Copyright
Hermann Marcus Kottinger.

The youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment online

. (page 11 of 28)
Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 11 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and the wicked must depart into the realm of darkness.

The Arians upon heights addressed their prayers to the primi-
tive fountain of light and virtue, and yet in our age the votaries of
this religion, who live in the northwesterm part of Farther India,
worship the fire. The priests who once were called Mages, main-
tain the sacred fire ; he who blows it out intentionally, is deemed
to deserve death. Therefore in that country the smith's-trade is
forbidden. Neither is polygamy permitted. Still the system of
castes is also established there. The Zend-Avesta contains some
very good moral precepts, e. g., " Man ought always to eombat for
virtue and truth."

§ 4. Religion of the Hindoos— Brahmanism— Buddhism.

The sacred books of the Hindoos are the four Vedas (the knowl-
edge), the code oi Manu, and the Puranas (a mythology). The first
were written in the Sanscrit language, which is now dead ; they
emanated from the lips of Brahma. The Puranas (comprising i8
parts) are said to contain over one and a half million verses ; they
form a middle kind between the heroic and the dida.tic poetry.
Primitively, the Hindoos worshipped natural objects, e. g., light,
sun, lightning, etc. Their highest god {Indra), who sends the rain,
is the god of the lightning, sky, and the air. There arc yet other



gods besides him, viz : the first rays of light, the aurora, etc. But
already in the Vedas this religious doctrine is more spiritualized.
According to them Bram (the primitively self-existent) is the foun-
tain of all existence; the eternal and invisible spirit. His first rev-
elation is Brahma. The world has been created by the sole word
of Brahma. He created also the pure spirits, who lived in the
ether. One of them seduced several others. In order to purify
the latter, the visible world was created. The life on earth is but
a state of trial. Man can rise by self-denial ; by egotism he al-
ways sinks deeper, and must then migrate through animal bodies
and plants.

In the mythological part the gods appear humanized to utter ex-
cess. From the primitive Being three gods have emanated :
Brahma (the sun), Vishnu (air and water), and Sivah (the fire).
Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the conservator, Sivah the destroyer
of the world. These three compose the trinity, and are repre-
sented in one person with three heads. Brahma's wife is the god-
dess of wisdom. The symbol of Vishnu is the cow. His wor-
shippers believe that, whenever a great disorder, physical or moral,
disturbs the world, he decends to set it right, and thus to preserve
creation. He is supposed to have assumed the form of some won-
derful animal, or the human shape. Once (they say) he appeared
(probably more than 900 years B C.) in human form, and was
called the Ou^ishna. His mother descended from a royal family.
He was cradled among herdsmen. The tyrant Causa, to whom it
had been predicted that one born in that family would destroy
him at the time of his birth, ordered all new born males to be slain.
Chrishna was fostered therefore (in Malhura) by an honest herds-
man and his amiable wife. He possesed miraculous powers, by
which he saved multitudes. He raised the dead, descended for that
purpose to the lowest regions ; he preached mysteries, washed
other people's feet, descended into hell, rose again from the dead,
ascended into heaven, and left his doctrines to be preached by his
disciples, but committing nothing of his own to writing.*

Sivah is represented as being girded round with serpents ; he
has a human skull in his hand, a necklace, wrought of human

*Sir William Jones, Asiatic Researches



bones, and three eyes. His clothing is a tiger skin. Over his left
shoulder the venomous cobra stretches up its head. The hands of
his wife are red, like blood, because her thirst for blood cannot
be quenched. She has four arms; in one she carries the skull of a
giant ; her tongue hangs from the mouth ; a string of human
skulls embraces her neck. Beside these three gods there are many
minor ones.

The morals of these religious books are in part 'excellent, as
e. g., the precept : " Do not insult an other man, nor speak even
a word by which you would grieve him, for this would hinder his
progress to future bliss;" moreover the sentence : " The enemy,
too, can demand of us the most exact performance of our duty;"
and this remark: "If man leaves his body his friends turn round
with averted faces, but virtue accompanies his soul."

Besides, the Vedas command to worship the gods by sacrifices
and alms, to bathe, to atone for sins, to mortify ourselves, to fast,
and to go on pilgrimages. According to these precepts, even
human sacrifices are offered. The cases are not rare that mothers
drown their children in the holy Ganges, and the faithful votaries
crowd around the idol Dshagernauth, which is carried in public
procession, and throw themselves under the wheels of the holy
carriage, which is sixty feet high, in order to be crushed.

Since olden times there has also always been a class of monks
(Fakirs), who have tried to sanctify themselves by cruel mortifica-
tion, and to acquire the renown of holiness from a stupid rabble.
Some stand during many hours on their heads : others walk in
shoes which are pierced by dozens of pointed nails, hurting their
feet; or they pierce their tongues, rip up their lips and nostrils,
writhe living serpents around the waist, and get on the path of
the procession, spreading burning coals, over which they walk with
naked feet, etc.

The condition of woman is a miserable one; her dignity is
little appreciated by man, and already in tlie days of Alexander
the Great, the religious custom required that the wives of the
Brahmins, after the death of the husband, should burn themselves
with him. The unfortunate wife, decked with her finest clothes
and jewels, approached the corpse of tlic husband, surrounded by



her relatives; she took off her clothing, distributed her finery,
walked three times around the corpse, then bid farewell to the
living ones, poured oil on herself and on the defunct, whom they had
thrown on the funeral pile, and threw herself over him in the
blazing flames. This horrible custom is not yet entirely abolished

The caste system of .the Hindoos forms, too, a part of the
Brahma religion. The noblest caste consists of the priests
(Brahmins), for they say that they have originated from Brahma's
mouth. Their vocation is to say prayers, to read and teach.
They alone are permitted to pronounce the name of Brahma-
Next to the Brahmins ranks the caste of the princes and warriors ;
they descend from Brahma's arms; they govern the country, and
manage its wars. The princes rule like despots, but are controlled
by the Brahmins. To the third caste the peasants and merchants
belong ; it derives its origin from the belly and thighs of Brahma.
Still lower is the rank of the fourth caste, the Sicdras, to which
the mechanics and day laborers belong ; for they descend from
Brahma's feet. They must serve the higher castes, especially the
Brahmins. Their condition is never to be improved ; they are
not to accumulate property. Their fate was formerly even more
wretched. If a Sudras molested a Brahmin, he was put to death ;
if he sat with him on the same carpet, he was mutilated. If he
listened to the lecture of the sacred books, burning oil was poured
in his ears ; if he read them and learned from them, he was killed.
When somebody of a higher caste killed him, that was not more
severely punished than for killing a cat. The lowest class of the
inhabitants is composed of the P arias ; it comprehends the fifth
part of them. They do not enjoy any rights at all; they must
bury the corpses of criminals ; they are not allowed to go into,
the houses of the other castes, nor to speak to any of them, and
only possess dogs and asses as property. The castes are separated
from each other by severe laws ; every one is to stay in that in
which he is born.

Five hundred (or six hundred) years before Christ, yet another
religion, the Buddhism (Lamaism), was formed in India. Its
founder received from its confessors the surname of Btiddha (the
wise) and Gaiifauias (the saint). He was the son of a King in



Hindoostan. When twenty-nine years old, he went into a solitary
country, where he lived many years alone, and in rigid abstinence.
After his return he rose as reformer of the religion of his country,
and gathered many scholars. According to his doctrine there are
no gods, and no immortality. All things originate and perish
according to immutable and necessary laws, and are continually
changing. Man can rule his fate by free will. After death every
thought ceases, for its causes are suppressed, because nothing of
that which before existed remains. Man's life is by death
extinguished like a lamp. According to other reports, Buddha
taught the transmigration of the soul ; even the souls of the animals
migrate from one body into another. Still, reward and punish-
ments will not be everlasting, and everybody can be saved in
Heaven by moral conduct.

In the first place Buddha required an innocent behavior of his
followers. His morals are almost the same as are taught among all
civilized nations. They forbid crimes, e. g., murder, fraud and
theft, and command man to be true, benevolent, merciful, etc.
His design was chiefly to alleviate the sad condition of the lower
castes of his country. He rejected the distinction of castes ; but
as he was not able to break down their barriers, he tried at least to
make them smoother. Therefore he proclaimed that all men are
equal, that they ought to assist each other in distress, and that one
dav all will find rest in the lap of the primitive spirit.

According to the opinion of his followers the high priest {Belai-
Lafna), who resides in Lassa (in Thibet), is his representive, in
whom his soul is incarnated. It is wandering eternally f'-om one
high priest to the other. The priests (bonzes) are commanded to
live in celibacy to get their livelihood by begging, and to live to-
gether in convents. In Lassa alone there are 30,000 bonzes.
Their rites much resemble those of the Catholic Church ; they turn
the rosary, use lights and incense in the temples, mortify their
bodies, etc.

Buddha's doctrine was heartily received by the people ; even
Kings adhered to it ; it was propagated in all parts of Further Hin ~
doostan, and in other countries as far as China. In the course of
time it was m India sui)i)ressed by the jealousy of the Bralnnins ;



13

but instead of that diffused in China and Japan, where yet it is
said to count 300 millions of votaries.

§ 5. Religions of the Chinese— Kong-fu-tse.

The mind of the Chinese avoids religious enthusiasm, and is di-
rected to real life ; therefore three religions are ruling in China,
and each one enjoys equal rights. The first one of them is the
State-religion which Kong-fu-tse (551 B. C.) reformed; to it the
well educated Chinese are adherent. The view of the Universe
professed by that creed, is this : The primitive matter (the sun, the
earth, etc.), and the primitive force exits from eternity ; the force is
manifested in the heaven and earth. It moved and formed the
primitive matter : in this way the world has its existence. There is
no immortality. Man cannot expect to be recompensed after death.
His duty in this life is to resign to the divine power which in
nature is veiled. Confucius' morals comprehend all relations of
life, and proclaim many excellent maxims, e. g., " First rule your-
self; then you are fit to rule a family ; then a country." — ''Wise is
the man who has a profound knowledge of things, submits to rea-
son, and follows the path of virtue and justice. He is his own im-
peacher, witness and judge." — " Do to another what you would
he should do unto you ; and do not unto another what you would
not be done unto : this law is the foundation and principle of all
the rest." — " Desire not the death of thine -enemy ; thou wouldst
desire it in vain ; his life is in the hands of heaven." — " Acknowl-
edge thy benefits, but never revenge injuries."

2. The religion oi primitive Reasoti (Sao). It originated about
600 years B. C. It.>principal tenets are : "Heaven and earth have
sprung out of the chaos which emanates from an eternally creating
Being, the infinite primitive Reason. — Man is the image of earth ;
this is the image of heaven ; heaven — the image of Reason, and
Reason is its own image. The wise man mortifies his body." Be-
sides, the confessors of these tenets believe in miracles, exorcisms
and sorcery.

3. The religion of Buddha, who is called Foe (the holy one)
in China.



14

^ 6. Religion of the Egyptians.

The twu principal dictics of the Egyptians were Osiris and fsis :
the former probably meant the sun, the latter the moon, or nature
in general. Isis presided over agriculture. Besides these two they
worshipped many gods of inferior rank, e.g., a god of the gardens,
gods of the stars, etc. The Egyptians worshipped also many ani-
mals, among them the useful bull, especially the Apis in the city
of Memphis, the storklike bird ibis, which destroys serpents, the
dangerous crocodile, cats, etc. People were forbidden to hurt a
sacred animal. A Roman soldier, who had killed a cat by chance
was attacked by the furious populace and killed, though the King
himself had interceded for his life.

The Egyptians believed in the transmigration of the soul (me-
temspychosis) ; which doctrine they explained in this way : The
human soul has emanated from the soul of the Universe, but has
deserted the latter, andmust therefore atone by migrating through
diverse animal forms ; finally, if it has grown better, it returns
into the human body. The superstition was probably the reason
that the Egyptians embalmed their corpses, which, tied round with
fillets, were carefully preserved in subterraneous appartments.
There these muvtmies (as they are called) remained unhurt during
thousands of years.

There were also oracles in Egypt. The most ancient existed in
Meroe. For the orarles particular priestesses were appointed in
the temples of Osiris and Isis, where they slept, and in dreams
learned the will of the deity. Even the sacred bull in Memphis
promulgated oracles. In that country the system of castes pre-
vailed too, and the priests occupied also there the highest rank.
They alone were entitled to be physicians. Their religious belief
was more enlightened than the common one, but they kept it
secret. The priests were the judges of the dead. If they gave
an unfavorable verdict with regard to the moral and religious be-
havior of an individual, his corpse was given up to corruption.
The religion of the Chaldeans and Babylonians was similar to the
Egyptian.



15

§ 7. Greek and Homan. Religions.

The Greeks idolized all the forces of nature. So was 'Jupiter
to them the god of the air and light, and also of life, and there-
fore they called him the father of the gods and men. Apollo was
the god of music and poetry ; Minerva the goddess of wisdom ;
Venus the goddess of beauty and love ; Mars the god of war ;
^//j/z^, Jupiter's spouse, presided over wedlock ; Fulean ovqy fire ;
Neptune over the ocean ; PlutO' ruled in Tartarus. Besides there
were many lesser gods and semi-gods ; Pan was the god of shep-
herds ; Pomona the goddess of fruit ; Ceres the goddess of grains ;
Blora the goddess of flowers, — every fountain, every tree was pro-
tected by a deity, the nymphs and dryads. The Muses presided
over song and other arts ; the Graces dispensed charms. But all
gods, even Jupiter, were subjected to the immutable Fate. The
shades of the dead descended into the nether world, and were
there judged ; the good were happy in the Elysian fields, the
wicked suffered different torments in Tartarus. The poets
developed the mythology further, and applied it ingeniously in
their works.

The- Greeks had several oracles; the most celebrated was that of
Apollo in Delphi, at the foot of mount Parnassus. There was a
cavern which emitted a steaming vapor. He who inhaled it, fell
in a rapture, in which (as they believed) he was inspired by the
god, and enabled to promulgate his will, and to discover the future;
The consulters nuist prepare by prayers, purification and sacrifices .
then the priestess (Pythia) was led into the sanctuary, and seated
on a large tripod, which stood above the cavern. As soon as the
subterraneous vapors had permeated her, she fell into hideous con-
vulsions, her eyes were distorted, her mouth foamed, and finally
she uttered, with terrible howling, detached words, from which the
priests constructed the replies, the most of which were composed
in verses. This oracle ruled often the fate of whole States, and
was for a long time the principal support of the Gieek Govern-
ments. Frequently the bold, who divulged the frauds of the
oracles, was by the priests allured into caverns and killed.

The temples of the Greeks were magnificent. The temple of
Apollo in Delphi, of Jupiter in Olympia, of Diana in Ephesus, and



i6

of Minerva in Athens, were far-famed. To the latter a splendid
piazza led, which was formed by five high portals, constructed of
marble, and joined by two wings of edifices, and was reached by
magnificent stairs. The inside was often decorated with the
masterpieces of sculpture ; such ones were the colossal statues of
Jupiter in Olympia, and of Minerva in Athens, both formed by the
great sculptor Phidias.

The Roman religion resembled that of the Greeks, and was
established by King Numa Pompilius, calling it the revelation of
then ymph Egeria. The Romans idolized even abstract ideas and
moral qualities of man ; e. g., they had a goddess of liberty, of
honor, of victory, chastity, fidelity, patriotism, bravery, etc. They
also considered religion as a fulcrum of the State, and therefore it
was freely used as the handmaid of politics, in order to lead the
superstitious people with her strings. The sacerdotal offices were
State offices. Particular priests watched the flight of birds, the
lightning, and the intestines of animals. The State affairs were
conducted according to their interpretation. The Sibylline books,
too, served the State officers as guides in doubtful emergencies.
The virgins of Vesta watched the eternal fire ; they were not
allowed to marry during the term of their service. Human
sacrifice were also sometimes offered. After the disastrous battle at
Cannae (216 B. C. », several persons were burned alive in Rome.

In general, both Romans and Greeks were very superstitious,
e. g., if a public meeting took place, and during it a weasel ran
over the road, it was adjourned. Particular soothsayers were
appointed by the authorities, in order to call the dead from Tar-
tarus. The crime of sacrilege was punished with death ; it was
inflicted even for pulling a shrub in a sacred grove. Philosophy
was often in close battle with religion ; philosophers, who doubted
the existence of the gods, were put to death; e. g. , Socrates, who
was condemned to drink the poisoned cup ; Anaxagoras had to fly
from Athens ; and so Diagoras, for whose head a prize was off"ered.

§ 8. Religion of the Ancient Germans.

During the time that the ancient Germans were living in a rude
condition of nature, their religious conceptions were also rude and



17

very defective. According to the usual report, they worshipped
Wodin (Odin), also called Alfader (father of all), as the Supreme
Being; his son Thor as the god of thunder; his spouse Freyja as
as the goddess of love and wedlock ; and He^'tha, the goddess of
the earth ; the ?F^/4>'^-/


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 11 of 28)