, sect. 2, c. 3, speaks
of angels, archangels, seraphims, etc., like a true Christian.
"The emigrants returned to their country with these ideas; and their innovation
at first excited disputes between their partisans the Pharisees, and their
opponents the Saducees, who maintained the ancient national worship; but
the former, aided by the propensities of the people and their habits already
contracted, and supported by the Persians, their deliverers and masters,
gained the ascendant over the latter; and the Sons of Moses consecrated the
theology of Zoroaster.*
* "The whole philosophy of the gymnosophists," says Diogenes Laertius on
the authority of an ancient writer, "is derived from that of the Magi, and
many assert that of the Jews to have the same origin." Lib. 1. c. 9. Megasthenes,
an historian of repute in the days of Seleucus Nicanor, and who wrote
particularly upon India, speaking of the philosophy of the ancients respecting
natural things, puts the Brachmans and the Jews precisely on the same
"A fortuitous analogy between two leading ideas was highly favorable to this
coalition, and became the basis of a last system, not less surprising in
the fortune it has had in the world, than in the causes of its formation.
"After the Assyrians had destroyed the kingdom of Samaria, some judicious
men foresaw the same destiny for Jerusalem, which they did not fail to predict
and publish; and their predictions had the particular turn of being terminated
by prayers for a re- establishment and regeneration, uttered in the form
of prophecies. The Hierophants, in their enthusiasm, had painted a king as
a deliverer, who was to re-establish the nation in its ancient glory; the
Hebrews were to become once more a powerful, a conquering nation, and Jerusalem
the capital of an empire extended over the whole earth.
"Events having realized the first part of these predictions, the ruin of
Jerusalem, the people adhered to the second with a firmness of belief in
proportion to their misfortunes; and the afflicted Jews expected, with the
impatience of want and desire, this victorious king and deliverer, who was
to come and save the nation of Moses, and restore the empire of David.
"On the other hand, the sacred and mythological traditions of preceding times
had spread through all Asia a dogma perfectly analogous. The cry there was
a great mediator, a final judge, a future saviour, a king, god, conqueror
and legislator, who was to restore the golden age upon earth,* to deliver
it from the dominion of evil, and restore men to the empire of good, peace,
and happiness. The people seized and cherished these ideas with so much the
more avidity, as they found in them a consolation under that deplorable state
of suffering into which they had been plunged by the devastations of successive
conquests, and the barbarous despotism of their governments. This conformity
between the oracles of different nations, and those of the prophets, excited
the attention of the Jews; and doubtless the prophets had the art to compose
their descriptions after the style and genius of the sacred books employed
in the Pagan mysteries. There was therefore a general expectation in Judea
of a great ambassador, a final Saviour; when a singular circumstance determined
the epoch of his coming.
* This is the reason of the application of the many Pagan oracles to Jesus,
and particularly the fourth eclogue of Virgil, and the Sybilline verses so
celebrated among the ancients.
"It is found in the sacred books of the Persians and Chaldeans, that the
world, composed of a total revolution of twelve thousand, was divided into
two partial revolutions; one of which, the age and reign of good, terminated
in six thousand; the other, the age and reign of evil, was to terminate in
six thousand more.
"By these records, the first authors had understood the annual revolution
of the great celestial orb called the world, (a revolution composed of twelve
months or signs, divided each into a thousand parts), and the two systematic
periods, of winter and summer, composed each of six thousand. These expressions,
wholly equivocal and badly explained, having received an absolute and moral,
instead of a physical and astrological sense, it happened that the annual
world was taken for the secular world, the thousand of the zodiacal divisions,
for a thousand of years; and supposing, from the state of things, that they
lived in the age of evil, they inferred that it would end with the six thousand
* We have already seen this tradition current among the Tuscans; it was
disseminated through most nations, and shows us what we ought to think of
all the pretended creations and terminations of the world, which are merely
the beginnings and endings of astronomical periods invented by astrologers.
That of the year or solar revolution, being the most simple and perceptible,
served as a model to the rest, and its comparison gave rise to the most whimsical
ideas. Of this description is the idea of the four ages of the world among
the Indians. Originally these four ages were merely the four seasons; and
as each season was under the supposed influence of a planet, it bore the
name of the metal appropriated to that planet; thus spring was the age of
the sun, or of gold; summer the age of the moon, or of silver; autumn the
age of Venus, or of brass; and winter the age of Mars, or of iron. Afterwards
when astronomers invented the great year of 25 and 36 thousand common years,
which had for its object the bringing back all the stars to one point of
departure and a general conjunction, the ambiguity of the terms introduced
a similar ambiguity of ideas; and the myriads of celestial signs and periods
of duration which were thus measured were easily converted into so many
revolutions of the sun. Thus the different periods of creation which have
been so great a source of difficulty and misapprehension to curious enquirers,
were in reality nothing more than hypothetical calculations of astronomical
periods. In the same manner the creation of the world has been attributed
to different seasons of the year, just as these different seasons have served
for the fictitious period of these conjunctions; and of consequence has been
adopted by different nations for the commencement of an ordinary year. Among
the Egyptians this period fell upon the summer solstice, which was the
commencement of their year; and the departure of the spheres, according to
their conjectures, fell in like manner upon the period when the sun enters
cancer. Among the Persians the year commenced at first in the spring, or
when the sun enters Aries; and from thence the first Christians were led
to suppose that God created the world in the spring: this opinion is also
favored by the book of Genesis; and it is farther remarkable, that the world
is not there said to be created by the God of Moses (Yahouh), but by the
Elohim or gods in the plural, that is by the angels or genii, for so the
word constantly means in the Hebrew books. If we farther observe that the
root of the word Elohim signifies strong or powerful, and that the Egyptians
called their decans strong and powerful leaders, attributing to them the
creation of the world, we shall presently perceive that the book of Genesis
affirms neither more nor less than that the world was created by the decans,
by those very genii whom, according to Sanchoniathon, Mercury excited against
Saturn, and who were called Elohim. It may be farther asked why the plural
substantive Elohim is made to agree with the singular verb bara (the Elohim
creates). The reason is that after the Babylonish captivity the unity of
the Supreme Being was the prevailing opinion of the Jews; it was therefore
thought proper to introduce a pious solecism in language, which it is evident
had no existence before Moses; thus in the names of the children of Jacob
many of them are compounded of a plural verb, to which Elohim is the nominative
case understood, as Raouben (Reuben), they have looked upon me, and Samaonni
(Simeon), they have granted me my prayer; to wit, the Elohim. The reason
of this etymology is to be found in the religious creeds of the wives of
Jacob, whose gods were the taraphim of Laban, that is, the angels of the
Persians, and Egyptian decans.
"Now, according to calculations admitted by the Jews, they began to reckon
near six thousand years since the supposed creation of the world.* This
coincidence caused a fermentation in the public mind. Nothing was thought
of but the approaching end. They consulted the hierophants and the mystical
books, which differed as to the term; the great mediator, the final judge,
was expected and desired, to put an end to so many calamities. This being
was so much spoken of, that some person finally was said to have seen him;
and a first rumor of this sort was sufficient to establish a general certainty.
Popular report became an established fact: the imaginary being was realized;
and all the circumstances of mythological tradition, being assembled around
this phantom, produced a regular history, of which it was no longer permitted
* According to the computation of the Seventy, the period elapsed consisted
of about 5,600 years, and this computation was principally followed. It is
well known how much, in the first ages of the church, this opinion of the
end of the world agitated the minds of men. In the sequel, the general councils
encouraged by finding that the general conflagration did not come, pronounced
the expectation that prevailed heretical, and its believers were called
Millenarians; a circumstance curious enough, since it is evident from the
history of the gospels that Jesus Christ was a Millenarian, and of consequence
"These mythological traditions recounted that, in the beginning, a woman
and a man had by their fall introduced sin and misery into the world. (Consult
plate of the Astrological Heaven of the Ancients.)
"By this was denoted the astronomical fact, that the celestial virgin and
the herdsman (Bootes), by setting heliacally at the autumnal equinox, delivered
the world to the wintry constellations, and seemed, on falling below the
horizon, to introduce into the world the genius of evil, Ahrimanes, represented
by the constellation of the Serpent.*
* "The Persians," says Chardin, "call the constellation of the serpent Ophiucus,
serpent of Eve: and this serpent Ophiucas or Ophioneus plays a similar part
in the theology of the Phoenicians," for Pherecydes, their disciple and the
master of Pythagoras, said "that Ophioneus Serpentinus had been chief of
the rebels against Jupiter." See Mars. Ficin. Apol. Socrat. p. m. 797, col.
2. I shall add that ephah (with ain) signifies in Hebrew, serpent.
These traditions related that the woman had decoyed and seduced the man.*
* In a physical sense to seduce, seducere, means only to attract, to draw
"And in fact, the virgin, setting first, seems to draw the herdsman after
"That the woman tempted him by offering him fruit fair to the sight and good
to eat, which gave the knowledge of good and evil.
"And in fact, the Virgin holds in her hand a branch of fruit, which she seems
to offer to the Herdsman; and the branch, emblem of autumn, placed in the
picture of Mithra* between winter and summer, seems to open the door and
give knowledge, the key of good and evil.
* See this picture in Hyde, page 111, edition of 1760.
That this couple had been driven from the celestial garden, and that a cherub
with a flaming sword had been placed at the gate to guard it.
"And in fact, when the virgin and the herdsman fall beneath the horizon,
Perseus rises on the other side;* and this Genius, with a sword in his hand,
seems to drive them from the summer heaven, the garden and dominion of fruits
* Rather the head of Medusa; that head of a woman once so beautiful, which
Perseus cut off and which beholds in his hand, is only that of the virgin,
whose head sinks below the horizon at the very moment that Perseus rises;
and the serpents which surround it are Orphiucus and the Polar Dragon, who
then occupy the zenith. This shows us in what manner the ancients composed
all their figures and fables. They took such constellations as they found
at the same time on the circle of the horizon, and collecting the different
parts, they formed groups which served them as an almanac in hieroglyphic
characters. Such is the secret of all their pictures, and the solution of
all their mythological monsters. The virgin is also Andromeda, delivered
by Perseus from the whale that pursues her (pro-sequitor).
That of this virgin should be born, spring up, an offspring, a child, who
should bruise the head of the serpent, and deliver the world from sin.
"This denotes the son, which, at the moment of the winter solstice, precisely
when the Persian Magi drew the horoscope of the new year, was placed on the
bosom of the Virgin, rising heliacally in the eastern horizon; on this account
he was figured in their astrological pictures under the form of a child suckled
by a chaste virgin,* and became afterwards, at the vernal equinox, the ram,
or the lamb, triumphant over the constellation of the Serpent, which disappeared
from the skies.
* Such was the picture of the Persian sphere, cited by Aben Ezra in the Coelam
Poeticum of Blaeu, p. 71. "The picture of the first decan of the Virgin,"
says that writer. "represents a beautiful virgin with flowing hair; sitting
in a chair, with two ears of corn in her hand, and suckling an infant, called
Jesus by some nations, and Christ in Greek."
In the library of the king of France is a manuscript in Arabic, marked 1165,
in which is a picture of the twelve signs; and that of the Virgin represents
a young woman with an infant by her side: the whole scene indeed of the birth
of Jesus is to be found in the adjacent part of the heavens. The stable is
the constellation of the charioteer and the goat, formerly Capricorn: a
constellation called proesepe Jovis Heniochi, stable of Iou; and the word
Iou is found in the name Iou-seph (Joseph). At no great distance is the ass
of Typhon (the great she-bear), and the ox or bull, the ancient attendants
of the manger. Peter the porter, is Janus with his keys and bald forehead:
the twelve apostles are the genii of the twelve months, etc. This Virgin
has acted very different parts in the various systems of mythology: she has
been the Isis of the Egyptians, who said of her in one of their inscriptions
cited by Julian, the fruit I have brought forth is the sun. The majority
of traits drawn by Plutarch apply to her, in the same manner as those of
Osiris apply to Bootes: also the seven principal stars of the she-bear, called
David's chariot, were called the chariot of Osiris (See Kirker); and the
crown that is situated behind, formed of ivy, was called Chen-Osiris, the
tree of Osiris. The Virgin has likewise been Ceres, whose mysteries were
the same with those of Isis and Mithra; she has been the Diana of the Ephesians;
the great goddess of Syria, Cybele, drawn by lions; Minerva, the mother of
Bacchus; Astraea, a chaste virgin taken up into heaven at the end of a golden
age; Themis at whose feet is the balance that was put in her hands; the Sybil
of Virgil, who descends into hell, or sinks below the hemisphere with a branch
in her hand, etc.
That, in his infancy, this restorer of divine and celestial nature would
live abased, humble, obscure and indigent.
"And this, because the winter sun is abased below the horizon; and that this
first period of his four ages or seasons, is a time of obscurity, scarcity,
fasting, and want.
"That, being put to death by the wicked, he had risen gloriously; that he
had reascended from hell to heaven, where he would reign forever
"This is a sketch of the life of the sun; who, finishing his career at the
winter solstice, when Typhon and the rebel angels gain the dominion, seems
to be put to death by them; but who soon after is born again, and rises*
into the vault of heaven, where he reigns.
* Resurgere, to rise a second time, cannot signify to return to life, but
in a metaphorical sense; but we see continually mistakes of this kind result
from the ambiguous meaning of the words made use of in ancient tradition.
"Finally, these traditions went so far as to mention even his astrological
and mythological names, and inform us that he was called sometimes Chris,
that is to say, preserver,* and from that, ye Indians, you have made your
god Chrish-en or Chrish-na; and, ye Greek and Western Christians, your Chris-tos,
son of Mary, is the same; sometimes he is called Yes, by the union of three
letters, which by their numerical value form the number 608, one of the solar
periods.** And this, Europeans, is the name which, with the Latin termination,
is become your Yes-us or Jesus, the ancient and cabalistic name attributed
to young Bacchus, the clandestine son (nocturnal) of the Virgin Minerva,
who, in the history of his whole life, and even of his death, brings to mind
the history of the god of the Christians, that is, of the star of day, of
which they are each of them the emblems."
* The Greeks used to express by X, or Spanish iota, the aspirated ha of the
Orientals, who said haris. In Hebrew heres signifies the sun, but in Arabic
the meaning of the radical word is, to guard, to preserve, and of haris,
guardian, preserver. It is the proper epithet of Vichenou, which demonstrates
at once the identity of the Indian and Christian Trinities, and their common
origin. It is manifestly but one system, which divided into two branches,
one extending to the east, and the other to the west, assumed two different
forms: Its principal trunk is the Pythagorean system of the soul of the world,
or Iou-piter. The epithet piter, or father, having been applied to the
demi-ourgos of Plato, gave rise to an ambiguity which caused an enquiry to
be made respecting the son of this father. In the opinion of the philosophers
the son was understanding, Nous and Logos, from which the Latins made their
Verbum. And thus we clearly perceive the origin of the eternal father and
of the Verbum his son, proceeding from him (Mens Ex Deo nata, says Macrobius):
the oenima or spiritus mundi, was the Holy Ghost; and it is for this reason
that Manes, Pasilides, Valentinius, and other pretended heretics of the first
ages, who traced things to their source, said, that God the Father was the
supreme inaccessible light (that of the heaven, the primum mobile, or the
aplanes); the Son the secondary light resident in the sun, and the Holy Ghost
the atmosphere of the earth (See Beausob. vol. II, p. 586): hence, among
the Syrians, the representation of the Holy Ghost by a dove, the bird of
Venus Urania, that is of the air. The Syrians (says Nigidius de Germaico)
assert that a dove sat for a certain number of days on the egg of a fish,
and that from this incubation Venus was born: Sextus Empiricus also observes
(Inst. Pyrrh. lib. 3, c. 23) that the Syrians abstain from eating doves;
which intimates to us a period commencing in the sign Pisces, in the winter
solstice. We may farther observe, that if Chris comes from Harisch by a chin,
it will signify artificer, an epithet belonging to the sun. These variations,
which must have embarrassed the ancients, prove it to be the real type of
Jesus, as had been already remarked in the time of Tertullian. "Many, says
this writer, suppose with greater probability that the sun is our God, and
they refer us to the religion of the Persians." Apologet. c. 16.
** See a curious ode to the sun, by Martianus Capella, translated by
Here a great murmur having arisen among all the Christian groups, the Lamas,
the Mussulmans and the Indians called them to order, and the orator went
on to finish his discourse:
"You know at present," said he, "how the rest of this system was composed
in the chaos and anarchy of the three first centuries; what a multitude of
singular opinions divided the minds of men, and armed them with an enthusiasm
and a reciprocal obstinacy; because, being equally founded on ancient tradition,
they were equally sacred. You know how the government, after three centuries,
having embraced one of these sects, made it the orthodox, that is to say,
the pre-dominant religion, to the exclusion of the rest; which, being less
in number, became heretics; you know how and by what means of violence and
seduction this religion was propagated, extended, divided, and enfeebled;
how, six hundred years after the Christian innovation, another system was
formed from it and from that of the Jews; and how Mahomet found the means
of composing a political and theological empire at the expense of those of
Moses and the vicars of Jesus.
"Now, if you take a review of the whole history of the spirit of all religion,
you will see that in its origin it has had no other author than the sensations
and wants of man; that the idea of God has had no other type and model than
those of physical powers, material beings, producing either good or evil,
by impressions of pleasure or pain on sensitive beings; that in the formation
of all these systems the spirit of religion has always followed the same
course, and been uniform in its proceedings; that in all of them the dogma
has never failed to represent, under the name of gods, the operations of
nature, and passions and prejudices of men; that the moral of them all has
had for its object the desire of happiness and the aversion to pain; but
that the people, and the greater part of legislators, not knowing the route
to be pursued, have formed false, and therefore discordant, ideas of virtue
and vice of good and evil, that is to say, of what renders man happy or
miserable; that in every instance, the means and the causes of propagating
and establishing systems have exhibited the same scenes of passion and the
same events; everywhere disputes about words, pretexts for zeal, revolutions
and wars excited by the ambition of princes, the knavery of apostles, the
credulity of proselytes, the ignorance of the vulgar, the exclusive cupidity
and intolerant arrogance of all. Indeed, you will see that the whole history
of the spirit of religion is only the history of the errors of the human
mind, which, placed in a world that it does not comprehend, endeavors
nevertheless to solve the enigma; and which, beholding with astonishment
this mysterious and visible prodigy, imagines causes, supposes reasons, builds
systems; then, finding one defective, destroys it for another not less so;
hates the error that it abandons, misconceives the one that it embraces,
rejects the truth that it is seeking, composes chimeras of discordant beings;
and thus, while always dreaming of wisdom and happiness, wanders blindly
in a labyrinth of illusion and doubt."