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stood by what right it could possibly be transferred to the primitive periods of humanity. And here a very useful lesson has been read to anthropologists, in whose eyes every nineteenth-century savage becomes an antediluvian. For, according to the most recent researches, there seems to be little doubt that Manito was introduced in the last century only by Christian Missionaries as a name for the Supreme Being, and had never been used before in that sense by the Red Indians themselves 1.
I hope I have thus made it clear that in citing these names of the Infinite, whether in the Veda, or among the Pacific tribes, or among the Red Indians, I never intended to imply that they could have represented under any circumstances the earliest phases of religious thought. The perception of the Infinite, which is the necessary foundation of all religious thought, is something quite different. It is the perception of the infinite within the finite, and hence, whenever these perceptions are raised to a conceptual level and named, the names of the finite remain and become imperceptibly the names of the Infinite.
Does the Vedic Religion begin with Sacrifice ? Let us now consider another objection. The perception of the Infinite, it has been said?, can have nothing to do with the origin of religion, because the Vedic religion begins not with faith in infinite beings, but with sacrifice.
These are bold statements. First of all, it should never be forgotten that the deities invoked in the
Veda must have existed long before the hymns which we possess were composed. Some of them exist in other Aryan languages and must therefore have been framed prior even to the Aryan separation. The origin of their names lies, therefore, far beyond the Vedic age, and if they were originally names of finite phenomena, conceived as infinite in the evolution of religious thought, whatever the Vedic hymns and Brâhmanas might say to the contrary, would be of very little weight. But, secondly, what possible meaning can we connect with the statement that the Vedic religion begins with sacrifice ?
When sacrifices come in, for whom are they meant? Surely for somebody, for beings who are the object of faith, for beings different from things we can touch or see, for infinite beings, if only in the sense that their life has no end, and that they are in that sense, immortal, endless, infinite.
And what can be the meaning of such a sentence (p. 221) as this, that in the Veda'the faithful knows that the lighting of the matutinal sacrificial fire drives away the demons of night, and supports the approaching sun-god in his fight against them. He has been taught by his ancestors that the sacrificial potion and the intoxicating Soma invigorate Indra for his fight with the dragon, and he sacrifices gladly, because he hates the night, which is full of dangers, and because he loves the break of day. For this reason, and not from a desire for the infinite, does he call the bright deities his friends and the sky his father. And when the faithful has performed his sacrificial rite, he expects that heaven will do his part, increase the cattle of the faithful, fertilise his fields and destroy his enemies. In this very finite sphere does the religion of those early days have its being.'
If we dissolve these assertions into their constituent elements, we shall find that they have absolutely no bearing whatever on the question at issue. We wanted to know how the concept of any so-called gods or divine powers arose, of beings to whom at a later time sacrifices may be offered ; and we are told that the faithful knows that his sacrifice will support the sun-god in his fight against the demons of night! (p. 276.) But here everything which we wish to account for is taken for granted. When people had arrived at the conception of a sun-god and of nocturnal demons, the whole battle of the human intellect was won. But who ever told them of a sun-god, or, as we should say, what perceptions led them on to such a concept and such a name? Then again, whence came that idea that a sacrifice could invigorate the sun-god? We are told that man learnt it from his ancestors. Yes, but we want to know how his ancestors learnt it. We are really speaking of two totally different periods in the development of human thought. If man has once arrived at the idea of bright deities, we can understand why he should call them his friends; but why did he call anything bright deities ?
Then again, the idea that an intoxicating beverage like Soma, taken by the sacrificer, should invigorate the god fighting against the dragon, is so late, so secondary, even in so late and so secondary a phase of religion as we see represented in the Veda, that it is difficult enough to discover all the missing links in the intellectual chain that led to it. But to suppose that religion could begin with Indra drinking Soma
offered at a sacrifice, is like supposing that the Aryan language could begin with French.
And is it really a very finite sphere of thought, if people have actually brought themselves to believe, not only that there are bright gods in heaven, but that these gods in heaven can hear our prayers, and that, though unseen themselves, they are able to increase the cattle of the faithful and destroy their enemies? Where in all our finite experience is there any evidence for such thoughts, thoughts which become intelligible only by patient research, just as French words become intelligible only, if we trace them back through various phases to Latin, and from Latin to some Aryan root the meaning of which is sometimes so different that, without a knowledge of the intermediate links, we could never believe that the two had any organic relationship at all..
Germs of the Infinite in the Veda. Any one who is able to understand the Veda, will find no difficulty in discovering the true germs of the infinite in the conception of what the Vedic poets call devas. It makes no difference whether we call those poets primitive or modern, savage or civilised, so long as we know what thoughts they were capable of. Now the thought of the infinite, in space and time at least, was certainly not beyond their grasp.
When a Vedic poet, such as Vasishtha, stood on a high mountain in the land of the Seven Rivers, as he called the Punjab, and let his eye travel across land and water as far as it could reach, had he not a perception of the infinite ?
When a Greek hero, such as Odysseus, was tossed
about on the vast commotion of the waves, seeing no stars and no land anywhere, had he no perception of the infinite? And are we so different from them ?
The Infinitely Great. When we ourselves,-savages as we are, according to Bacon, in spite of all our syllogisms 1,-. have learnt to look upon the boundless earth with its boundless ocean, no longer as a stupendous mass, but as a small globe or globule, moving with other globes across the infinite firmament; when wider infinitudes than the infinite firmament open before us, and the sun, which was once so near and dear to us, becomes a fiery mass, the magnitude of which defies our power of imagination; when afterwards, the magnitude of the sun and its distance from us, which is expressed in millions of miles, dwindle down again into nothing as compared with the nearest star, which, we are told, lies twenty millions of millions of miles from our earth, so that a ray of light, if travelling with the velocity of 187,000 miles in a second, would take more than three years in reaching us ;—nay even this is not yet all,—when we are assured by high astronomical authorities that there are more than one thousand millions of such stars which our telescopes have discovered, and that there may be millions of millions of suns within our sidereal system which are as yet beyond the reach of our best telescopes; and that even that sidereal system need not be regarded as single within the universe, but that thousands of millions of sidereal systems may be recognised in the galaxy 2_if we listen to all this, do we not feel the overwhelming pressure of the
1 See De Bonald, Mál. i. 100. 2 See R. A. Proctor, in Secular Thought, April 21, 1888.