Edward Carpenter.

Pagan & Christian creeds : their origin and meaning online

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ation.

In the 'Bhagavat Gita,' which is a later book, the author
speaks of "him whose soul is purified, whose self is the Self
of all creatures." A phrase like that challenges opposition.
It is so bold, so sweeping, and so immense, that we hesitate to
give our adhesion to what it implies. But what does it mean

— "whose soul is purified"? I believe that it means this,
that with most of us our souls are anything but clean or purified,
they are by no means transparent, so that all the time
we are continually deceiving ourselves and making clouds
between us and others. We are all the time grasping things
from other people, and, if not in words, are mentally boasting
ourselves against others, trying to think of our own superiority
to the rest of the people around us. Sometimes we try to run
our neighbors down a little, just to show that they are not
quite equal to our level. We try to snatch from others some
things which belong to them, or take credit to ourselves for
things to which we are not fairly entitled. But all the time we
are acting so it is perfectly obvious that we are weaving veils
between ourselves and others. You cannot have dealings with
another person in a purely truthful way, and be continually
trying to cheat that person out of money, or out of his good
name and reputation. If you are doing that, however much
in the background you may be doing it, you are not looking
the person fairly in the face — there is a cloud between you all
the time. So long as your soul is not purified from all these
really absurd and ridiculous little desires and superiorities and
self-satisfactions, which make up so much of our lives, just
so long as that happens you do not and you cannot see the



THE NATURE OF THE SELF 301

truth. But when it happens to a person, as it does happen
in times of great and deep and bitter experience; when it
happens that all these trumpery little objects of life are swept
away; then occasionally, with astonishment, the soul sees that.
It is also the soul of the others around. Even if it does not
become aware of an absolute identity, it perceives that there
is a deep relationship and communion between itself and others,
and it comes to understand how it may really be true that to
him whose soul is purified the self is literally the Self of ale
creatures.

Ordinary men and those who go on more intellectual and less
intuitional lines will say that these ideas are really contrary to
human nature and to nature generally. Yet I think that those
people who say this in the name of Science are extremely un-
scientific, because a very superficial glance at nature reveals
that the very same thing is taking place throughout nature.
Consider the madrepores, corallines, or sponges. You find, for
instance, that constantly the little self of the coralline or sponge is
functioning at the end of a stem and casting forth its tentacles
into the water to gain food and to breathe the air out of the
water. That little animalcule there, which is living in that way,
imagines no doubt that it is working all for itself, and yet it is
united down the stem at whose extremity it stands, with the life
of the whole madrepore or sponge to which it belongs. There is
the common life of the whole and the individual life of each,
and while the little creature at the end of the stem is thinking
(if it is conscious at all) that its whole energies are absorbed in
its own maintenance, it really is feeding the common life through
the stem to which it belongs, and in its turn it is being fed by
that common life.

You have only to look at an ordinary tree to see the same
thing going on. Each little leaf on a tree may very naturally
have sufficient consciousness to believe that it is an entirely
separate being maintaining itself in the sunlight and the air,
withering away and dying when the winter comes on — and
there is an end of it. It probably does not realize that all the
time it is being supported by the sap which flows from the trunk
of the tree, and that in its turn it is feeding the tree, too — that
its self is the self of the whole tree. If the leaf could really
understand itself, it would see that its self was deeply, intimately
connected, practically one with the life of the whole tree.
Therefore, I say that this Indian view is not unscientific. On
the contrary, I am sure that it is thoroughly scientific.



302 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

Let us take another passage, out of the ' Svetasvatara Upan-
ishad,' which, speaking of the self says: "He is the one God,
hidden in all creatures, all pervading, the self within all, watch-
ing over all works, shadowing all creatures, the witness, the
perceiver, the only one free from qualities."

And now we can return to the point where we left the argu-
ment at the beginning of this discourse. We said, you remember,
that the Self is certainly no mere bundle of qualities — that
the very nature of the mind forbids us thinking that. For
however fine and subtle any quality or group of qualities may
be, we are irresistibly compelled by the nature of the mind
itself to look for the Self, not in any quality or qualities, but
in the being that perceives those qualities. The passage I have
just quoted says that being is "The one God, hidden in all
creatures, all pervading, the self within all . . . the witness,
the perceiver, the only one free from quahties." And the more
you think about it the clearer I think you will see that this
passage is correct — that there can be only oti^ witness, one
perceiver, and that is the one God hidden in all creatures, "Sarva
Sakshi," the Universal Witness.

Have you ever had that curious feeling, not uncommon,
especially in moments of vivid experience and emotion, that
there was at the back of your mind a witness, watching every-
thing that was going on, yet too deep for your ordinary thought
to grasp? Has it not occurred to you — in a moment say of
great danger when the mind was agitated to the last degree by
fears and anxieties — suddenly to become perfectly calm and
collected, to realize that nothing can harm you, that you are
identified with some great and universal being lifted far over
this mortal world and unaffected by its storms? Is it not
obvious that the real Self must be something of this nature,
a being perceiving all, but itself remaining unperceived? For
indeed if it were perceived it would fall under the head of some
definable quality, and so becoming the object of thought would
cease to be the subject, would cease to be the Self.

The witness is and must be "free from qualities." For
since it is capable of perceiving all qualities it must obviously
not be itself imprisoned or tied in any quality — it must either
be entirely without quality, or if it have the potentiality
of quaUty in it, it must have the potentiality of every
quahty; but in either case it cannot be in bondage to any
quality, and in either case it would appear that there can
be only one such ultimate Witness in the universe. For if



THE NATURE OF THE SELF 303

there were two or more such Witnesses, then we should be
compelled to suppose them distinguished from one another by
something, and that something could only be a difference of
qualities, which would be contrary to our conclusion that such
a Witness cannot be in bondage to any quality.

There is then I take it — as the text in question says — only
one Witness, one Self, throughout the universe. It is hidden
in all living things, men and animals and plants; it pervades
all creation. In every thing that has consciousness it is
the Self; it watches over all operations, it overshadows all
creatures, it moves in the depths of our hearts, the per-
ceiver, the only being that is cognizant of all and yet free
from all.

Once you really appropriate this truth, and assimilate it in
the depths of your mind, a vast change (you can easily imagine)
will take place within you. The whole world will be trans-
formed, and every thought and act of which you are capable
wiU take on a different color and complexion. Indeed the
revolution will be so vast that it would be quite impossible for
me within the limits of this discourse to describe it. I will,
however, occupy the rest of my time in dealing with some points
and conclusions, and some mental changes which will flow
perfectly naturally from this axiomatic change taking place
at the very root of life.

"Free from qualities." We generally pride ourselves a
little on our qualities. Some of us think a great deal of our
good quaUties, and some of us are rather ashamed of our bad
ones! I would say: "Do not trouble very much about all
that. What good quahties you have — well you may be quite
sure they do not reaUy amount to much; and what bad
quaUties, you may be sure they are not very important! Do
not make too much fuss about either. Do you see? The
thing is that you, you yourself, are not any of your quahties —
you are the being that perceives them. The thing to see to is
that they should not confuse you, bamboozle you, and hide
you from the knowledge of yourself — that they should not be
erected into a screen, to hide you from others, or the others
from you. If you cease from running after qualities, then
after a little time your soul will become purified, and you will
know that your self is the Self of all creatures; and when you
can feel that you will know that the other things do not much
matter.

Sometimes people are so awfully good that their very good-



304 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

ness hides them from other people. They really cannot be
on a level with others, and they feel that the others are far
below them. Consequently their 'selves' are blinded or hidden
by their 'goodness.' It is a sad end to come to! And some-
times it happens that very 'bad' people — just because they
are so bad — do not erect any screens or veils between them-
selves and others. Indeed they are only too glad if others
will recognize them, or if they may be allowed to recognize
others. And so, after all, they come nearer the truth than the
very good people.

"The Self is free from qualities." That thing which is so
deep, which belongs to all, it either — as I have already said —
has all qualities, or it has none. You, to whom I am speaking
now, your qualities, good and bad, are all mine. I am perfectly
willing to accept them. They are all right enough and in
place — if one can only find the places for them. But I know
that in most cases they have got so confused and mixed up
that they cause great conflict and pain in the souls that harbor
them. If you attain to knowing yourself to be other than
and separate from the quahties, then you will pass below and
beyond them all. You will be able to accept all your qualities
and harmonize them, and your soul will be at peace. You will
be free from the domination of qualities then because you will
know that among all the multitudes of them there are none
of any importance!

If you should happen some day to reach that state of mind
in connection with which this revelation comes, then you will
find the experience a most extraordinary one. You will become
conscious that there is no barrier in your path; that the way
is open in all directions; that all men and women belong to
you, are part of you. You will feel that there is a great open
immense world around, which you had never suspected before,
which belongs to you, and the riches of which are all yours,
waiting for you. It may, of course, take centuries and thousands
of years to realize this thoroughly, but there it is. You are
just at the threshold, peeping in at the door. What did Shake-
speare say? "To thine own self be true, and it must follow
as the night the day, thou can'st not then be false to any
man." What a profound bit of philosophy in three lines!
I doubt if anywhere the basis of all human life has been expressed
more perfectly and tersely.

One of the Upanishads (the Maitrayana-Brahmana) says:
"The happiness belonging to a mind, which through deep



THE NATURE OF THE SELF 305

inwardness ^ (or understanding) has been washed clean and has
entered into the Self, is a thing beyond the power of words to
describe: it can only be perceived by an inner faculty." Observe
the conviction, the intensity with which this joy, this happiness
is described, which comes to those whose minds have been
washed clean (from aU the silly trumpery sediment of self-
thought) and have become transparent, so that the great uni-
versal Being residing there in the depths can be perceived.
What sorrow indeed, what grief, can come to such an one who
has sren this vision? It is truly a thing beyond the power of
words to describe: it can only be perceived — and that by an
inner faculty. The external apparatus of thought is of no use.
Argument is of no use. But experience and direct perception
are possible; and probably all the experiences of life and of
mankind through the ages are gradually deepening our powers
of perception to that point where the vision wiU at last rise
upon the inward eye.

Another text, from the Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad (which
I have already quoted in the paper on "Rest"), says: "If a
man worship the Self only as his true state, his work cannot
fail, for whatever he desires, that he obtains from the Self."
Is that not magnificent? If you truly realize your identity
and union with the great SeK who inspires and informs the
wori'i then obviously whatever you desire the great Self will
desire, and the whole world will conspire to bring it to you.
"He riaketh the winds his angels, and the flaming fires his
ministers." [I need not say that I am not asking you to try
and identify yourself with the great Self universal in order to
get riches, "opulence," and other things of that kind which
you desire; because in that quest you will probably not succeed.
The Great Self is not such a fool as to be taken in in that way.
It mav be true — and it is true — that if ye seek first the King-
dom f Heaven all these things shall be added imto you; but
you must seek it first, not second.]

' The word in the Max Miiller translation is "meditation." But
that is, I think, a somewhat misleading word. It suggests to most
people the turning inward of the thinking faculty to grope and delve
in the interior of the mind. This is just what should not be done.
Meditation in the proper sense should mean the inward deepening
of feeling and consciousness till the region of the universal self is
reached; but thought should not interfere there. That should be
turned on outward things to mould them into expression of the inner
consciousness.



306 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

Here is a passage from Towards Democracy: "As space spreads
everywhere, and all things move and change within it, but it
moves not nor changes,

"So I am the space within the soul, of which the space with-
out is but the simihtude and mental image;

"Comest thou to inhabit me, thou hast the entrance to all
life — death shall no longer divide thee from whom thou
lovest.

"I am the Sun that shines upon all creatures from within —
gazest thou upon me, thou shalt be filled with joy eternal."

Yes, this great sun is there, always shining, but most of the
time it is hidden from us by the clouds of which I have spoken,
and we fail to see it. We complain of being out in the cold;
and in the cold, for the time being, no doubt we are; but our
return to the warmth and the light has now become possible.

Thus at last the Ego, the mortal immortal self — disclosed at
first in darkness and fear and ignorance in the growing babe
— finds its true identity. For a long period it is baflBed in trying
to understand what it is. It goes through a vast experience.
It is tormented by the sense of separation and alienation —
alienation from other people, and persecution by all the great
powers and forces of the universe; and it is pursued by a sense
of its own doom. Its doom truly is irrevocable. The hour of
fulfilment approaches, the veil lifts, and the soul beholds at
last its own true being.

We are accustomed to think of the external world around us
as a nasty tiresome old thing of which all we can say for certain
is that it works by a "law of cussedness" — so that, which-
ever way we want to go, that way seems always barred, and
we only bump against blind walls without making any progress.
But that uncomfortable state of affairs arises from ourselves.
Once we have passed a certain barrier, which at present looks
so frowning and impossible, but which fades into nothing im-
mediately we have passed it — once we have found the open
secret of identity — then the way is indeed open in every
direction.

The world in which we live — the world into which we are
tumbled as children at the first onset of self-consciousness —
denies this great fact of unity. It is a world in which the
principle of separation rules. Instead of a common life and
union with each other, the contrary principle (especially in the



THE NATURE OF THE SELF 307

later civilizations) has been the one recognized — and to such
an extent that always there prevails the obsession of separation,
and the conviction that each person is an isolated unit. The
whole of our modern society has been founded on this delusive
idea, which is false. You go into the markets, and every man's
hand is against the others — that is the ruling principle. You
go into the Law Courts where justice is, or should be, admin-
istered, and you find that the principle which denies unity is
the one that prevails. The criminal (whose actions have really
been determined by the society around him) is cast out, dis-
acknowledged, and condemned to further isolation in a prison
cell. 'Property' again is the principle which rules and deter-
mines our modern civilization — namely that which is proper
to, or can be appropriated by, each person, as against the others.
In the moral world the doom of separation comes to us in the
shape of the sense of sin. For sin is separation. Sin is actually
(and that is its only real meaning) the separation from others,
and the non-acknowledgment of unity. And so it has come
about that during all this civilization-period the sense of sin
has ruled and ranged to such an extraordinary degree. Society
has been built on a false base, not true to fact or life — and
has had a dim uneasy consciousness of its falseness. Mean-
while at the heart of it all — and within all the frantic external
strife and warfare — there is all the time this real great hfe brood-
ing. The kingdom of Heaven, as we said before, is still within.

The word Democracy indicates something of the kind — the
rule of the Demos, that is of the common life. The coming of
that will transform, not only our Markets and our Law Courts
and our sense of Property, and other institutions, into some-
thing really great and glorious instead of the dismal masses of
rubbish which they at present are; but it wiU transform our
sense of MoraUty.

Our MoraUty at present consists in the idea of self-goodness
— one of the most pernicious and disgusting ideas which has
ever infested the human brain. If any one should follow and
assimilate what I have just said about the true nature of the
SeK he will realize that it will never again be possible for him
to congratulate himself on his own goodness or morality or
superiority; for the moment he does so he will separate him-
self from the universal life, and proclaim the sin of his own
separation. I agree that this conclusion is for some people a
most sad and disheartening one — but it cannot be helped !
A man may truly be 'good' and 'moral' in some real sense;



308 PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS

but only on the condition that he is not aware of it. He can
only be good when not thinking about the matter; to be conscious
of one's own goodness is already to have fallen!

We began by thinking of the self as just a little local self;
then we extended it to the family, the cause, the nation — ever
to a larger and vaster being. At last there comes a time when
we recognize — or see that we shall have to recognize — an inner
Equality between ourselves and all others; not of course an
external equality — for that would be absurd and impossible

— but an inner and profound and universal Equality. And so
we come again to the mystic root-conception of Democracy.

And now it will be said: "But after all this talk you have
not defined the Self, or given us any intellectual outline of what
you mean by the word." No — and I do not intend to. If
I could, by any sort of copybook definition, describe and show
the boundaries of myself, I should obviously lose all interest
in the subject. Nothing more dull could be imagined. I may
be able to define and describe fairly exhaustively this inkpot
on the table; but for you or for me to give the limits and
boundaries of ourselves is, I am glad to say, impossible. That
does not, however, mean that we cannot feel and be conscious
of ourselves, and of our relations to other selves, and to the
great Whole. On the contrary I think it is clear that the more
vividly we feel our organic unity with the whole, the less shall
we be able to separate off the local self and enclose it within
any definition. I take it that we can and do become ever more
vividly conscious of our true Self, but that the mental statement
of it always does and probably always will lie beyond us. All
life and all our action and experience consist in the gradual
manifestation of that which is within us — of our inner being.
In that sense — and reading its handwriting on the outer world

— we come to know the soul's true nature more and more
intimately; we enter into the mind of that great artist who
beholds himself in his own creation.



INDEX



INDEX



Abraham, sacrifice of ram, ii8
Abydos mystery play, 22
Acosta quoted, 67, 185
Adonis-legend, 22, 200; A. as

Saviour, 129
Advaita, meaning of, 269
African tribes, 58, 120
Ahknaton, Pharaoh, 243
Alexandrian influences, 203
Altamira, caves of, 15
Amelioration of pagan customs,

118
Andromeda, meaning of the word,

159

Animals, adored by primitives,
ch. iv; despised and mal-
treated by moderns, 224

Animal masks, 94, 95; meaning
of, 241

Animism, 15, 57 sq.; justified,
77, 95, 97, 259, 260; a pre-
animistic stage, 98

Annunciation, the, 159

Anthropomorphism, 15; justi-
fied, 95, 97; a temporary
stage, 99; but necessary, 102

Apis gives place to Amun: the
Bull to the Ram, 47

Apollo, bom with only one hair,
27; connected with the wc4f,
94; dancing roimd altar of,
170

Apollonius of Tyana, 243

Apostles' Creed, the, as a Pagan
creed, 164

Apuleius quoted, 241



Aries, the place of the Sun in

Spring, 37, 39, 46
Art, origin in magic ritual, 15;

as evidence of the cosmic

life, 25 s
Art of learning, 292
Artemis or Diana, connected with

bear- worship, 94; sacrifices on

her altar, 118
Asherah, translated "grove" in

the Bible, 182
Ashtoreth, 182
Astarte, temple of, at Aphaca,

23
Atlantis, island of, 134
Atonement, 104
Attis-legend, 23; rites, 42, 43,

112; A. as Saviour, 129, 248
Augiistine, St., quoted, 26, 204;

his barbarous creed, 108
Aurelian, emperor, cult of Mith-

raism, 204
Australian natives, 11, 58, 61,

89; rites, 122; ordeals, 123;

theories about conception, 79,

158; marriage customs, 195
Aztec rites, 28 n., 67, 73, 105-108

Baal, priests of, 72

B&b, life of the, 214; persecu-
tion, 215

Babism, religion of, 153, 214;
Church of, 216

Bacchus or Dionysus, as Saviour,
129, 130

Balder, as Saviour, 160



3"



312



PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN CREEDS



Baptism by blood, 43, 44, 121;
Baptism and Confirmation,
119; correspond to Initiation,
120, 121; but inadequately,
126, 191

Baring-Gould quoted, 129

Bath-kol, 72

Bauer, Bruno, quoted, 209

Bear-sacrifice, 62, 112

Bhagavad gita, 268, 291, 300

Birth of a new Industrial Order,
276-7

Blake, William, vision of a Tree,

79

Bough, the Golden, quoted, see
Dr. Frazer

Bouphonia at Athens, 63, 112

BrowTie, Edward G., quoted, 216

Bucke, Dr., quoted, 225, 229,
236

Buddha as Saviour, 1 29

Bull, constellation of, 34; re-
demption by blood of, 41,
42, 43, 63; gives place to
the Lamb, 47; sacrifice in
Greece, 62

Bull-roarer, the, 72

Burmese, the, magic in Nature,

79
Burton, Richard, quoted, 182
Bushmen, 15; praise of, 145

Calendar, Julian, 27; generally,

28, 29, 30
Camel-sacrifice, Arabian, 60
Catlin quoted, 71, 124
Caves, birth of gods in, 27, 29;

meaning, 34
Celsus quoted, 211
Cheetham, Dr., quoted, 235, 239,


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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterPagan & Christian creeds : their origin and meaning → online text (page 24 of 25)