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EXAMINATION OF DEFINITIONS.
races might have remained in a state of childish idiotcy, might be without religion, without language, nay, without reason.
In most cases, however, which I have been able to examine where some authorities maintained that certain savage tribes had never heard of religion, while other observers declared that they had discovered in their language names for good and evil spirits, these strange contradictions could always be accounted for by the absence of a proper definition of religion. If religion can be used, and has been used, in so many different and even contradictory senses as we saw in our last lecture, we need not wonder that there should be so much conflict of opinion when it has to be determined whether Negroes or Australians do or do not possess religion.
If religion is defined as a modus cognoscendi et colendi Deum, even Buddhism would not be a religion. If it is defined as a surrender of the finite will to the infinite, even Judaism, at least in its earliest form, would hardly deserve the name of religion. If a belief in a more perfect future life is considered an essential element of religion, then the faith of the early Greeks would not be a religion? If temples and sacrifices are indispensable for religion, the ancient Germans, and some of the Polynesian tribes?, even at present, would be without a religion.
This is but one instance to show how much all our inquiries into the history of religion, and all our
1 Mill, Three Essays, p. 121. · Chamisso, Werke, ii. p. 258, · Es giebt auf Ulea und den östlicheren Inseln (Lamureck, etc.) weder Tempel noch Priester, und es finden keine feierlichen Opfer statt. Auf Mogemug, Eap und Ngoli sind eigene Tempel erbaut, Opfer werden dargebracht, und es giebt einen religiösen Dienst.'
theories on the origin of religion, depend on a clear and correct definition of what we mean by religion, of what is included in and what is excluded from the sphere of that name.
Names for Religion. Before, however, I proceed to give you what seems to me the right definition of religion, at all events from an historical point of view,-a definition, I mean, of what religion has been, rather than of what, according to the opinions of various philosophers, it ought to be, I have a few words to say on the names for religion in foreign, and particularly in Oriental languages. It is surprising to find how difficult it is to discover words in these languages which correspond exactly to our concept of religion. This difficulty applies, no doubt, to many words, and it is a very useful lesson which the study of foreign languages teaches us.
When we first begin to learn a new language, all seems easy. The dictionary gives us the corresponding words, the grammar the corresponding forms. But the more we learn of a foreign language, the more difficult do we find it to discover words that will really square our own words. There is always something too much or too little. We enter really into a new atmosphere as soon as we speak in a new language, and there are associations playing round every one of our own expressions which, like the light and shade of the clouds, like the rustling of the leaves, and like the freshness of the air, determine, without being perceived, the whole character of a landscape.
So common a word as philosopher, for instance, has a much narrower meaning in German than in English.
EXAMINATION OF DEFINITIONS.
A man like Darwin would not be called ein Philosoph in German, but ein Naturforscher. Philosophie in German has remained restricted to Logic, Psychology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Aesthetics; and we have Darwin's own confession that of all these subjects he was absolutely ignorant. It is a standing joke among German philosophers against English philosophy, that in England you can buy philosophical instruments. The joke loses its point as soon as it is known that philosophy in English means likewise the study of nature, such as chemistry, optics, acoustics and all the rest, and that therefore what in German are called physicalische Instrumente may well be called philosophical instruments in English.
There are many such words in all languages which are the despair of the translator. A very common word in German is zweckmässig, that is, anything so contrived that it answers its purpose. From it, Zweckmässigkeit, which we may translate by appropriateness, but which means
a great deal We can speak of the innere Zweckmässigkeit eines Organismus, that is, an organism in which everything is so contrived that it answers exactly the purpose for which it was intended ; but I know no word in English or French which fully conveys that meaning ?
However, the modern languages of Europe have so many of their antecedents in common, that in a rough and ready way one can be made to answer as well as another to express our thoughts. We lose a little
Dr. Martineau (Study of Religion, ii. p. 154) translates it by adaptation to internal ends,' or internal conformity to an end,' but he generally retains the German expression
when we exchange a shilling for a German Mark, and we lose more when we accept a franc for a shilling; still, if we are not too exacting, we can make our way through the world with one coinage as well as with the other.
But when we leave Europe to travel in Eastern countries, the exchange becomes more and more difficult, both with our monetary and with our intellectual coinage. It sounds hardly credible, but if you take so rich a language as Sanskrit, and a literature so full of religion as that of India, you look in vain for a word for religion. To a certain extent this is our own fault. If we put so many
ill-defined meanings into a word as have been put into religion, we must not be surprised if we do not find exactly the same conglomerate elsewhere. Here it is where thinking in two languages often proves very useful, by making us aware of the presence of the many amorphous particles of thought which will not pass through the sieve of another language. But it is strange, nevertheless, that a word which seems to us so simple and so clear as religion, should be without its exact counterpart in any language.
Words for Religion in Chinese. It
may easily be imagined that if so rich a language as Sanskrit is deficient in names corresponding exactly to our idea of religion, other languages do not supply us with better equivalents for that word.
In Chinese, for instance, there is, as Professor Legge informs us, no word corresponding exactly to our word religion.
To Confucianism there is applied more especially
EXAMINATION OF DEFINITIONS.
the character Chiâo, meaning the Teaching or Instruction, Doctrina.
To Buddhism the character Få is commonly given, meaning · Law. Fo Fa, “the Law of Buddha,' is Buddhism.
Taoism is Tâo, 'the Way.'
These are often spoken of as San Chiáo, The Three Systems of Teaching,' for which phrase the best rendering seems to be the Three Religions. But if the three be spoken of discriminatingly, the different terms are appropriate to them severally.
The authors of the famous Nestorian Inscription applied all the three names to Christianity. Now it is with them the Doctrine,' now the Law,' and now “the Way. They found it difficult, they say, to fix on a distinctive name for it, and finally determined to call it Ching Chiâo,' the Illustrious Doctrine,' using the terms which Lâo-tze employs, when he says he would call his subject or system the Tao or Way.
The general term for 'having faith' is hsin, indicating the idea of believing.'
Words for Religion in Arabic. In Arabic, which reflects more advanced and subtle thought on religious topics than most languages, there is, nevertheless, no word that can be considered a real equivalent of our word religion. Dîn, according to Lane, implies obedience and submission to the law, and is used in Arabic for religion in the widest sense, both historical and practical. Ahlu-ddîn, however, people of religion, is a term restricted to those who profess to found their faith upon revealed scriptures, Mohammedans, Jews, and Christians,