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PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

THEIR ORIGIN AND MEANING



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PAGAN & CHRIS-
TIAN CREEDS:

THEIR ORIGIN AND MEANING

By EDWARD CARPENTER



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NEW YORK

HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY
1921



THE NEW YORK
PUBLIC LIBRARY

603939A

ASTOR, LENOX AND

TILDEN FOUNDATIONS

R 1932 L



COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE, INC,



TRE-PLIUPTON-PKESS

HOKWOOO-UASS-U-S-A



" The different religions being lame attempts to represent under
various guises this one root-fact of the central universal life, men
have at all times clung to the religious creeds and rituals and cere-
monials as symbolising in some rude way the redemption and
fulfilment of their own most intimate natures — and this whether
consciously understanding the interpretations, or whether {as most
often) only doing so in an unconscious or quite subconscious way."

The Drama of Love and Death, p. 96.



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CONTENTS

PAGE

I, INTRODUCTORY 9

n. SOLAR MYTHS AND CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS 1 9

HI. THE SYMBOLISM OF THE ZODIAC 36

IV. TOTEM-SACRAMENTS AND EUCHARISTS 54

V. FOOD AND VEGETATION MAGIC 69

VI. MAGICIANS, KINGS AND GODS 86

VII. RITES OF EXPIATION AND REDEMPTION 100

VIII. PAGAN INITIATIONS AND THE SECOND BIRTH II 7

IX. MYTH OF THE GOLDEN AGE 137

X. THE SAVIOUR-GOD AND THE VIRGIN-MOTHER 1 54

XI. RITUAL DANCING 1 63

XII. THE SEX-TABOO 1 80

XIII. THE GENESIS OF CHRISTIANITY 1 98

XIV. THE MEANING OF IT ALL 222

XV. THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES 239

XVI. THE EXODUS OF CHRISTIANITY 257

XVII. CONCLUSION 271

APPENDIX ON THE TEACHINGS OF THE UPANISHADS:

I. REST 283

II. THE NATURE OF THE SELF 295

INDEX 309

7



PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS:

THEIR ORIGIN AND MEANING



INTRODUCTORY

The subject of Religious Origins is a fascinating one, as
the great multitude of books upon it, published in late
years, tends to show. Indeed the great difficulty to-day
in dealing with the subject, lies in the very mass of the
material to hand — and that not only on account of the
labor involved in sorting the material, but because the
abundance itself of facts opens up temptation to a student
in this department of Anthropology (as happens also in
other branches of general Science) to rush in too hastily
with what seems a plausible theory. The more facts,
statistics, and so forth, there are available in any investi-
gation, the easier it is to pick out a considerable number
which will fit a given theory. The other facts being neg-
lected or ignored, the views put forward enjoy for a
time a great vogue. Then inevitably, and at a later time,
new or neglected facts alter the outlook, and a new per-
spective is established.

There is also in these matters of Science (though many
scientific men would doubtless deny this) a great deal of
"Fashion". Such has been notoriously the case in Political

9



10 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

Economy, Medicine, Geology, and even in such definite
studies as Physics and Chemistry. In a comparatively recent
science, like that with which we are now concerned, one
would naturally expect variations. A hundred and fifty
years ago, and since the time of Rousseau, the "Noble
Savage" was extremely popular; and he lingers still in
the story books of our children. Then the reaction from
this extreme view set in, and of late years it has been
the popular cue (largely, it must be said, among "arm-
chair" travelers and explorers) to represent the religious
rites and customs of primitive folk as a senseless mass
of superstitions, and the early man as quite devoid of
decent feeling and intelligence. Again, when the study of
religious origins first began in modern times to be seri-
ously taken up — say in the earlier part of last century —
there was a great boom in Sungods. Every divinity in
the Pantheon was an impersonation of the Sun — unless in-
deed (if feminine) of the Moon. Apollo was a sungod,
of course; Hercules was a sungod; Samson was a sun-
god; Indra and Krishna, and even Christ, the same.
C. F. Dupuis in France (Origine de tons les Cultes, 1795),
F. Nork in Germany {Biblische Mythologie, 1842), Richard
Taylor in England {The Devil's Pulpit,^ 1830), were among
the first in modern times to put forward this view. A little
later the phallic explanation of everything came into
fashion. The deities were all polite names for the organs
and powers of procreation. R. P. Knight {Ancient Art
and Mythology, 1818) and Dr. Thomas Inman {Ancient
Faiths and Ancient Names, 1868) popularized this idea in
England; so did Nork in Germany. Then again there was
a period of what is sometimes called Euhemerism

1 This extraordinary book, though carelessly composed and con-
taining many unproven statements, was on the whole on the right
lines. But it raised a storm of opposition — the more so because
its author was a clergyman! He was ejected from the ministry,
of course, and was sent to prison twice.



INTRODUCTORY 11

— the theory that the gods and goddesses had actually once
been men and women, historical characters round whom
a halo of romance and remoteness had gathered. Later
still, a school has arisen which thinks Uttle of sun-
gods, and pays more attention to Earth and Nature spirits,
to gnomes and demons and vegetation-sprites, and to the
processes of Magic by which these (so it was supposed)
could be enlisted in man's service if friendly, or exorcised
if hostile.

It is easy to see of course that there is some truth in
all these explanations; but naturally each school for
the time being makes the most of its own contention. Mr.
J. M. Robertson {Pagan Christs and Christianity and
Mythology), who has done such fine work in this field,^
relies chiefly on the solar and astronomical origins, though
he does not altogether deny the others; Dr. Frazer, on
the other hand — whose great work, The Golden Bough, is
a monumental collection of primitive customs, and will
be an inexhaustible quarry for all future students — is
apparently very little concerned with theories about the Sun
and the stars, but concentrates his attention on the
collection of innumerable details- of rites, chiefly magical,
connected with food and vegetation. Still later writers, like
S. Reinach, Jane Harrison and E. A. Crowley, being mainly
occupied with customs of very primitive peoples, like
the Pelasgian Greeks or the Australian aborigines, have
confined themselves (necessarily) even more to Magic and
Witchcraft.

Meanwhile the Christian Church from these speculations
has kept itself severely apart — as of course representing a
unique and divine revelation little concerned or inter-
ested in such heathenisms; and moreover (in this country

1 If only he did not waste so much time, and so needlessly, in
slaughtering opponents!

2 To such a degree, indeed, that sometimes the connecting clue of
the argument seems to be lost.



12 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

at any rate) has managed to persuade the general public
of its own divine uniqueness to such a degree that few
people, even nowadays, realize that it has sprung from just
the same root as Paganism, and that it shares by far the
most part of its doctrines and rites with the latter. Till
quite lately it was thought (in Britain) that only secularists
and unfashionable people took any interest in sungods; and
while it was true that learned professors might point to a
belief in Magic as one of the first sources of Religion, it
was easy in reply to say that this obviously had nothing to
do with Christianity! The Secularists, too, rather spoilt
their case by assimiing, in their wrath against the Church,
that all priests since the beginning of the world have been
frauds and charlatans, and that all the rites of religion
were merely devil's devices invented by them for the
purpose of preying upon the superstitions of the igno-
rant, to their own enrichment. They (the Secularists)
overleaped themselves by grossly exaggerating a thing that
no doubt is partially true.

Thus the subject of religious origins is somewhat com-
plex, and yields many aspects for consideration. It
is only, I think, by keeping a broad course, and admitting
contributions to the truth from various sides, that valu-
able results can be obtained. It is absurd to suppose
that in this or any other science neat systems can be found
which will cover all the facts. Nature and History do not
deal in such things, or supply them for a sop to INlan's
vanity.

It is clear that there have been three main lines, so far,
along which human speculation and study have run. One
connecting religious rites and observations with the move-
ments of the Sun and the planets in the sky, and leading to
the invention of and belief in Olympian and remote gods
dwelling in heaven and ruling the Earth from a dis-
tance; the second connecting religion with the changes
of the season, on the Earth and with such practical things



INTRODUCTORY 13

as the growth of vegetation and food, and leading to or
mingled with a vague belief in earth-spirits and magical
methods of influencing such spirits; and the third connect-
ing religion with man's own body and the tremendous force
of sex residing in it — emblem of undying life and all
fertility and power. It is clear also — and all investigation
confirms it — that the second-mentioned phase of religion
arose on the whole before the first-mentioned — that is,
that men naturally thought about the very practical ques-
tions of food and vegetation, and the magical or other
methods of encouraging the same, before they worried them-
selves about the heavenly bodies and the laws of their
movements, or about the sinister or favorable influences tlie
stars might exert. And again it is extremely probable that
the third-mentioned aspect — that which connected religion
with the procreative desires and phenomena of human
physiology — really came first. These desires and physio-
logical phenomena must have loomed large on the primitive
mind long before the changes of the seasons or of the sky
had been at all definitely observed or considered. Thus we
find it probable that, in order to understand the sequence of
the actual and historical phases of religious worship, we must
approximately reverse the order above-given in which they
have been studied, and conclude that in general the
Phallic cults came first, the cult of Magic and the pro-
pitiation of earth-divinities and spirits came second, and
only last came the belief in definite God-figures residing
in heaven.

At the base of the whole process by which divinities and
demons were created, and rites for their propitiation and
placation established, lay Fear — fear stimulating the
imagination to fantastic activity. Primus in orbe deos
fecit Timor. And fear, as we shall see, only became a men-
tal stimulus at the time of, or after, the evolution
of 5e//-consciousness. Before that time, in the period of
simple consciousness, when the human mind resembled



14 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

that of the animals, fear indeed existed, but its natur vis
more that of a mechanical protective instinct. nere
being no figure or image of self in the animal mind, there
were correspondingly no figures or images of beings who
might threaten or destroy that self. So it was that the
imaginative power of fear began with Self-consciousness, and
from that imaginative power was unrolled the whole panorama
of the gods and rites and creeds of Religion down the
centuries.

The immense force and domination of Fear in the first
self-conscious stages of the human mind is a thing which
can hardly be exaggerated, and which is even difficult for
some of us moderns to realize. But naturally as soon
as Man began to think about himself — a frail phantom and
waif in the midst of tremendous forces of whose i iture
and mode of operation he was entirely ignorant — he was
beset with terrors; dangers loomed upon him on all sides.
Even to-day it is noticed by doctors that one of the chief
obstacles to the cure of illness among some black or native
races is sheer superstitious terror; and Thanatomania is the
recognized word for a state of mind ("obsession of
death") which will often cause a savage to perish from a
mere scratch hardly to be called a wound. The natural
defence against this state of mind was the creation of an
enormous number of taboos — such as we find among
all races and on every conceivable subject — and these taboos
constituted practically a great body of warnings which
regulated the lives and thoughts of the community, and
ultimately, after they had been weeded out and to some
degree simplified, hardened down into very strin-icnt
Custom.s and Laws. Such taboos naturally in the begin-
ning tended to include the avoidance not only of acts wnich
might reasonably be considered dangerous, like touchin^ a
corpse, but also things much more remote and fancitul
in their relation to danger, like merely looking at a motner-
in-law, or passing a lightning-struck tree; and (wha' is



INTRODUCTORY 15

especially to be noticed) they tended to include acts which
offered any special pleasure or temptation — like sex or
marriage or the enjoyment of a meal. Taboos surrounded
these things too, and the psychological connection is easy
to divine: but I shall deal with this general subject later.

It may be guessed that so complex a system of regula-
tions made life anything but easy to early peoples; but,
preposterous and unreasonable as some of the taboos were,
they undoubtedly had the effect of compelling the growth
of self-control. Fear does not seem a very worthy motive,
but in the beginning it curbed the violence of the purely
animal passions, and introduced order and restraint among
them. Simultaneously it became itself, through the gradual
increase of knowledge and observation, transmuted and
etherealized into something more like wonder and awe,
and (when the gods rose above the horizon) into rever-
ence. Anyhow we seem to perceive that from the early be-
ginnings (in the Stone Age) of self -consciousness in
Man there has been a gradual development — from crass su-
perstition, senseless and accidental, to rudimentary obser-
vation, and so to belief in Magic; thence to Animism
and personification of nature-powers in more or less human
form, as earth-divinities or sky-gods or embodiments of
the tribe; and to placation of these powers by rites like
Sacrifice and the Eucharist, which in their turn became
the foundation of Morality. Graphic representations made
for the encouragement of fertility — as on the walls of Bush-
men's rock-dwellings or the ceilings of the caverns of Alta-
mira — became the nurse of pictorial Art; observations of
plants or of the weather or the stars, carried on by tribal
rtedicine-men for purposes of witchcraft or prophecy, sup-
plied some of the material of Science; and humanity emerged
by faltering and hesitating steps on the borderland of those
> ler perceptions and reasonings which are supf>osed to be
characteristic of Civilization.

The process of the evolution of religious rites and cere-



16 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

monies has in its main outlines been the same all over the
world, as the reader will presently see — and this whether
in connection with the nimierous creeds of Paganism
or the supposedly unique case of Christianity; and now
the continuity and close intermixture of these great
streams can no longer be denied — nor is it indeed denied
by those who have really studied the subject. It is
seen that religious evolution through the ages has been
practically One thing — that there has been in fact a World-
religion, though with various phases and branches.

And so in the present day a new problem arises, namely
how to account for the appearance of this great Phenome-
non, with its orderly phases of evolution, and its own spon-
taneous^ growths in all corners of the globe — this phe-
nomenon which has had such a strange sway over the
hearts of men, which has attracted them with so weird
a charm, which has drawn out their devotion, love and
tenderness, which has consoled them in sorrow and afflic-
tion, and yet which has stained their history with such hor-
rible sacrifices and persecutions and cruelties. What has
been the instigating cause of it?

The answer which I propose to this question, and which
is developed to some extent in the following chapters, is
a psychological one. It is that the phenomenon proceeds
from, and is a necessary accompaniment of, the growth of
human Consciousness itself — its growth, namely, through
the three great stages of its unfoldment. These stages
are (i) that of the simple or animal consciousness, (2) that
of 5e//-consciousness, and (3) that of a third stage of con-
sciousness which has not as yet been effectively named, but
whose indications and precursive signs we here and there
perceive in the rites and prophecies and mysteries of
the early religions, and in the poetry and art and liter-
ature generally of the later civilizations. Though I do not
expect or wish to catch Nature and History in the careful

1 For the question of spontaneity see chap, x and elsewhere infra.



INTRODUCTORY 17

net of a phrase, yet I think that in the sequence from
the above-mentioned first stage to the second, and then
again in the sequence from the second to the third,
there will be found a helpful explanation of the rites and
aspirations of human religion. It is this idea, illustrated
by details of ceremonial and so forth, which forms the main
thesis of the present book. In this sequence of growth,
Christianity enters as an episode, but no more than an episode.
It does not amount to a disruption or dislocation of evolu-
tion. If it did, or if it stood as an unique or unclassifiable
phenomenon (as some of its votaries contend), this would
seem to be a misfortune — as it would obviously rob us of
at any rate one promise of progress in the future. And
the promise of something better than Paganism and bet-
ter than Christianity is very precious. It is surely time
that it should be fulfilled.

The tracing, therefore, of the part that human self-
consciousness has played, psychologically, in the evolution
of religion, runs like a thread through the following chap-
ters, and seeks illustration in a variety of details. The idea
has been repeated under different aspects; sometimes,
possibly, it has been repeated too often; but different aspects
in such a case do help, as in a stereoscope, to give
solidity to the thing seen. Though the worship of Sun-gods
and divine figures in the sky came comparatively late
in religious evolution, I have put this subject early in
the book (chapters ii and iii), partly because (as I have
already explained) it was the phase first studied in modern
times, and therefore is the one most familiar to present-
day readers, and partly because its astronomical data
give great definiteness and "proveability" to it, in rebuttal
to the common accusation that the whole study of religious
origins is too vague and uncertain to have much value.
Going backwards in Time, the two next chapters (iv and v)
deal with Totem-sacraments and Magic, perhaps the earliest



18 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

forms of religion. And these four lead on (in chapters vi
to xi) to the consideration of rites and creeds common to
Paganism and Christianity. XII and xiii deal especially
with the evolution of Christianity itself; xiv and xv explain
the inner Meaning of the whole process from the beginning;
and xvi and xvii look to the Future.

The appendix on the doctrines of the Upanishads may,
I hope, serve to give an idea, intimate even though in-
adequate, of the third Stage — that which follows on the
stage of self -consciousness; and to portray the mental atti-
tudes which are characteristic of that stage. Here in this
third stage, it would seem, one comes upon the real jacts of
the inner life — in contradistinction to the fancies and fig-
ments of the second stage; and so one reaches the final point
of conjunction between Science and Religion.



II

SOLAR MYTHS AND CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS

To the ordinary public — notwithstanding the immense amount
of work which has of late been done on this subject —
the connection between Paganism and Christianity still seems
rather remote. Indeed the common notion is that Chris-
tianity was really a miraculous interposition into and
dislocation of the old order of the world; and that the pagan
gods (as in Milton's Hymn on the Nativity) fled away in
dismay before the sign of the Cross, and at the sound
of the name of Jesus. Doubtless this was a view much
encouraged by the early Church itself — if only to enhance
its own authority and importance; yet, as is well known
to every student, it is quite misleading and contrary to
fact. The main Christian doctrines and festivals, besides
a great mass of affiliated legend and ceremonial, are really
quite directly derived from, and related to, preceding Nature
worships; and it has only been by a good deal of deliberate
mystification and falsification that this derivation has been
kept out of sight.

In these Nature-worships there may be discerned three
fairly independent streams of religious or quasi-religious en-
thusiasm: (i) that connected with the phenomena of the
heavens, the movements of the Sun, planets and stars, and
the awe and wonderment they excited; (2) that connected
with the seasons and the very important matter of the
growth of vegetation and food on the Earth; and (3)

19



20 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

that connected wi± the mysteries of Sex and reproduction.
It is obvious that these three streams would mingle and
interfuse with each other a good deal; but as far as
they were separable the first would tend to create Solar heroes
and Sun-myths; the second \'eget3tion-gods and person-
ifications of Nature and the earth-life; while the third
would throw its glamour over the other two and con-
tribute to the projection of deities or demons worshipped
with all sorts of sexual and phallic rites. All three systems
of course have their special rites and times and cere-
monies; but. as I say. the rites and ceremonies of one
system would rarely be found pure and immixed with
those belonging to the two others. The whole subject
is a ver>- large one; but for reasons given in the Introduc-
tion I shall in this and the following chapter — while not
ignoring phases (2) and (3) — lay most stress on phase (i)
of the question before us.

At the time of the life or recorded appearance of Jesus
of Nazareth, and for some centuries before, the Mediter-
ranean and neighboring world had been the scene of a
vast number of pagan creeds and rituals. There were
Temples without end dedicated to gods like Apollo or Diony-
sus among the Greeks. Hercules among the Romans.
Mithra among the Persians. Adonis and Attis in S>Tia and
Phn.gi3. Osiris and Isis and Horus in Eg>-pt. Baal and
.\starte among the Babylonians and Carthaginians, and so
forth. Societies, large or small, united believers and the
devout in the sennce or ceremonials connected with their
respective deities, and in the creeds which they con-
fessed concerning these deities. .\nd an extraordinarily
interesting fact, for us. is that notwithstanding great geo-
graphical distances and racial differences between the ad-
herents of these N-arious cults, as well as differences in the
details of their serAices. the general outlines of their creeds
and ceremonials were — if not identical — so markedly similar
as we find them.



SOLAR MYTHS 21

I cannot of course go at length into these different cults,
but I may say roughly that of all or nearly all the deities
above-mentioned it was said and believed that:

( 1 ) They were born on or very near our Christmas Day.

(2) They were born of a Virgin-Mother.

(3) And in a Cave or Underground Chamber.

(4) They led a life of toil for Mankind.

(5) And were called by the names of Light-bringer,

Healer, Mediator, Savior, Deliverer.

(6) They were however vanquished by the Powers of

Darkness.

(7) And descended into Hell or the Underworld.

(8) They rose again from the dead, and became the

pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world.

(9) They founded Communions of Saints, and Churches

into which disciples were received by Baptism.

(10) And they were commemorated by Eucharistic

meals.

Let me give a few brief examples.

Mithra was born in a cave, and on the 25th December.^



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