Sunday, September 26, 2010

History of Religion, By Allan Menzies, D.D., Part V, Chapter XXIII


It will not be expected that the result of the great movement traced in the chapters of this work can be summed up in a few words. We set out with a definition of our subject which we said could only be fully verified after religion had accomplished its growth and had fully unfolded its nature. We also set out with the assumption that all the religion of the world is one, and that it exhibits a development which is in the main continuous, from the most elementary to the highest stages. We shall not now attempt to justify by argument that definition or that assumption. The history which we have sought to place before the reader must itself be the proof of them. All that can be done in bringing this work to a close is to point out one great line of development, which may be recognised more or less distinctly in the growth of each religion, and may therefore be held to be characteristic of religion as a whole. No doubt the growth of religion, as of other human activities, has many sides and aspects, but perhaps it may be possible to specify the central line of growth in which the explanation of all the subsidiary and parallel forward movements is to be found.

It was stated in our first chapter that religion is the expression of human needs with reference to higher beings who are supposed to be capable of fulfilling men's desires, and it was also stated as an inference from this, that the growth of human needs is the cause of religious change and progress. If this is true, then the key to the progress of religion is to be found in the successive emergence in human experience of higher and still higher needs. If we can discover the order in which higher aspirations successively emerge in the growth of humanity, then we shall possess the chief clue to the course of religious advance. Now while there is infinite variety in the needs and desires of men, every land and each nation having ideals all its own, we can yet discern, on a broad view of human progress, an advance from lower to higher needs which is common to the human race, and manifests itself in the history of each nation. Three successive conditions of human life stand out before us as markedly distinct, and as occurring wherever civilisation continues to advance. The first is that in which material needs are all-absorbing; the second that in which freedom from material needs has been to some extent attained, and the highest aspirations are directed to the safety and advancement of the nation in which men find themselves united and secure; and the third is that in which the individual realises his own value apart from the state, and develops a personal ideal which is thenceforward his chief end. To these three stages of human existence three types of religion correspond, and the growth of religion consists in the main in its passage from the lower to the higher of these stages.

The religion of the tribe belongs to that stage of man's existence in which his energies are entirely occupied in the struggle against nature and against other tribes. The conditions of his life do not allow his higher faculties to grow, and while he is not without many glimpses and anticipations of higher things, his religion, as a whole, is a mass of childish fancies, and of fixed traditions which he cannot explain, but does not venture to criticise or change. His gods are petty and capricious beings, and his modes of influencing them, though used with zeal and fervour, have little to do with reason or with taste or with morality. It is in this kind of religion that magic of all sorts is at home.

The advance from the religion of the tribe to that of the nation was briefly described above, sqq.. The leading classes of the state at least having gained some measure of security and leisure, ideas of a nobler order spring up in their minds. The service of the great gods of the state is organised with befitting dignity and splendour; the best minds contribute to it all they can in the way of art, of poetry, of purified legend, of stately ceremonial. Patriotism and religion are one, the offices of worship are upheld by the whole power of the state, and the gods speak with new authority to the spirit of the worshipper. Now it is that great religious systems arise, so powerful, so highly organised, so splendidly adorned, and surrounded with such venerable traditions, that they seem to be destined for eternity. The priesthood becomes a very powerful class, and acquires a personal holiness which marks out its members as different from other men; the sacrifices acquire the character of divine mysteries, every detail of which, even the most trivial, has a sacred meaning; religious books are compiled or written, which by and by are regarded as inspired, and as possessing absolute authority. It is to be observed that the older style of religion is not at once driven out by the growth of the new, but continues to flourish beside it and under its shadow. The tribes of whom the nation is composed still cherish and adore their own special deities. That older worship is often thought to bring blessings which the new worship of the state does not command, and many a piece of ancient magic, many a practice which has no connection with the state religion, still goes on, especially among those who are not cultivated enough to appreciate the nobler faith which has arisen.

This, however, does not keep the national faith from growing in riches and consistency; and religion appears, as this growth proceeds, to have attained the highest degree of power and authority at which it can possibly arrive. Commanding as it does all the resources of the nation, enriched by all that can be brought to it of material or intellectual riches, placed in a position of absolute exaltation and inviolableness, to what further conquests can it still look forward? Yet when a national religion appears to be most firmly established, the forces are most certainly at work which must ere long lead to a far-reaching change. While the national worship has been growing up to its highest splendours, the lives of the citizens have also been growing richer and deeper, and the individual soul has become aware of wants and longings which cannot be satisfied in the national temple. The further progress of religion is apt to appear as a revolt against the system which has grown so strong. The individual sets out to seek a consistent intellectual view, and so figures as a sceptic. He aims at a higher moral law than that of the priestly system, and is accused of undermining public morality. He feels a new call to personal goodness, a new need for personal atonement with the ideal holiness which he has learned to apprehend; and as the public ritual does not meet these needs, he seeks for new religious associations and perhaps appears to preach a doctrine contrary to patriotism, as it is subversive of the established religion of his country, and to be wilfully destroying what his countrymen revere, and wilfully breaking through old ties and obligations. Thus the individualist stage of religion succeeds the national. But the individualist stage is also, in part at least, the universal stage. What the thinking mind and the pious heart seeks and cannot find in the national worship, is a religion free as the seeker himself has become free, from all that is unreasonable and artificial, a religion therefore in which every thinking mind and every pious heart can have a share. What is gained by individuals in this direction is capable, therefore, if circumstances favour, of proving an acquisition not only for the individual reformer or his nation, but for all men. But as the rise of national religion does not bring to an end the ruder worships of the tribes, which still go on beside it, so neither does the rise of individualism, even in its purest form, bring to an end the national worship. In the long run this may follow, but it does not take place at once. All three forms of religion go on together; the religion of magic, that of stately public sacrifices and ceremonials, and that of intellectual effort and pious meditation and prayer. Each no doubt influences to some extent the others, and is influenced by them in turn.

The movement thus indicated from tribal to national, and from national to individual and to universal religion, is the central development of religion, and all the minor developments which might be traced, as that of sacrifice from rude to spiritual forms, of the functions of the sacred class, of the morality dictated by religion at its various stages, or of the literature connected with piety, may be explained by reference to this one. This movement has taken place in every nation; we have seen something of it in each of our chapters. In some nations it has been early arrested, so that no important contribution has there been brought to the general religion of mankind, in others it has run its full course, and like a great river has arrived at the ocean at last, to mingle its waters with those of other mighty streams.

The story of the growth of the world's religion has therefore to be told in a number of parallel narratives, each dealing with the experience of a separate nation. There can scarcely be any general history of the religion of the world, in addition to those special histories. Some epochs, it is true, stand out as having witnessed simultaneous religious movements in many lands, as if the mind of the whole human race had then been passing through the same crisis of thought. The sixth century B.C. is the age of Confucius and of Laotsze in China, of Gautama in India, of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Unknown Prophet of the Exile, of Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Xenophanes, and also of the rise into prominence of the Greek mysteries. Widely different as the movements are which thus took place contemporaneously in these lands, we may discern in all of them alike the tendency to plant religion in the mind and heart, and to create a deeper union than the old external one, a union based on common intellectual effort and spiritual sympathy. The period immediately before and after the Christian era might also appear to be one in which the mind of the world as a whole made a great step forward. The union of many nations under the sway of Rome, and the universal diffusion of the Greek language as a means of general communication, made men conscious at this time as they had never been before, of the unity of mankind in spite of all differences of race and speech. A philosophy also was popular at this time which was cosmopolitan in its character, and occupied itself with the great problems, which are the same for all, of man's relation to the gods and of his moral duty. If we add to this the combination which took place at Rome and wherever different races met, of various rites and creeds, we see that the age was one singularly disposed to the breaking down of artificial barriers between men, and singularly fitted to promote the growth of a belief in which men of all nations might unite and feel themselves to be brethren.

In these two periods we may recognise important steps in that great Education of the Human Race which the Apostle Paul refers to in a bold philosophy of history (Galat. iv.), and which later thinkers have striven to set forth in detail. After the long servitude of mankind to irrational practices and to gods who were no gods, there comes first the period when men recognise that the true God is to be found not merely outside them but within their hearts and minds, and then the period when they find that the true God is the same to all men, that they are all children of the same Father. But while these general movements of the human mind may be acknowledged, the education of the human race proceeds for the most part in nations. As each nation has to elaborate its own art, its own literature, its own system of law, so each nation has to perfect its own religion. Even after a universal faith has appeared, religion does not cease to be a national thing. Each people moulds the universal religion which it has adopted into a special form, continues by means of it the rites and traditions of the past, and expresses through it its own national character and aspirations. Each nation as well as each individual must necessarily have a faith specially its own, arising out of its own character and experience and in great part incommunicable to others. No two nations could possibly exchange religions.

But on the other hand every nation contains within itself forms of religion which differ from each other as widely as those of two separate nations. It has been said that no religious belief or usage which has once lived can ever be destroyed; and the proof of this may be witnessed in every nation. Even after that religion has come which has its main seat in the heart and soul, the ruder forms of piety live on, and even at times aggressively assert themselves. If there are classes for whom the struggle against material hardships still continues, no lofty religion can be attained by them any more than by savage tribes. As the conditions of their life forbid the growth of their higher faculties, their religion cannot be one of thought or of refinement, but must be one which promises palpable benefits or an escape from immediate dangers. At a somewhat higher stage is the class of those who, while partly escaped from the struggle against want, have not yet fully realised themselves as thinking and spiritual beings, and to whom the benefits of religion still lie outside, rather than in the inner life. When the benefits of religion are thus conceived, its processes must be of a mechanical nature. Hence the various systems of apparatus for connecting the worshipper with a source of good distant from him in time or space, and for fetching as it were from another region, with certainty and accuracy, needed supplies of grace.

The further development of religion in a community so mixed must depend on the progressive education and elevation of the people. As more and more of them are freed first from distracting wants and cares, and then from sordid and materialistic views, their spiritual nature will expand. The need for God himself rather than for his gifts, will arise and increase in their hearts, and they will grow capable of that highest religion which is the life of the soul with God; they will feel its beauty and will drink of the deep springs which it contains, of strength and peace.

To attain this true religion the human race has had to travel far and to make many experiments. Many temples were built and fell to ruin before the true temple of the soul was reached in which, as each finds what he as an individual requires, there is also room for all mankind. Even after this highest religion has been made known to men, it has often been obscured and lost, and many a struggle has been needed to vindicate its claims and help it to retain its rightful place. But with growing experience the world becomes more assured that the simplest and broadest religion ever preached upon this earth is also the best and the truest, and that in maintaining Christianity as at first preached, and applying it in every needed direction, lies the hope of the future of mankind. To those who agree in this conclusion the history of the religion of the world, full of errors and of grievous failures as it has been seen to be, cannot appear to have been a vain and purposeless excursion in a land of shadows. Not without a divine call, and not without divine guidance did man set out so early, and persevere so constantly in spite of all his disappointments, in the search for God.


Aesir, 267

Ahura Mazda, 387, 391, 397, 398, 405

Allah, 222

Allat, "The Lady," 165, 173, 219

Amartas, 44

Anaitis, 407

primitive, 33, 40
China, 115
Aryan, 250
India, 338

Angels and demons, Persia, 400, 407

Animals, worship of, 29, 57
in Peru, 86
in Babylonia, 96
in Egypt, 130
how accounted for, 133
in Arabia, 219
in Greece, 277

Animation of Nature in savage thought, 24

meaning of, 40, 96, 308
in Roman religion, 308

Anthropomorphism, 53
Babylonia, 96
Egypt, 132
Greece, 281

Apocalypse, 213

before Mahomet, 218
gods of, 219
Judaism and Christianity in, 223

Phenician, 174
Egyptian, 132
Greece, 280, 292

Aryans, the, 245
description of, 248
in Europe, 256
religion, 250
etymology of names of gods, 250

Ascetics, Brahmanic, 350

Ashera, Canaanite goddess, 172

Ashtoreth, 176

Association, forms of religious,
Totem-Clan, 70
nation, 84
Greek mysteries, 298
Greek schools, 303
new form in Israel, 212
new form in Islam, 233

Asuras, 44

Baal, Canaanite god, 171, 189

Babylon and Assyria,
religion of, 93
connection with Egypt, 94, 96, 97
connection with China, 93, 98
mythology of, 100

an essential part of religion, 9, 13
less important than rite in primitive religion, 66

Brahman, etymology of, 339

Brahmanism, 338

Buddhism, 353, sqq.
in China, 123

Burnt Njal, 264

Burton, Captain, Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca, 236

Caaba, 220, 236

Cabiri, 177

Canaanites, 170
religion of, 171, 191

Caste, 338

Celts, 257

China, 106
connection with Babylonia, 107
state religion of, 111

Christianity, 411, sqq.

Civilisation and religion advance together, 15
origin of, 19

Classification of religions, 80

Confucius, 107, 117, sqq.

Continuity of growth in religion, 6

Curiosity, an element of religion, 12

Daniel, 213

Decalogues, 202

Definition of religion,
preliminary, 8
fuller, 13

Degeneration in civilisation, 19
in religion, 38

Deuteronomy, 201

Devas, 44, 396

Development of religion, 8, 51, sqq., 430, sqq.

Domestic worship,
origin of, 33
China, 115
Aryans, 251
Iceland, 264
Greece, 275
Rome, 311
Brahmanic, 342

Dualism, 56

Eddas, 266

Egypt, religion of, 126, sqq.

Elijah and Elisha, 190

Elves, 265

Ephod, 188

Etruria, religion of, 318

Exile of Israel, 202

Ezra, 204

Fairy Tales (German), 262

Fate, 289

Festivals, Greek, 294

Fetish-worship, 35

Fetishism, 38

Fire, 31

Frazer, Mr., 58, 59; Golden Bough, 28, 279

Frisia, religion in, 263

Functional deities,
Greece, 275
Rome, 308

Funeral practices, 62
Egypt, 149
Icelandic, 264
Greece, 282, 290
India, 332
Persian, 405

Games, Greek, 294

Gautama Buddha, 356
his death, 361

Germans, the ancient, 258
their gods, 259
their gods identified with Roman, 260
working religion of, 260
later religion, 263

Ghosts, 34

Gods, the great,
in Babylonia, 98
in Egypt, 137
of the Aryans, 252
German, 259
Icelandic, 266
of Homer, 285
Roman, 311
Indian, 326

Gomme, Ethnology in Folklore, 60, 249, 254

Greece, 274

Grimm, German Mythology, 260

Hades, 291

Hammurabi, 93, 95, 202

Hanyfs, 224

Hartmann, Edward von, 46

Heaven, 52
an object of primitive worship, 31, 53
Babylonia, 93
China, 112
Arabia, 219
India, 318, 326, 333

Hegira, 231

Hell, 229, 265, 392

Henotheism, 56

Heroic legends,
Babylonian, 100
German, 262

Hesiod, 291

Homer, 283
worship in, 287

Homeric gods, 285

Babylonian, 101
Egyptian, 144
Vedic, 328
Persian, 383. See Psalms

Iceland, 264
decay of old religion of, 272

none in primitive religion, 73
Arabia, 219, 220
German? 264

China, 115
Egypt, 152

Incas, the religion of, 85-88

India, 324

Individual, the, not considered in primitive religion, 76

Individual religion,
Babylonia, 104
Israel, 205
Greece, 300
India, 346
a high stage of religion, 429
the porch to universalism, 430
See Buddhism

Indo-Europeans. See Aryans

Isaiah xli.-lxvi., 203

Islam, 217. See Mahomet
meaning of, 226
spread of, 237
a universal religion, 240
weakness of, 241

Israel, 179

Israel and Canaanites, 184
Prophets, 189
reforms of religion, 200
exile, 202
the return, 204

Istar, 101

Jainism, 362

Japan, 115

Jehovah, 182

Jesus Christ, 413, sqq.

Jewish religion, 205
spiritual elements of, 209
heathenish elements of, 210
Persian influence on? 215

Jinns, 220

Job, 215

Judaism, 205 sqq.
Hellenistic period of, 412
at time of Christ, 413

Kathenotheism, 55, 336

Koran, 225, 227, 239

Lang, Andrew, 25, 59; Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 22

Legge, Dr., 110, 113

Literatures, sacred, 179
Babylonia, 93, 100
Buddhist, 353
China, 108
Eddas, 266
Egypt, 127, 154
Koran, 225, 227, 239
Israel, 179, 207
Sibylline books, 319
Vendidad, 406
Zend-Avesta, 382

Local nature of early religion, 60

Local observances,
Aryan, 253
old German, 262
Icelandic, 264

Lockyer, Dawn of Astronomy, 94

Magi, 405

Magic, 74
Babylonia, 95
Egypt, 155

Mahomet, 225, sqq.
preaching, 228
leaves Mecca, 231
at Medina, 232
breach with Judaism and Christianity, 234
domestic, 235

Manicheism, 408

Mannhardt, Feld- und Waldkulte, 59, 262

Manu, law of, 344

Massebah, 172

Maya, 349

McLennan, 59

Mecca, 220
becomes capital of Islam, 235

Meyer, E., 247

Mithra, 407

Moloch, 174

Monarchical Pantheon of the Aryans, 253

not primitive, 37, 56
in Egypt? 144
emergence of, in Israel, 196
in India, 348

in primitive religion, 77
Egyptian religion, 155
Greece, 279
Vedic religion, 335
Brahmanism, 345
of Buddhism, 372

meaning of, 226
duties of the, 238

Müller, Mr. Max, 10, 42, 246, 250, 332
his theory of the origin of religion, 43

Mycenæ, 282

Mysteries, the Greek, 298

origin of, 51
Babylonia, 100
Egypt, 138
Greece, 280
Icelandic, 267
Indian, 333

National religion,
how different from earlier form, 81, 428
Israel, 191

Natural religion, 80

Nature gods, growth of, 51

the greater, 30, 43
the minor, 32, 42, 57

Nirvana, 361, 373

Omens, 290
Roman, 312

Orientation, of temples, 100

Origin of religion,
(1) Primitive revelation, 26
(2) Innate idea, 26
(3) Psychological necessity, 27

Orphism, 302

Other World, the
in Egypt, 151
with the Semites, 167
Jewish beliefs about, 214
Arabia, 220
Iceland, 265, 266
Homer, 283

in Egypt, 148
India, 336, 348

Patriarchal society and religion of Aryans, 248

Perkunas, 36

Persia, 381
primitive religion, 385
contact of Jews with, 401, 406

Pfleiderer, Otto, 47

Phenicians, 170
religion of, 176
influence on Greece, 282

Philistines, 170

Greek, 301
Indian, 347

origin of, 53
Indian, 335

primitive, 71
Israel, 198, 212
Indian, 339
Persian, 382, 394

Priestly code, 202, 403

none in the earliest religion, 72
not necessary in early Israel, 187
Roman, 313
Brahmans, 338

Primitive religion, the, 21
difference between it and later forms, 79

Prophets, in Israel, 189
their criticism of the old religion of Israel, 192

Psalms, 210. See Hymns

Purity, laws of,
Israel, 209
Persia, 404

Greece, 297
India, 350

of Israelite religion, 200
of Augustus, 322

Renouf, Le Page, 145

Revealed religion, 80

Réville, M., 25, 31, 42

Resurrection, 214

Retribution, after death,
in Egypt, 155
Mahomet, 229
Israel, 214

Rig-veda, the, 325

Brahmanic, 343
Roman, 314
Persian, 403
Jewish, 204, 208

Rome, 305, sqq.

Rougé, M. de la, 145

Sacred places, 59
Semitic, 165
Canaanite, 184, 200
Arabia, 219
Germany, 261

Sacred seasons, 75

primitive, generally a meal, 67
in China, 114
Semitic, 164
human (Phenician), 175
human (Israel), 187
human (Icelandic), 265
early Israelite, 183
denounced by O. T. prophets, 193
Jewish, 207
Icelandic, 264
Homeric, 287
Persia, 394

Saussaye, P. D. Chantepie de la, 17

Savage elements in all the great religions, 21

their religion falls short of the definition, 8
represent the original state of mankind, 19
mental habits of, 23
all have religion, 25
the religion of, described, 29, sqq.
their beliefs furnish the elements of the great religions, 63

Schrader (Aryans), 247, 252

Semites, 161
religion of, 162
gods of, 164, 173
goddess of, 99, 165, 219

Seraph, 220

Shin-to, 115

Babylon, 103
Israel, 205

Slavs, 256

Smith, Robertson, 61; Religion of the Semites, 58, 70, 162

Spencer, Mr. H., 11, 39

Spirit, the great, 3936

of dead persons, 33
worship of, the origin of all religion? 38
in Babylonia, 95
in China, 114
in Arabia, 220
in Greece, 275
in Persia, 398

Standing stones, 60

Sun, 30

Babylonia, 99
Egypt, 140, 148
Phenician, 176
Arabian, 219

Supreme Being, an object of primitive worship? 36

Survival of savage state in the great religions, 21

Synagogue, 212

Syncretism, of gods in Egypt, 148

Taboo, 72

Taoism, 121

Taylor, Dr. I., 247, 248

not primitive, 72
Babylonia, 99
Egyptian, 128, 130, 136
Phenician and Jewish, 178
Greek, 292
Roman, 318, 323

Teraphim, 188

Teutons, 256. See Germans

Thunder, 30, 265, 270

Tiele, Dr. C. P., 15

Totemism, 58, 135, 277

Transmigration, 302, 351, 368

primitive, 32, 59, 278
Babylonia, 101
Canaanites, 172
Arabia, 219
Greece, 278

Tribal religion, 57, 77, 427

Tylor, Mr., Primitive Culture, 10, 20, 25, 29, 39, 62, 63, 68

Under-world, the,
Babylonia, 100, 102
Egypt, 140, 142, 152

Unity of all religion, 4

Universal deities of the Aryans, 252

in O. T. prophets, 195
in Islam, 240
in Christianity, 419

Urim and Thummim, 188

Vedic hymns, 328

Vedic religion, 324, sqq.
its gods, 326
is it early or late? 331

Vow, original meaning of, 75

Waitz and Gerland's Anthropologie der Naturvölker, 29

Wellhausen, J., 163, 218

Wells, sacred, 32, 57, 59

an essential element of religion, 9
primitive, 66
Chinese, 112
Egyptian, 147
Canaanite, 173
Israelite, 187
Jewish, 207
Roman, 309
See Sacrifice

Zeus, etymology of, 250, 286, 296

Zoomorphism, 53

Zoroaster, 384
his call, 388
his doctrine, 391


History of Religion, By Allan Menzies, D.D., Part V, Chapter XXII



The writer is aware that in offering a chapter on Christianity at the conclusion of this work, he attempts a difficult task. If treated at all, Christianity must be dealt with in the same way as the other religions, and no assumptions must be made for it which were not made for them. And a view of our own religion written, not from the standpoint of the faith and love we feel towards it but of scientific accuracy, must appear to many pious Christians to be cold and meagre. But, on the other hand, Christianity is the key of the arch we have been building, the consummating member of the development we have sought to trace, and to withhold any estimate of its character would be to leave our work most imperfect. It seems better, therefore, that some hints at least should be offered on this part of the subject. Christianity cannot indeed be dealt with in the same proportion as the other religions; that would far exceed our space. But some views are offered regarding its essential nature, which the writer believes to be so firmly founded in fact that even those who are not Christians cannot deny them, and thus to afford a valid criterion for the comparison of Christianity with other faiths.

In the chapter on the religion of Israel we saw how the prophets before and during the exile began to cherish the idea of a new relation between God and man, which would not depend on sacrifice nor be confined to Israel. God, they declared, was preparing a new age, in which he would receive man to more intimate communion than before; and man would be guided in the right path, not by covenants and laws, but by the constant inspiration of a present deity. The new religion would be one which all nations could share. Jerusalem, the seat of the true faith, would attract all eyes; all would turn to her because of the Lord her God.

But, alas, instead of growing broader to realise its universal destiny, the religion of Israel grew narrower after the exile, and seemed to forget the prospects thus opened up to it. Judaism, though immeasurably enriched in its inner consciousness by the teaching of the prophets, maintained its earlier semi-heathenish forms of worship, only surrounding them with new stateliness and new significance; and clothed itself in a hard shell of public ritual and personal observance. The Jews separated themselves rigorously from the world, and cultivated an exclusive pride; as if their religion had been given them for themselves alone, and not for mankind. Under the Maccabees they displayed the most heroic courage and tenacity, maintaining their own beliefs and rites amid the flood of Hellenism which at one time almost swept them away. That they carried their nationality unimpaired through this period is one of the most wonderful achievements of the Jewish race. In the succeeding period, however, many signs appeared showing that their religion was losing energy. The rule of the priests and scribes extended more and more over the whole of life, tradition and observance grew more and more extensive, but the moral judgment lost its elasticity. The sense of the divine presence grew faint, and multitudes of spirits filled the air instead, oppressing human life with a sense of vague anxiety. As political independence was lost, the people became less happy and more easily excited. But while formalism held increasing sway over their actions, imagination was free, and surrounded both the past history of Israel and its future triumphs with manifold embellishments.

In such a condition was the religion of the Jews when Jesus appeared in Palestine and created a new order of things. Christianity was at first a movement within Judaism. Like all the religions which trace their history to personal founders, it grew from very small beginnings; but its doctrine was of such a nature, that if circumstances favoured, it could not fail to spread beyond Judaism, to men of other lands and other tongues.

The doctrine consisted primarily in a declaration that that great religious consummation, the kingdom of God, which the prophets had foretold, which was regarded by the fellow-countrymen of Jesus as a far-off hope, and which had just been heralded by John the Baptist as being immediately at hand, had actually taken place. The perfect state was announced to have arrived, and to be a thing not of the future but of the present. The long-expected intercourse of God and man on new terms of perfect agreement and sympathy, had come into operation; any one who chose could assure himself of the fact. The title by which Jesus described the intimate relationship of man and God which he announced, sufficiently shows its character. God is the Father in heaven; men are his children, and all that men have to do is to realise that this is so, to enter the circle and begin to live with God on such terms. The great God seeks to have every one living with him as his child; and religion is no more, no less, than this communion. Father and child dwell together in perfect love and confidence; no outward regulations are needed for their intercourse, no bargains, no traditions, no ritual, no pilgrimage, no sacrifice. The intercourse can be carried on by any one, anywhere. It is not a matter of apparatus, but a purely moral affair, an affair of love. The Father knows all about the child, is able to give him all he needs, even before he asks it; is willing to forgive his sins when he repents of them; is anxious above all to reinforce his efforts after goodness. The child knows that the Father is always near him, carries every need and wish to him in prayer, even though knowing that he is aware of them beforehand; regards all that happens, either good or ill, as sent by him for the best ends, and seeks in every case to know his will and to submit to it sweetly, and execute it faithfully.

Nothing could be simpler, or deeper, or broader. Religion is here presented free from all local or accidental or obscuring elements; religion itself is here revealed. Accepted in this form, it does for man all that it can. The relation between God and man is made purely moral; the link is not that of race, nor does it consist in anything external. The individual—every individual who will pause to hear—is assured that there exists between God and him a natural sympathy, and is urged to allow that sympathy to have its way. It is easy to see what effect such a belief must have. The individual, bidden to seek the principle of union with God not in any external circumstance or arrangement, but in his own heart, becomes conscious of an inner freedom from all artificial restraints. He finds in his own heart the secret of happiness, and is raised above all fears and irritations; and hence the forces of his nature are encouraged to unfold themselves freely. He sees clearly what as a human person he is called to be and to do, and feels a new energy to realise his ideals. As God has come down to him, he is lifted up to God; a divine power has entered his life, which is able to do all things in him and for him.

It may be said that what we have described are the effects of religious inspiration generally, and may take place in connection with any faith. But the divine impulse communicated to mankind in Christianity differs from that of any other religion in two important respects. In the first place, the God who here enters into union with man possesses full reality and a character of the utmost energy. It is Jehovah with whom we have to do here, changed, indeed, but still the same; a God of real and irresistible power, on whom speculation has not laid its weakening hand. The union of man with God is not secured by making God abstract and vague, nor is his infinite kindness and forgivingness purchased at the expense of his intensity and awfulness. With Jesus, God is still the power who has actual control over everything that goes on, and who is able to do even what appears to be most impossible. He is a God of strict justice and holiness; though he is so kind, his judgments have not ceased, but are still impending over guilty men and a guilty people. It is he who can cast both soul and body into hell. It is a God of such energy, such zeal, who yet offers himself as the willing benefactor and defender, and the loving guide and helper of the humblest of his human creatures. In the second place, the terms of the union here formed between God and man are such as can be found nowhere else. The deity inspires man not to any particular kind of acts, not to sacrifices, nor to withdrawal from the world, but inspires him simply to realise himself. Man is assured of the sympathy of this great God, and is then left in freedom as to the mode in which he should serve him. No rules are prescribed; human life is not pressed into an artificial mould, as is the case in so many great religions; no preference is accorded to any one pursuit over others. This religion is not a yoke to coerce men and to make them less, but an inspiration capable of entering into every kind of life, and of making men greater and better in whatever occupation. Even religious duties are left to form themselves naturally; all that is insisted on is that the child shall have living and real intercourse with the Father. Prayer is necessary, and so is the practice of good works; the child must keep in sympathy with the Father by doing as he does. Further than this, the forms of the religious life are not prescribed. With regard to morals, it is the same. The moral life is to build itself up freely from within; goodness is not to be a matter of rule, but the spontaneous and happy development of a principle which lives and speaks deep in the centre of the heart. Jesus is not a lawgiver, save in a metaphorical sense: the law which he sets up is nothing more than that which every man, when he turns away from all that is artificial, can find in his own breast.

It is one feature of the spontaneity and spirituality of the religion of Jesus, that it has no constitution. Jesus regarded himself as the founder not of a new religion, but only of an inner circle of more devoted believers inside the old religion of his country; he did not therefore feel called to draw up rules for a new faith, and the result of this is that the mechanism of the religion is of later growth. The authority of the founder can be appealed to for a direct and constant intercourse with God as of a child with his father, and for the conduct of men towards each other, which such intercourse with God necessarily implies, but for hardly anything more. Here, as in no other historical religion, man is free.

The religion of Jesus, therefore, is one of love alone. The divine nature consists in love, and the impulse which religion communicates, is simply that which proceeds from being loved and loving. And a religion of love finds the way, as no other can, to make man free, to unseal his energies, and to lead him upwards to the best life. The appearance of such a religion forms the most momentous epoch of human history. He who brought it forward must occupy a unique position in the estimation of mankind. It can never be superseded.

It is no doubt the case that the doctrine of Jesus was not in all respects new. The ideas of the prophets live again in him; his followers have always found many of the Jewish Psalms to be perfectly suited to their experience. Jesus lived in the faith of Israel, and considered that he had come only to make that faith better understood, and to free it from improper accretions. What was new was his own person. His great work was that he embodied his teaching in a life which expressed it perfectly. It is far short of the truth to say that there was no inconsistency between what he taught and his own conduct. His life is a demonstration, in every detail, of the effects of his religion; all flows with the utmost simplicity, and even as a matter of necessity, out of the truth he taught. What he preached was, in fact, himself; he was himself living in the kingdom of God, to which he called others to come; he knew in his own experience what it was to live as a child with the Father in heaven, and to view all persons, all things, all duties, in the light of that intercourse. All his acts and words flowed from the same spring in his own inner experience. In no other way could his life shape itself than as it did, and he saw with perfect clearness what men must be, and on what terms they must live together when God and they were as Father and children to each other. What he thus knew he lived, as if no laws but those of the kingdom of heaven had any authority for him, and so he presented to the world that living embodiment of the true religion, which has been the main strength of Christianity. Jesus announces a new union of God with man, a union in which he himself is the first to rejoice, but which all may share along with him; and hence his person counts for more in his religion than that of any other religious founder in his, and necessarily becomes an object of faith to all who enter the communion. The doctrine does not produce its specific effect apart from the person of Jesus. Because in him alone they know the truth which brings them peace, his followers regard him, in a way which has no parallel in any other religion, as their Saviour.

But this name is given to him by his followers, as it is claimed by himself, for another reason also. Jesus was more than a teacher. He felt a power to be present in him which was able to supply all needs and to comfort all sorrows; he did not shrink from summoning all who were weary and heavy laden to come to him, nor from undertaking to give them rest. Keenly alive to the sufferings of others, and able to perceive even those sufferings of which they were not themselves conscious, he felt it to be his mission to deal with the sadder side of human life; he was a physician sent to the sick, a shepherd seeking the lost sheep. It was among the poor and the sick, and even among the outcasts of society, in whom the sense of need was strongest, that he felt himself most at home and most able to fulfil his calling. Thus the motive of compassion enters strongly into all he said and did: but the compassion is not hopeless in this case as in the similar case of Gautama (see above and also), nor is the cure recommended for the ills of humanity that of withdrawal from mankind or of forgetfulness. Here there is a belief in God. The compassion from which the religion flows is not as in the case of Gautama, that of a preacher who has ceased to trust in any heavenly power; it is announced as existing first of all in the heart of God Himself. God can do all things, and in his yearning pity for his children has sent his representative to assure them of his sympathy and to comfort them in their sorrows. With Jesus therefore no evil is so great as not to admit of a positive cure; he feels the remedy of all human ills to be present in his own heart, and so he appears as the Messiah, not such a Messiah as his countrymen looked for, but as the true Messiah, in whom all human wants are met, and all human hopes fulfilled. The cure which he announces for all ills consists in devotion to the will of the Father in heaven. To give oneself unreservedly to the labour of realising the purposes of the heavenly Father in one's own heart and in the world, is to rise above all cares and sorrows; enthusiasm in the Father's service is the sovereign remedy. To one who believes in the Father, and seeks to live as his child, no despair is possible. To be engaged in his business is at all times the highest happiness, and his kingdom is assuredly coming, though man has still the privilege of working for it,—the kingdom in which all darkness and evil will be put away.

We have indicated the chief points which in a scientific comparison of Christianity with other religions appear to constitute its distinctive character; and we have sought to make our statement such as the reasonable adherent of other religions will feel to be warranted. The points are these. Christianity is a religion of freedom, it is a system of inner inspiration more than of external law or system, it is embodied in the living person of its founder, in which alone it can be truly seen; and the founder is one who is living himself in the relation to God to which he calls men to come, and feels himself called and sent to be the Saviour of men.

It is impossible in this work to treat Christianity on the same scale as the other religions; but the question of its universalism must necessarily receive attention. Jesus himself did not expressly say that his religion was for all men. It was his immediate aim to bring about the renewal of the faith of his countrymen, and to give it a more spiritual character; and some of his followers considered that he had aimed at nothing more than this. But he formed a circle of disciples and adherents, which afterwards came to be the Christian Church, and he attached no ritual condition whatever to membership in that community. Nay, more; by his repudiation of the Jewish system of tradition he showed that the Jewish laws of ritual purity were not binding upon his disciples, and the further inference could readily be drawn, that one could enter the Kingdom without being a Jew at all. The strong missionary impulse of the infant religion brought it very early in contact with Gentile life, and the question soon arose, whether those who refused to become Jews could yet claim a share in the Messiah. It was the task of the Apostle Paul to work out the theory of the universalism of Christianity, and after some conflict the principle was recognised that in the Church all racial differences disappear; "in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek." This controversy once settled—and a few years sufficed to settle it—the new religion was free to spread in all directions. It spread rapidly; the gospel was very simple and imposed no burdensome conditions, and it soon proved itself to be capable of striking root in any country. The Apostle Paul was the first great theologian of the Church; but his doctrine, as will happen in such a case, does not in all points spring out of the nature of the religion itself. The Pauline theology is an attempt to reconcile the facts of Christianity and especially that great stumbling-block to the Jews, the death of the Messiah, with the requirements of Jewish thought. Instead of seeing in the death of Christ, as the older apostles at first did, a perplexing enigma, St. Paul saw in it the principal manifestation of the compassion of the Saviour, and the great purpose for which he had come into the world. He concentrated attention on Christ's death and made the cross rather than the doctrine of the Messiah the burden of his teaching. To understand Paul we must distinguish between his religion and his theology. His religious position is essentially the same as that of Jesus himself; with him, too, the new religion is that of father and child, and of the consequences which inevitably flow from such a union. But the movement of thought which began at the moment of the crucifixion, the concentration of Christian faith and love on the person of the Saviour, was now complete. The figure of the Crucified with its powerful tragic attraction, and with its deep lessons of conquest by self-surrender, of life by dying, remained from St. Paul onwards, in the centre of the faith.

The world of the early centuries was in great need of a religion, and Christianity supplied the place which was vacant. Brought in contact, in the great ocean of the Roman Empire where all currents met, with religions and philosophies of every kind, it proved best suited to the task of supplying an inspiration for life, uniting together different classes of men and schools of thought. But in the wide arena of the Empire it received as well as gave, and in its encounters with strange rites and doctrines it also put on many a strange aspect. It became the heir of the thoughts and aspirations of a hundred empires; all the pious sentiments that flowed together from every quarter of the world helped to enrich its doctrine, and to make it the great reservoir it is of all the tendencies and views, even those most contrary to each other, which are connected with religion. Its institutions are of diverse origin. From the Jews it received its earliest Bible, for the Christians had at first no sacred books but those of the old covenant, and its weekly festival, though the day was changed. Its God was the God of the Old Testament, and its Saviour was the Messiah of Jewish prophecy, so that it was a continuation of the Jewish religion, and the attempts which were made by early Gnostics to dissolve this tie were soon forgotten.

From Greece it received much. The world it had to conquer was Greek, and the conquest could only take place by an accommodation to Greek thought and to Greek ways. In the end of chapter xvi. we spoke of the second Greek religion which arose under the influence of philosophy, and found its way wherever Greek culture spread. In this great movement, Christianity found a preparation for its coming in the Greek world, without which its spread must have been much more doubtful. In the Graeco-Roman religion the advances which appear in Christianity are already prefigured. Thought has been busy in building up a great doctrine of God, such a God as human reason can arrive at, a Being infinitely wise and good, who is the first cause and the hidden ground of all things, the sum of all wisdom, beauty, and goodness, and in whom all men alike may trust. Greek thought also found much occupation in the attempt to reach a true account of man's moral nature and destiny. Both in theory and in practice many an attempt was made to build up the ideal life of man, and thus many minds were prepared for a religion which places the riches of the inner life above all others. The Greek philosopher's school was a semi-religious union, the central point of which was, as is the case with Christianity also, not outward sacrifice but mental activity. It is not wonderful therefore if Christian institutions were assimilated to some extent to the Greek schools. It has recently been shown that the celebration of the Eucharist came very early to bear a close resemblance to that of a Greek mystery, and that there is an unbroken line of connection between the discourse of the Greek philosopher and the Christian sermon. In some of the Greek schools pastoral visitation was practised, and the preacher kept up an oversight of the moral conduct of his adherents. While Christianity certainly had vigour enough to shape its own institutions, and may even be seen to be doing so in some of the books of the New Testament, the agreement between Greek and Christian practices amounts to something more than coincidence.

It was towards the end of the second century that the alliance between Christianity and the Greek world was finally ratified. Till then belief and practice were determined mainly by custom and tradition; but now these were to give way to definite laws and settled institutions. There came to full development, about the period we have mentioned, a highly-organised system of church government, a canon of sacred books of Christian origin, and a creed in which the beliefs of Christians were drawn together in one statement. It cannot be denied that the elaborate external forms with which the religion of Jesus was thus invested went far to change its spirit also. But this happens to every religion which reaches the stage of organising itself in order to continue in the world and to rule permanently in human thought and in human society. No external forms can adequately express living religious ideas; and yet there must be external forms in order that religious ideas may be perpetuated. The ministers of the new truth inevitably rise in dignity till they grow into a hierarchy. That truth inevitably seeks to establish itself as scientifically true, and with the aid of the ruling philosophical tendency of the day clothes itself in a view of the universe and in a creed. Thus the essence of Christianity came to consist not in loving the Master and following him in faith and love, but in upholding the authority of the Church, receiving her sacraments, and believing various metaphysical and transcendental statements. Here also a hard shell is formed round the spiritual kernel of the religion which, if it is fitted to preserve the latter in rude and stormy times, is also fitted to confuse and also apt to conceal it.

In each of the countries to which it came, Christianity adopted what it could of the religion formerly existing there. The old religions of these lands were not all alike, and hence it came to pass that as the language of Rome was transformed in various ways, and passed into the different yet cognate tongues of the Romance nations, so the religion of the Empire, combining with various forms of heathenism, passed into several national religions, the differences of which are at least as conspicuous as their similarity. In Italy Christianity appears to be a system of local deities, each village worshipping its own Madonna or saint. In Holland worship consists almost entirely of preaching. In other countries the ritual and the intellectual elements of religion are blended in varying proportions; and the former heathenism of each land is also to be traced in many a popular observance and belief. So great is the variety of the religions of Europe, not to mention that of the negroes or the Shakers of America, that many have doubted whether they ought all to be considered as branches of one faith, or whether they would not more fitly be regarded as so many national religions which have all alike connected themselves with Christianity. Against this there is to be urged in the first place that as a matter of history they are all undoubtedly offshoots of the religion of Jesus. It may also be urged that wherever the name of Jesus is named, his ideas must to some extent be present, however much they are obscured and prevented from operating by lower modes of view. The Christianity of no country ought to be judged by the attitude of its most ignorant or even of its average adherents; and in every land where Christianity prevails, an influence connected with religion is at work, which makes for the emancipation and elevation of the human person, and for the awakening of the manifold energies of human nature. This, as we saw, is the immediate and native tendency of the religion of Jesus; it opens the prison doors to them that are bound; it communicates by its inner encouragement an energy which makes the infirm forget their weaknesses, it fills the heart with hope and opens up new views of what man can do and can become. It is this that makes it the one truly universal religion. Islam, it is true, has also proved its power to live in many lands, and Buddhism has spread over half of Asia. But Buddhism is not a full religion, it does not tend to action but to passivity, and affords no help to progress. Islam, on the other hand, is a yoke rather than an inspiration; it is inwardly hostile to freedom, and is incapable of aiding in higher moral development. Christianity has a message to which men become always more willing to respond as they rise in the scale of civilisation; it has proved its power to enter into the lives of various nations, and to adapt itself to their circumstances and guide their aspirations without humiliating them. A religion which identifies itself, as Christianity does, with the cause of freedom in every land, and tends to unite all men in one great brotherhood under the loving God who is the Father of all alike, is surely the desire of all nations, and is destined to be the faith of all mankind.

A bibliography of the recent study of Christianity would be far too extensive for this book. An excellent statement on the subject will be found at the hands of Professor Sanday in the Oxford Proceedings, vol. ii. p. 263, sqq.

History of Religion, By Allan Menzies, D.D., Part IV, Chapter XXI


The Aryans who entered India to become its dominant race came from Central Asia, and left behind them there other tribes of Aryan culture. These tribes remained in what is called Iran, in the lands, that is to say, between the Indus, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Persian Gulf. It is from this region, a part of which bore in ancient times the name of Ariana, that the word "Aryan" is derived. The languages of this territory are akin to Sanscrit; and there is ample evidence that before the Indian invasion the progenitors of the Indians and those of the Iranians dwelt together there, and enjoyed a common civilisation. If the civilisation was the same the religion also was the same. How the Indo-Iranian religion was developed in India, we have seen. At first a worship of active and militant deities, it became by degrees a religion of a passive type, in which a suffering, acquiescent, and brooding humanity presented to heaven its needs and problems, and received a corresponding answer. The Aryans who remained in Iran retained their active and practical disposition. While by no means wanting in sensitiveness and flexibility of mind, they were less given to speculation and more to a robust morality than their Indian kinsmen. It has to be noted that while the religion of India has not influenced Europe in any manifest degree until the present century, that of Persia has contributed in a marked way to form the world of thought in which we dwell.

Sources.—The views generally current about the ancient religion of Persia are derived from late Greek writers, whose accounts will be noticed at the end of this chapter. A truer knowledge is now possible, since the sacred books of the religion are now open to the world. They were only obtained from the Parsis, who keep up their ancient religion on the soil of India, during last century, and the study of them has been very laborious and difficult, and has given rise to great controversies which are not yet settled. These ancient books are furnished with Eastern translations and commentaries. Is the Western scholar to place himself under the guidance of these, which no doubt are part of the historical tradition of the religion, or may he claim that he is himself in as good a position as the Oriental commentator for understanding the original meaning of the texts; and will he best interpret them by comparing them with the Vedas? What is their age; in which of the lands of Iran were they written; was any part of them written by Zoroaster, or is Zoroaster to be regarded as an historical personage at all? On all these questions and on many others, scholars are not yet agreed; and while so much is uncertain about the books, there must also be great uncertainty about the history and the very nature of the religion. In what follows we are guided mainly by the scholars who have taken charge of the volumes connected with Persia in the Sacred Books of the East.1 In the last of these volumes (xxxi.) a new clue is given to the subject, of which we shall gladly avail ourselves.

1 Zend-Avesta, S. B. E., vols. iv., xxiii., xxxi.
The sacred books of Persia are known by the name of "Zend-Avesta," which is an incorrect expression; we ought to say Avesta and Zend. "Avesta," like the kindred word "Veda," signifies knowledge, and the word "Zend" denotes here not the language of that name, but the "commentary" afterwards added to the original knowledge or text. The commentary is not written in the Zend language, but in Pahlavi or Persian. The Avesta, which is written in the older Zend, the sacred language of Persia, is, like other Bibles, a collection of books written in different ages, and even, it may be, in different lands. The books were brought together into one only at some period after the Christian era. The later legends as to the supernatural communication to Zoroaster of the earlier books need not detain us; we must notice, however, that the preserved books of Persian religion are held to be no more than the scanty ruins of an extensive literature. The Avesta consisted originally of 21 Nosks or books, and most of these were destroyed by Alexander when he invaded the East; only one Nosk was preserved entire. As we have it, the Avesta is a liturgical work, it contains some legends and some ancient hymns, as well as a good deal of law, but its prevailing character is that of a service-book, and it is to this that its partial preservation both at the invasion of Alexander, and at that of the Mohammedans in a later century, is probably due. It consists of three parts. The oldest is the Yasna, a collection of liturgies, which admit and indeed invite comparison with those of early Christianity: along with these are found the Gathas or hymns, the only part of the Avesta composed in verse, and written in an older dialect. The Visperad is a collection of litanies for the sacrifice; and the Vendidad is a code of early law, but contains also various religious legends. Besides these works, which constitute the Avesta proper, there is the Khorda (or small) Avesta containing devotions for various times of the day, for the days of the month, and for the religious year; these are for the use not of the priests alone but of all the faithful, and many of them are still so used.

The Contents of the Zend-Avesta are Composite.—In these works the student soon observes that he has before him not one religious system only but several. In one place we find a worship of one god, as if there were no others to be considered; some of the litanies on the other hand contain lengthy and elaborate lists of objects of worship. In some parts the religion is personal and immediate; in others it is priestly. Parsism is often called fire-worship, and the elements of earth and water also obtain extreme sanctity in it, but of this also there is in the oldest books little trace. The variety in the literature no doubt reflects a variety in the religion of Iran. Iran in fact had not one religion but several, and thus the problem is to trace how these successively entered into contact with Mazdeism or Zoroastrianism, which is the religion most native to Iran, and were embodied in it. The different religions belonged to a certain extent to different provinces. We know that Persia, the conqueror of Media, was conquered in turn by the Median religion; we also know that the religion of the Persian kings as read in their inscriptions2 does not correspond to any of the religious positions held in the Avesta. The Magi, from whom also the religion as a whole derives one of its names, belonged to Media and passed from there to greater power in Iran as a whole. From the Scythians on the north and from Babylonia on the south, ideas and practices were imported; and in these and other ways, forms of religion arose as different from the faith of Zoroaster as later forms of Christianity from the simplicity of Christ, yet looking to him as their founder and the giver of their law.

2 Records of the Past, i. 107.
Zoroaster.—We begin with the teaching of Zoroaster. Dr. E. Meyer in his Geschichte des Alterthums, vol. i., and Mr. Darmesteter in his admirable introduction to the Avesta (S. B. E. vol. iv.) both treat Zoroaster as a mythical personage, a figure-head of the official class of the religion, who give currency to their edicts under his name. Weighty authorities may, however, be quoted for the historical reality of Zoroaster, and what appears to us most important of all, the editor of the Gathas, in the S. B. E. vol. xxxi., departing from his collaborateur, Mr. Darmesteter, has treated these hymns, which give an account of the founder's acts and experiences when first proclaiming the true doctrine, in such a way as to produce on the mind of the reader the strongest impression of the historical reality of the prophet and of his mission. They introduce us to a religious movement actually in progress in the poet's time, a movement in which a pure and lofty faith is struggling to establish itself against prevailing superstitions. The doctrine placed in the mouth of the reformer is that which is most central in Persian religion; and only by such deep earnestness and devotion as is here ascribed to him, could it have attained that position. We start, then, with Zoroaster and his work; and first of all we ask what was his date, where did he live, and what kind of religion did he find existing in his country?

The date of Zoroaster or Zarathustra—the former is the Greek, the latter the old Iranian form of the name, contracted in Persian to Zardusht—can only be fixed very approximately. He stands at the very beginning of the Avesta literature, and the developments in religion to which that literature testifies must have occupied a long period. On the other hand no one proposes to place Zarathustra before the departure of the Indian Aryans from the Indo-Iranian stock. From such vague data he may be assigned perhaps to somewhere about 1400 B.C. As to his province, there is considerable agreement among scholars that his doctrine spread from the east of Iran westwards; and though tradition gives him a birthplace in Media, his mission lay nearer to India, in Bactria.

Primitive Religion of Iran.—He did not preach to men unacquainted with religion. Many of the religious ideas and figures of the Vedas occur also in Persia, and by the study of these it is possible to form certain inferences as to the mental history of Persia before Zarathustra. Mithra the sun-god belongs to Persia as well as India. The heaven-god known in India as Varuna grew into the principal deity of Persia. A fire-god, wind- and rain-gods, and the serpent hostile to man, on whom these made war, are common to both countries. The institution of sacrifice, in which the deities are served with offerings and with hymns, is markedly alike in both countries. In both alike sacrifice is at first the affair not of a priesthood but of laymen, especially of princes, and is not confined to temples but is performed in the open air, on a spot judged to be suitable. The most imposing sacrifice is that of the horse, and an offering of constant occurrence is that of the intoxicating liquor, in India Soma, in Persia by a recognised transliteration Homa, which is itself viewed as a cosmic principle of life, and addressed as a deity. And in both countries alike the view of sacrifice prevails in early times, that the gods come to it to take their part in a banquet which their worshippers share with them, and that they are strengthened and encouraged by it.

These similarities, and others which might be mentioned, show that the religion of India and that of Persia started from a common stock of ideas and usages. A further circumstance of great importance shows not only the original identity of the two systems, but also perhaps how they came to diverge from each other. Two generic titles for deities occur in India. The first of these—deva, is said to signify the bright or shining one, the second—asura, the living one. Now these titles are also found in Persia; but the use of the terms is different in the two countries. In India both are at first titles for deity, but by degrees, while "deva" continues to denote the gods who are worshipped, "asura" assumes a less favourable meaning, until at length it comes to stand for a second order of beings, inferior to the devas, and including such powers as are malignant and hostile. In Persia the fortunes of the two words are reversed. Ahura becomes the god par excellence, the supreme god; while "deva," the title which in India remained in honour, is in the Avesta that of evil gods who are not to be worshipped. In this some scholars consider that we may hear the watchwords of the conflict which led to the separation of the two religions; there was a schism between the followers of the Ahuras and those of the Devas, which led to the entire separation of the two parties. This is the latest form of the old view which makes Zoroastrianism the outcome of a religious conflict, of a reaction against the gods afterwards worshipped in India. There is no direct evidence of such a conflict, and the difference we have described may be due to the natural development of the Indo-Iranian religion in different sets of circumstances and among different peoples. Zarathustra in the Gathas finds the antithesis fully formed between the good and the evil deities; he appeals to his countrymen on that matter as one which he does not need to teach them, but with which they have long been familiar. In speaking of his date this has to be remembered.

We proceed now to describe from the Gathas the work and teaching of Zarathustra. The Gathas are poems written in metres which occur also in the Vedas, and intended, like the Indian hymns, to be used in worship. The account which they furnish of the mission and the teaching of the sage are thus clothed in a poetical dress, and do not narrate bare facts as they occurred, but the facts as interpreted and treated for religious use. They are in the mouth of Zarathustra himself; he writes them for use at sacrifice, and remembering how they are to be rendered, he sometimes puts in the mouth of the celebrants the words, "Zarathustra and we." These words do not prove that the hymns are not by him. As explained by Dr. Mills, the hymns are seen to be very fully charged with meaning and with sentiment. Uncouth and inartistic in expression, and demanding an immense amount of patience and ingenuity to trace their connection of thought, they surprise the reader when once he seizes their meaning, by the depth and spirituality of their contents, and force him to acknowledge that they are a worthy document of the birth of a great religion.

The Call of Zarathustra.—The hymns give a vivid picture of that early world in which the prophet lived. It was a world distracted with conflict. On one side there is an agricultural community bent on industry, and, like the Hindus, even at this day, valuing as most sacred the cattle which form their chief substance. On the other hand, there are men who dwell on the outskirts between the tilled land and the wilderness, who are constantly making raids on the farms, driving off and killing the cattle for sacrifice and for food, and ruining the fields by destroying the irrigating works on which their fertility depends. And there is a religious difference as well as a difference in culture between these two sets of people. The agriculturists are worshippers of Ahura; the contemners of the cattle worship beings called in the Gathas "daevas." This schism was not of Zarathustra's making, he found it going on, and being a priest was entitled to come forward and seek to guide others with regard to it. Such is the situation which the hymns present to us. We will try to state the substance of some of those hymns. The naked words of them, even when we are sure of the correctness of the translation, are barely intelligible without lengthy commentary; and on the other hand, no short statement in modern terms can convey the force and solemnity of these struggling utterances. As we are dealing with the original revelation of Zarathustra, the source of the Persian religion, we shall give the story with some degree of detail.

The first hymn in the arrangement presented to us in S. B. E. deals with what we may term the call of Zarathustra. It sums up in a poetic and dramatic form the religious result of the movement which led him to come forward.

The "Soul of the Kine" first speaks; it is the impersonation of the agricultural community, to whom their cattle are most sacred. She raises a complaint to Ahura and Asha (the righteousness which is an attribute of Ahura, and like his other attributes often appears as an independent person) of the insolence and highhanded devastation and robbery she has to suffer. "For whom did ye fashion me," she says; "wherefore was I made?" She appeals to the Immortals for instruction in tillage with a view to security and welfare.

Ahura then speaks and asks Asha what guardian has been appointed for the kine to lead and to defend her; and Asha answers that no one, himself free from passion and violence, could be found who was capable of being an adequate guardian. The causes of these evils lie at the roots of the constitution of things, and therefore those seeking success in any enterprise must approach Ahura himself and not any subordinate being.

Zarathustra speaks, and confirms the utterances of Asha; it is in Ahura himself that he and the kine place their confidence; to his will they submit themselves; the doubts and questions arising from their outward insecurity, they refer to him.

Ahura speaks and answers his own question. It is true that no lord of the kine is to be found, who in himself is quite equal to that position, but he appoints Zarathustra as head to the agricultural community.

A chorus speaks, consisting of a company of the faithful supposed to be present, or of the Ameshospends, the personified attributes of Ahura, and praise the Lord for his bounty and for the wisdom he makes known; but asks whom he has endowed with the Good Mind, or, as we might say, the Holy Spirit, to make known to mortals his doctrine. The call of Zarathustra, intimated in the foregoing verse, is overlooked, as if it were impossible that such a one as he could undertake the office. Ahura replies, repeating his commission to Zarathustra, here called also by his family name of Spitama, and promising to establish him and make him successful in his work.

The Soul of the Kine speaks, lamenting still that no adequate lord has been assigned her. Zarathustra is a feeble and pusillanimous man, not one of royal state who is able to bring his purpose to effect. The Ameshospends join in the cry for the true lord to appear.

Zarathustra then speaks, accepting the mission in an address to Ahura, whom he entreats to send his blessings of peace and happiness, since none but he can give them, and to set up in the minds of the disciples of the cause that joy and that kingdom which, though it first comes inwardly, yet brings with it also all outward blessings. For himself also he prays that the Good Mind and the Sovereign Power (another of the attributes) of the Lord may hasten to come to him and strengthen him for his mission.

This poetical rendering of the call of Zarathustra is free both from miraculous embellishment and from undue exaltation of the person of the prophet, and forms a great contrast to later statements in the Avesta, where the prophet is placed in secret conclave with Ahura, asking him questions and receiving detailed replies which at once rank as revelation. In the Gathas, allowing for the theological and poetic form, everything is human and natural. We are strongly reminded of the accounts of the calls of prophets in the Old Testament—there is the same choice by the deity of an apparently weak instrument to accomplish a work urgently called for by the times, the same sense of insufficiency on the part of the prophet, but the same absolute confidence on his part in the power of the deity, and hence the same absolute assurance, once the mission is accepted, that the cause which he has been called to carry forward must succeed. In many of the following Gathas the same parallel is strongly impressed on the mind of the reader. The sense of weakness is expressed again and again—the prophet has no victorious career, but is exposed to much gainsaying, which he feels acutely. Yet he never doubts that his god is with him, and is working for him. To him he commits his doubts and fears, of his goodness he is joyfully assured, and his aid he expects with confidence. He is entirely devoted to Ahura and his cause, and offers himself up with his whole powers to work out the divine will. He will teach, he says, as long as he is able, till he has brought all the living to believe. He is conscious of a divine power working in him. Nothing in himself, he is strong by the divine grace which Ahura sends him: his words have efficacy to keep the fiends at a distance, and to advance in men's minds the divine kingdom; like St. Paul he feels his message to be to some a savour of life unto life, to others a savour of death unto death.

The Doctrine.—And what is the message he proclaims? It is a philosophy of the origin of the world, but a philosophy the acceptance of which involves immediate and strenuous action. The distracted condition of the world before him requires to be explained, so that a remedy for it may be found; and Zarathustra prays, when he is about to bring forward his doctrine, that Ahura would help him to explain how the material world arose. The explanation when it appears is not quite new, it has been shaping itself already in the mind of his people, but he sets it forth as a dogma, and draws from it at once all its practical consequences. In the third hymn of the first Gatha he solemnly brings forward his doctrine before the people, and appeals to them, not as a people, but as individuals, each for himself, with a full sense of his responsibility, to consider it, and adopt it, and act upon it. It is the doctrine of dualism, not in the fully developed later form in which two personal potentates divide the universe between them from the first, but as yet in a form more speculative and vague. There are two primeval principles, spirits, things, as is well known—the expression is indefinite—the counterparts of each other, independent in their action, a better and a worse, and Zarathustra calls on his audience to choose between them, and not to choose as do the evildoers. The world, as it is, was made by the joint action of the two principles, and they also fixed the alternative fates of men, for the wicked, Hell—the worst life; and for the holy, Heaven—the best mental state. After the creation was accomplished, the two principles drew off from each other, the evil one making choice of evil and of evil works, and the bounteous spirit choosing righteousness, making his strong seat in heaven, and taking for his own those who do good and who believe in him. The Daevas and their followers are incapable of making a just choice between the good and the evil; they have surrendered themselves from the outset to the "Worst Mind," the demon of fury, and to all evil works. (There are vague suggestions here of a temptation and a fall, but only of the evil spirits and their followers.) From this point onwards the world is filled with a great struggle. On the one side is Ahura, the only god worshipped by name in the Gathas. Ahura is a heaven-god, he is, in fact, the bright heaven, and then the good and beneficent being who dwells in brightness. In the hymns he is losing his definite character and becoming an abstraction, a god of dogmatics rather than of history. He is the good principle personified, and as becomes a god of such transcendent character, he does not act directly, but through his satellites. His attributes personified, do his bidding, aid the saints in spiritual ways, and prepare for the better order of things. On the other hand are the Daevas with the demon of wrath, who propagate everywhere lies and mischief, and heap up vengeance for themselves against the final judgment. For the good there is nothing better than to aid,—for they can aid, in bringing on the renovation, dwelling with Ahura even now, and by his attributes which work in them as well as in him, reinforcing the righteous order, and preparing themselves to dwell where wisdom has her home. In the end the Demon of the Lie will be rendered harmless and delivered up to Righteousness as a captive.

Inconsistencies.—As it happens in every such reform, the new teaching is not quite consistent with itself; old views are taken up into the new teaching, although they do not harmonise with it; the spiritual way of looking at things alternates with a more worldly way. The following are some examples of this:—The great doctrine of Heaven and Hell as inner states, as being simply the best and the worst state of mind, is clearly announced; but the traditional view of future abodes of happiness and misery also appears. The Kinvat-bridge is mentioned several times in the Gathas, over which Iran conceived that the individual had to pass after death. If he was righteous the bridge bore him safely over to the sacred mountain, where the good lived again; if he was wicked, he fell off the bridge and found himself in the place of torment. It is another inconsistency that Zarathustra expects, on the one hand, to convert the world by his preaching, while on the other hand his sense of the antagonism between the good and the evil spirits and their followers often hurries him into violent methods. One hymn concludes with a summons to his adherents to fall on the unbelievers with the halberd, and he is constantly predicting their sudden overthrow. Along with this, we may mention that he sought to ally himself with powerful families for the sake of the support they would bring the cause. The name of Vishtaspa, king we know not of what realm, is always associated with the prophet as that of his royal patron; other influential friends are also mentioned. Another point, in which we notice accommodation to existing usage, is that of sacrifice. The Gathas have several noble passages describing the true sacrifice man has to offer to God for his goodness, as consisting simply in the offering of self, in the devotion to the deity of all a man is, and all he can do. At the same time Zarathustra has not a word to say in disparagement of the sacrifice of victims. He prays for guidance in this part of religious duty; he desires to have everything connected with sacrifice done in the best way and with the most effective hymns. Thus the spiritual life is not left to stand alone. There is a personal walk with God, our piety is said to be God's daughter in us, his righteousness is working in us and moulding us for his purposes; both will and deed of the good man are attributed to him, and the processes are described with true insight by which the soul is sanctified and wedded to her task and her true destiny; but at the same time there is an intent looking to that sacred Fire which is an outward representative of deity; there is the offering of victims, even of horses, when the prophet's mind is bent on war (the Homa-offering does not occur, and we may suppose the prophet rejected this service of the deity by intoxication); there is the smiting of the demons with prayer, and imprecations, similar to those in the Psalms, against adversaries of the cause.

It is no proof of unspirituality that the welfare of the Kine, with whose wail the call of the prophet began, is steadily kept in view during his mission. The agriculturists are on the side of the righteous being, good and ever-better tillage is a means of pleasing him; it is his will that the kine should be freed from alarms and should prosper; and he may be appealed to to give lessons with a view to that end. The doctrine passes far beyond its first occasion; yet the occasion which called for it is never lost sight of.

The Gathas, taken alone, tell us hardly anything of the religion in which Zarathustra's fellow-countrymen believed. They believed undoubtedly in many gods; in those parts of the Avesta which come next to the hymns in time, polytheism is in full force. That Zarathustra only speaks of one god, Ahura (though he also speaks of "the Immortals" generally), may be due to the limited extent and special purpose of the hymns, but it may also be taken as an indication that the prophet did not needlessly interfere with the beliefs of his people: content to preach the doctrine with which he was charged, and which was to him the sum and substance of all religion, he, like several other religious founders, stirred up no strife he could avoid. The doctrine he preached was not unprepared for in the mind of his country, and continued to be the leading feature of Persian religion in subsequent periods.

It is a momentous step in religious progress, which the prophet of Iran calls on his countrymen to take. We notice the main features of the advance.

1. Man is Called to Judge between the Gods.—Zarathustra, like Elijah, puts before his people the choice between two worships. Various distinctions between the two cases might be drawn. In the Scripture case Baal is not a bad god, but simply the wrong god for Israel to worship. In the case of our reformer the difference between the two worships is a deeper one. The individual is to choose his god, he is to declare of his own motion that one god is better than others, and that no worship whatever is to be paid to these others. This was a new departure in antiquity; the early world loved to think of many gods, all alike divine and worshipful, each race or clan having its god whom it naturally served, or each part of the earth being portioned out to a divine lord of its own. Neither Greece nor Rome ever thought of making the individual man the arbiter among the unseen beings whom he knew, and requiring him to decide which of them he should consider divine, and which he should disown. In the case before us, moreover, the choice is to be made on moral grounds. Men are called to judge of the character of the beings who are called gods, they are told that there is no necessity to acknowledge those of whom they disapprove, they are emancipated from the fear of hurtful and evil beings. There is war in heaven, and men are encouraged to take part in that war, and to cast off allegiance to such powers as do not make for righteousness. How there came to be such strife among the gods, and how it became necessary that men should judge of it, we have no clear information; we only know that the momentous step was called for and was taken.

The belief, however, remains even after the decision that there are unseen evil beings, who had influence in forming the constitution of things, and who have influence still over the government of the world. The position taken up is not monotheism. The good god is not sole creator or sole governor of the world, he is a limited being; from the outset he has only in part got his own way, and he has adversaries in the very constitution of things, whom he cannot get rid of. Persian thought is dualistic; the conception of an Evil Creator and Governor co-ordinate with the good one differentiates it from the thought of India, which always tends to a principle of unity.

2. In the second place, this religion is essentially intolerant and persecuting. Having chosen his side in the great war which divides the universe, man can only prosecute that war with all his force; he must regard the Daevas and their followers as his enemies, and try to weaken and extinguish them. The general feeling of the ancient world about differences in religion was that all religions were equally legitimate, each on its own soil. The Jews, we know, shocked the Greeks and Romans greatly by denying this, and maintaining that there was only one true religion, namely, their own, and that all the others were worships of gods false and vain. But the Persians came before the Jews in this; the Gathas preach persecution, and the insults offered by Persian kings in later times to the religions of Egypt and Greece were no doubt justified by their convictions. In Persia, as in Israel, religion had come to entertain the notion of false gods. And a religion which entertains that notion must be exclusive. Those who have refused to worship beings hitherto deemed gods, on the ground that they ought not to be worshipped and are not truly gods, cannot but desire to bring the worship of such beings entirely to an end, and to make the worship of the true God prevail instead, by rude or by gentle means, as the stage of civilisation may in each case suggest.

Growth of Mazdeism.—After the Gathas proper we have other hymns written in the Gathic dialect, from which the history of the religion after its foundation may be to some extent inferred.3 These show that the Zarathustrian religion was regarded, after the departure of the founder, as a great divine institution, and was worked out on the lines he had laid down. The forms of it became of course more fixed. The god it serves is now called "Ahura Mazda," the "All-Knowing Lord" (the name is afterwards contracted into the Greek Oromazdes, the Persian Hormazd; and the religion is called from it Mazdeism); he is still implored for spiritual blessings both for this and for the future life, and for furtherance in agriculture. There is, however, a tendency to address prayer not only to Ahura himself but to beings connected with him. As if the mind wearied of dwelling on the one supreme, the Bountiful Immortals are associated with him, the parts of his holy creation are invoked, the fire which is most closely identified with him, the stars which are his body, the waters, the earth, all good animals and plants. The kine's soul receives sacrifice, and not only the kine's soul which we have met before, but the souls of "just men and holy women," the Fravashis or spirits not only of the departed but of the living also, the service of which continues and increases henceforward in Persian religion. These are invented deities and have a shadowy character; but gods of more substance, and more historical reality also came into view at this point. Zarathustra becomes a god, the hymns themselves are adored; the Homa-offering reappears, Mithra is often coupled with Ahura, other old gods creep back and are mentioned along with the moral abstractions, which also increase in number; in one passage there are said to be thirty-three objects of worship, a number which also occurs in India.

3 Yasna Haptanghaiti, S. B. E. xxxi. p. 218, sqq., and others following.
Organisation of the Heavenly Beings.—With all this multiplication there is, as we shall see, no compromise of the supreme claims of Ahura. In some of the hymns, all beings, all attributes, all places, and all times of a sacred nature are heaped indiscriminately together, in interminable catalogues. But this apparent confusion is corrected by a remarkable tendency to organisation. The Persian religion ultimately came to have a very simple and very striking theology; and that theology was made up by transforming the abstractions in which the founder dealt, into persons, and arranging them after the pattern of Oriental society. In the later Yasnas (liturgies) a figure rises into view which the Gathas do not mention; that of Angra Mainyu, later Ahriman, the Bad Spirit. In this counterpart of Spenta Mainyu, the Good Spirit (who is not at first identified with Ahura, but proceeds from him), the demons obtain a personal head, and the dualism which appears in all nature and all human society is thus brought to a personal expression. Ahura and Ahriman confront each other as the good power and the evil. Both alike had part in making the world what it is. In every part of the world, and in all that is felt and done they are at strife. Ahura, to quote Mr. Darmesteter, is all light, truth, goodness, and knowledge; Angra Mainyu is all darkness, falsehood, wickedness, and ignorance. Whatever the good spirit makes, the evil spirit mars; he opposes every creation of Ahura's with a plague of his own, it is he who mixed poison with plants, smoke with fire, sin with man, and death with life.

The Attributes of Ahura.—Each of these beings has his retinue. That of Ahura was formed first; it consists of his attributes. Even in the hymns the attributes are regarded as persons, inseparable companions of Ahura; appeals are made to one or another of them, according as the worshipper seeks help from one side or the other of the divine being. By a process which frequently occurs in religious thought, they afterwards come to be more formally arranged and defined; there are six of them, and each is charged with a province of the divine economy. They are as follows:

Vohu Mano (Bahman) Good Mind; he is the head and the guardian of the living creation of Ahura.

Asha Vahista (Ardibehesht), Excellent Holiness; he is the genius of fire.

Kshathra Vairya (Shahrevar), Perfect Sovereignty; he is the lord of metals.

Spenta Armaiti (Spendarmat) divine piety, conceived as female, the goddess of the earth.

Haurvatat (Khordat) health.

Ameretat (Amerdat) immortality.

The last two are a pair, and have charge conjointly of waters and of trees.

Ahura is himself one of these spirits; thus there are seven supreme spirits.

Retinue of Ahriman.—Angra Mainyu on his part comes to have a corresponding retinue of six daevas, each being the evil counterpart of one of the good spirits. Evil Mind, Sickness, and Decay are the names of some of them. The whole spiritual world is ranged on the side of the good or of the evil deity. The Izatas (Izeds) or angels consist of gods of immemorial worship in Iran, some of whom are the same as gods worshipped in India; but the title also applies to gods, heavenly and earthly, of later creation, so that the class is a very wide and elastic one. It comprises some beings who have been reduced by the operation of the new ideas from the first to the second rank of deities, such as Verethragna, who corresponds to the Vedic Indra, and Mithra, the sun-god. These now appear in the same rank as gods of the newer style, such as Sraosha, Obedience, and survivals of early superstition, such as the "Curse of the wise," a very powerful Ized. Zarathustra himself belongs to this class of deities, a miscellaneous one indeed. Another class of sacred beings of world-wide extent is that of the Fravashis spoken of above. If the good spirits are many and various, so are the evil. Of these are the great demon-serpent Azhi who plays a great part in Persian mythology, as Vrittra does in Indian. Aeshma, later Asmodeus, may be named; he is one of the Drvants, or storm-fiends. Gahi, an unfaithful goddess, has fallen to a demon of unchastity; the Pairikas (Peris) are female tempters; the Yatu are demons connected with sorcery.

The firm organisation of these hosts of spiritual beings, and the sense of a great conflict in which they are all engaged from the greatest to the least of them, preserve Mazdeism from the weakness and absurdity which are apt to creep over religion when the population of the upper and the nether regions is unduly multiplied. The faithful never forget Ahura in favour of the minor deities, nor do they forget that morals and industry are the chief ends of religion, and that in cultivating these they hasten the coming of the kingdom. The following is the formula, the "Praise of Holiness," with which every act of worship begins in the Yasts4 (liturgies of the Izeds):

May Ahura Mazda be rejoiced!

Holiness is the best of all good!

I confess myself a worshipper of Mazda, a follower of Zarathustra, one who hates the daevas and obeys the laws of Ahura.
4 S. B. E. vol. xxiii.
Ancient Testimonies to the Persian Religion.—It is at this stage, while it is still in a state of vigour, that we hear of the Persian religion from various quarters in ancient records. The chapters in the latter half of Isaiah, which so vigorously denounce idolatry, hail the approach of Cyrus towards Babylon, and claim unity of religion between him and the Jews (Isaiah xliv. 28 sq.). He is the shepherd who is to lead Jehovah's people back to their own land, and to cause their temple to be rebuilt. And this claim that the Jewish and the Persian religions were the same, that the Jews and the Persians were alike worshippers of the one true God, while all the surrounding nations were polytheists and idolaters, was admitted on the side of Persia. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus at once permitted the exiles to return to their own land. The Persian monarchs of the following century, Darius and Artaxerxes, continued to take a friendly interest in the worship of Jehovah, whom they apparently regarded as a form of their own god, "the God of heaven," Hormazd (Ezra vii. 21). They accordingly took measures for the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, and for the introduction there of the new religious constitution which had been prepared at Babylon. This could not have happened if the religion of the Persian kings had not been a pure service of one god,5 and the other information we have on the subject shows that the Mazdeism of Persia at this period was a very elevated form of the religion. The inscriptions of Darius do not mention the spread of the worships of Mitra and Anahita, which, however, make their appearance in the later inscriptions of Artaxerxes; in none of them is Ahriman spoken of. This, of course, does not prove that he was not believed in; when the Jewish prophet proclaims that Jehovah makes both light and darkness, that he both wounds and heals, there may be a reference to Persian dualism. Yet Mazdeism was capable of appearing, and did appear to the foreigner, as a lofty worship of a god of light and goodness. The same impression is produced by the descriptions of the Greek writers. Herodotus (i. 131, 132) writes as follows; he is a contemporary of Ezra: "The following statements as to the customs of the Persians is to be relied on. They do not fashion images of the gods, nor build temples, nor altars—they consider it wrong to do so, and count it a proof of folly; their reason for this being, as I think, that they do not believe the gods to be beings of the same nature with men as the Greeks do. They are accustomed to offer sacrifices to Zeus on the summits of mountains; they call the whole circle of heaven Zeus. They sacrifice also to the sun, and the moon, and the earth, and to fire, and to water, and to the winds. These are the ancient parts of their ritual, but they have added the worship of the Queen of heaven, Aphrodite; it was from the Assyrians and the Arabs that they acquired this. The Assyrian name for Aphrodite is Mylitta, the Arabs call her Alilat, the Persians, Anahita.6 Such being their gods the Persians sacrifice to them on this wise. They have no altar, and do not use fire in sacrifice, nor do they have libations nor flutes, nor wreaths nor barley. He who wishes to sacrifice takes his victim to a clean spot and there calls on the deity, his turban wreathed, as a rule, with myrtle. He does not think of praying for benefits for himself individually in connection with his sacrifice; he prays for the welfare of the Persian people and king; he himself is one of the Persian people. He then cuts up the victim, boils the pieces and spreads them out on the softest grass he can find—if possible, on clover. This done, one of the Magians who has come to assist, sings a theogony,7 as they call the accompanying hymn; no sacrifice is allowed to be offered without one of the Magi being present. After a short pause the sacrificer takes up the pieces of flesh and does with them whatever he likes."

5 These two religions, Kuenen says, were more like each other than any other two religions of antiquity.—Religion of Israel, iii. 33.
6 Herodotus says Mitra; but this is a mistake, whether of the father of history or of a transcriber.
7 One of the Yashts in praise of the particular deity.
In other passages Herodotus tells us of the extreme sanctity attributed by the Persians to waters, to fire, and to the sun. He also tells us that they regarded lying as the worst possible offence, and next to it falling into debt, since the debtor is tempted to tell lies.

Plutarch writes as follows, quoting from an earlier Greek writer of the third century B.C.: "Zoroaster the Magician,8 who was 5000 years before the war of Troy, named the good god Oromazes and the other Arimonius ... Oromazes is engendered of the clearest and purest light, Arimonius of deep darkness; and they war one upon another. The former of these created six other gods (here follow the Amshaspands), but the latter produceth as many other in number, of adverse operation to the former.... There will come a time when this Arimonius, who brings into the world plague and famine, shall of necessity be rooted out and utterly destroyed for ever ... then shall men be all in happy estate, they shall need no more food, nor cast any shadow from them; and that god who hath effected all this shall repose himself for a time, and rest in quiet."

8 Holland's translation.
The Vendidad: Laws of Parity.—These extracts show the growth of certain ideas which we have not noticed before. The dualism is being worked out more in detail, other gods are coming in, and the doctrine of the sanctity of the elements has made its appearance. That doctrine is the basis of a new set of ideas and practices which we have now to consider, those namely which are contained in the Vendidad, one of the later works of the Persian canon. To pass from the Gathas to the Vendidad is like passing from Isaiah to Leviticus, and the laws of purity of Persian religion bear a strong analogy to those of Judaism. The Vendidad9 is composed principally of laws and rules designed to direct the faithful in the great task of maintaining their ritual purity. The whole of life is dominated in this work by the ideas of purity and defilement; the great business of life is to avoid impurity, and when it is contracted to remove it in the correct manner as quickly as possible. Purity here is not primarily sanitary or even moral; though such considerations were no doubt indirectly present. Impure is what belongs to the bad spirit, whether because he created it, as he did certain noxious animals, or because he has established a hold on it as he does on men at death. A man is impure, not because he has exposed himself to the infection of disease, not because he has contracted a stain on his conscience, but because he has touched something of which a Daeva has possession, and so has come under the influence of that Daeva. Purification, therefore, and the act of healing consist of exorcisms of various kinds. This notion of purity plays a great part in other old religions also; it is here that we see its original meaning most clearly. Another great feature of the doctrine of purity in the Vendidad is that the elements, fire, earth, and water, are holy, and to defile them in any way is the most grievous of sins. As everything which leaves the body is unclean, a man must not blow up a fire with his breath, and bathing with a view to cleanliness is not to be thought of. The disposal of the dead was a matter of immense difficulty, since corpses, being unclean, could be committed neither to Fire nor to the Earth. They are ordered to be exposed naked on a building constructed for that purpose on high ground, so that birds of prey may devour them; and a great part of the Vendidad is taken up with directions for purification, after a death has taken place, of the persons who were in the house, of the house itself, of those who carried the corpse, and of the road they travelled, etc.

9 S. B. E. vol. iv.
How this Doctrine Entered Mazdeism.—This system was not in force in the time of Darius and Artaxerxes (when the dead were buried or, as in the case of Croesus, burned) though the ideas were appearing at that period on which it is founded; and it is plain that it has no necessary or vital connection with the religion of Zarathustra. But in later Mazdeism there are many such importations. This religion, in its course from east to west, came in contact with beliefs and usages with which, though foreign to its own nature, it yet came to terms. Mazdeism is not originally a markedly priestly religion; it is thought that it became so when planted in Media. No doubt there were germs in the early Iranian religion of a priestly system. Zarathustra himself was a priest and was favourable to due religious observances. But it is quite contrary to his spirit that life should be governed entirely by ritual law. It was in Media that this came to be the case. The name of Magi, originally perhaps that of a tribe, became in Media the name of the priesthood, and so furnished an additional title for Mazdeism. It is to this stage of the religion that the priestly legislation of the Vendidad, with all its puritanical regulation of life, is to be ascribed. (The practice of exposing the bodies of the dead to be devoured by birds of prey is probably of Scythian origin.) In this period also, remote from the origin of the religion, we find a new view of Zarathustra himself and of his revelation. In the earlier sources Zarathustra composes his hymns in a natural manner; he is not an absolute lawgiver, but depends on princes for the carrying out of his views. In the later works the revelation takes place in a series of private interviews between Ahura and Zarathustra; the prophet puts questions to the god, and the god dictates in reply sentences which are at once promulgated as sacred laws. Mazdeism, like other religions, has its wooden age, its verbal inspiration, and its priestly code.

To trace the lines by which the influence of the religion of Persia asserted itself in the wider world would be a large enterprise: only a few indications can be given here. One great service which that religion did to the world was undoubtedly that it had sympathy with the Jews, and enabled Jewish monotheism to take a fresh start on its way to become a religion for mankind. Mazdeism itself had a tinge of universalism; Zarathustra expected his religion to spread beyond his own land, and it did spread over all the provinces of Iran. It never became a world-religion, but it might have done so had it not become swathed and choked in Magism or had any new movement arisen in it to assert the supremacy of its purely human over its artificial elements. But Ahura himself, perhaps, was too abstract and philosophic a god to inspire missionary ardour; it needed a being more firmly rooted in history, a god who had done more to prove the energy and intensity of his nature, and, further, a god more undoubtedly omnipotent than Ahura, to establish a universal rule.

The interesting inquiry remains, how far the Jewish religion was modified by its contact with the Persian. The laws of purity in the Jewish priestly code find a close parallel in the Vendidad; but with the Israelites the notion of religious purity existed, and was worked out in considerable detail, as we see from Deuteronomy, before the exile, and therefore long before the period of the Vendidad. The belief in the resurrection, found among the Jews after the exile, and not before it, has been maintained by many to be a loan from Persia, where the belief in future reward and punishment was a settled thing from the time of Zarathustra. But the Jews do not appear to have grasped this belief all at once or fully formed. They arrived at it gradually, many Old Testament scholars affirm, and by spiritual inferences timidly put forth at first, from their own religious consciousness. A belief which the Jewish religion was capable of producing of itself need not, without clearer evidence than we possess, be regarded as borrowed. We are not on much surer ground when we come to ask whether the angels and demons of Judaism are connected with those of Persia. This belief also arises naturally in Judaism, where God came to be thought of as very high and very inaccessible, and intermediate beings were therefore needed. Some of the figures of the Jewish spirit-world are, no doubt, due to Persia; the Ashmodeus of the book of Tobit is a Persian figure. Later Judaism is like Parsism in arranging the heavenly beings in a hierarchy, and assigning to the chief angels special functions in the administration of God's kingdom, and still more so when the upper hierarchy is confronted by a lower one with a great adversary and father of lies at its head. But this takes place long after the Persian contact.

The Persian deities had, as a rule, too little legend to enable them to be received in other countries. Ahura does not travel. Anaitis is thought to have passed into Greece, changing her name to Aphrodite, but also to the severer Artemis; but she is perhaps not original in Persia. The Persian god best known in other lands was Mithra, the sun-god and god of wisdom. He was a favourite with the Roman armies in the early empire, and representations of him as a hero in the act of slaying a bull in a cave have been found in many lands. There were also mysteries connected with him, in which the candidates had to pass through a great series of trials and hardships. Persia influenced Europe and the west of Asia at the same period in another way. Manicheism, a system which was one of the three great universal religions of that time, and had a worship and a priesthood and a sacred literature of its own, was founded by a native of Persia. He laboured at a distance from his own country, and the doctrines he propounded came more from Chaldea than from Persia, and consisted of great histories, like those of the Gnostics, of the doings and sufferings of cosmic and other persons; a great struggle between the powers of light and those of darkness was one of its principal features. The worship of this church was spiritual; its morals were in theory of the purest and most ascetic kind, being founded on a principle of dualism in the material world, and requiring much self-denial and long fasts. The higher virtue of the system was not, however, required of the ordinary member. Later Parsism, both in Iran and in India, has shown a disposition to cast off dualism, and to become, both philosophically and practically, a monistic system.

S. B. E. vols. iv., xxiii. (Darmesteter); xxxi. (Mills). The Zendavesta, vols. v., xviii., xxiv., xxxvii., xlvii. Pahlavi Texts (E. W. West).
The Histories of Antiquity of Duncker, Maspero, and Ed. Meyer.
Haug's Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsis. Second Edition, 1878,
F. Windischmann, Zoroastr. Studien, 1863.
Geldner, "Zoroaster," in Encyclopædia Britannica; "Zoroastrianism," in Encyclopædia Bibl.
Mills, A Study of the Five Zarathustrian Gathas, 1892-94.
Lehmann, in De la Saussaye.
Dadhabai Naoroji, The Parsee Religion.
On Mithraism, Dieterich Eine Mithras-liturgie.
Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, 1903.