« PreviousContinue »
ligion which has become Aryan in every sense of the word. And again, I ask, who could understand the original character of Christianity, unless he knew the language which gave rise to such names and concepts as Elohim and Jehovah and Messiah, unless he knew its antecedents in the Old Testament?
It may happen that whole nations, most interesting to us in their ethnological and political character, are of no account whatever in the study of religion. Japan, for instance, so far as it is Buddhist, can teach us nothing except by showing us how a religion, most spiritual in its origin, may become formal and ceremonial and unmeaning, if transferred to an uncongenial soil. Fortunately, however, something of the native religion of Japan also has been preserved to us in the Shintoism of the past and of the present day. It is by this that Japan supplies a really important chapter in the history of Natural Religion.
What applies to Japan, applies likewise to such countries as Tibet, Burmah, and Siam, all of which have adopted the religion of Buddha, and can be of real interest to us by the remnants of their ancient popular religion only, which survive here and there in superstitions, customs, and legends.
Egyptian. A larger harvest awaits the student of religion in Egypt. Here, however, both ethnology and philology offer us as yet but little help. Whether the ancient language of Egypt shows any traces of real relationship with Aryan and Semitic speech, is a question which has been asked again and again, but has never been satisfactorily answered. Similarities with Se
mitic grammar there are, and there are coincidences between Egyptian and Aryan roots which are sometimes startling. Some scholars have gone so far as to recognise in the language of Egypt the most primitive form of human speech, previous even to its differentiation as Aryan and Semitic. That Egypt was open from the earliest times to ethnic influences from the Semitic, the Aryan, and likewise from the African world, cannot be denied. But, for the present, we must be careful not to dogmatise on these problems, and it will be best to treat the Egyptian religion, for the study of which we possess such ample materials, as an independent nucleus of religious thought.
The adjacent languages of Northern Africa are likewise as yet in what may be called an unclassified state. In ancient times the language of Carthage and other Phenician settlements on the Northern coast was Semitic. But what are called the Sub-Semitic or sometimes the Hamitic languages, the Berber or Libyan (Kabyle, Shilhe, Tuareg or Tamasheg), and some of the aboriginal dialects of Abyssinia or Ethiopia (the Somâli, Galla, Beja or Bihâri, Agau, Dankali, etc.), must be submitted to a far more searching analysis before they can claim a real right to the name of either Hamitic or Sub-Semitic. Fortunately they are of small importance to us in our investigations of primitive religious concepts and names, as Mohammedanism has effaced nearly every trace of religious beliefs which preceded it in those regions.
Africa. There is no time, and there is no necessity, for my laying before you the as yet only partially disentangled network of languages spread over the rest of Africa. For our own purposes it will be sufficient if we distinguish between those linguistic and religious groups to which reference will have to be made in the course of our studies.
The Nubas on the Upper Nile, who, according to F. Müller, constitute with the Fulahs a separate linguistic class, need not occupy us at present, because here also little is known of their ancient religion previous to their conversion to Mohammedanism. Lepsius, in his 'Nubische Grammatik,' denies the independent character of the language. There remain therefore:
1. The Hottentots and Bushmen in the South. The best judges now consider these two races, in spite of striking differences in language and religion, as originally one.
2. The Bântu races, or Kafirs, who extend in an unbroken line on the East-coast from several degrees north of the Equator down to the Hottentots, with whom they are often closely united. They have spread from East to West across the whole continent. The typical form of their language is so pronounced that there can be no doubt as to the relationship of these languages, though it may be that several little explored dialects are at present treated as Bântu which further analysis will have to adjudge to a different class. Dr. Bleek, who was the first to establish the relationship of the best-known Bântu languages on a truly scientific basis, was also the first to show the influence which such languages would naturally exercise on the religious ideas of those who spoke them. Being without grammatical gender, in
our sense of the word, these languages do not lend themselves easily to the personification of the powers of nature. Worship of ancestral spirits is very general among these Bântu tribes.
3. The Negro races, extending from the Western coast of Africa towards the interior. Here much remains to be done, and we must hope that future researches will lead to the discovery of several subdivisions of what are now called Negro languages. Something, however, has been gained, in so far as this ill-defined name of Negro is restricted for the present to the inhabitants of the centre of Africa. What is called fetishism was first observed among these tribes, though it never constituted the original or the exclusive character of their religion.
Lepsius 1, in his ‘Nubische Grammatik,' tries to reduce the population of Africa to three types:
1. The Northern negroes ;
And in accordance with this ethnological system, he arranges the languages also into three zones :
(1) The Southern, south of the Equator, the Bântu dialects, explored chiefly on the west and east coasts, but probably stretching across the whole continent, comprising the Herero, Pongue, Fernando Po, Kafir ('Osa and Zulu), Tshuana (Soto and Rolon), Suahili, etc. ; (2) the Northern zone, between the Equator and the Sahara, and east as far as the Nile, comprising Efik, Ibo, Yoruba, Ewe, Akra or Ga, Otyi, Kru, Vei (Mande), Temne, Bullom, Wolof, Fula, Sonrhai, Kanuri, Teda (Tibu), Logone, Wandala, Bagirmi, Mâba,
2 M. M., Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 239.
Konjâra, Umâle, Dinka, Shilluk, Bongo, Bari, Oigob, Nuba, and Barea ; (3) the Hamitic zone, including the extinct Egyptian and Coptic, the Libyan dialects, such as Tuareg (Kabyl and Amasheg), Hausa, the Kushitic or Ethiopian languages, including the Beja dialects, the Soho, Falasha, Agau, Galla, Dankali, and Somâli. The Hottentot and Bushman languages are referred to the same zone.
The Hamitic languages comprised in the third zone, the Egyptian, Libyan, and Kushitic, are considered by Lepsius as alien to Africa. They are all intruders from the East, though reaching Africa at different times and by different roads. The true aboriginal nucleus of African speech is contained in the first zone, and represented by that class of languages which, on account of their strongly marked grammatical character, has been called the Bântu family. Professor Lepsius attempts to show that the languages of the Northern zone are modifications of the same type which is represented in the Southern zone, these modifications being chiefly due to contact and more or less violent friction with languages belonging to the Hamitic zone, and, to a certain extent, with Semitic languages also.
America. Imperfect as our present classification of the native languages, and, in consequence, of the native religions of Africa is, still we have advanced so far that no scholar would speak any longer of African languages, and no theologian of African religions.
The same applies to America. The division and the mutual relations of the numerous languages spoken on that continent are far from being satis