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more absurd than that of imputing the origin of the Magi to Abraham, which is however said to have advocates among the Parsees; or than the wild conceit that the Hebrew patriarch was the Brahma of Hindoostan. The learned Hyde maintained that Zoroaster was a renegado Jew, a servant of the prophet Ezra : an instance of perverse ingenuity, which only yields to the speculations of Huet, of whose celebrated demonstration it was not unaptly said, that it proves nothing but the vast learning of the author.
The conceits of these great men were puerile, but they were very excusable. They attempted to account for very extraordinary facts by the most simple method that occurred to them. But modern research has gone greatly beyond them: we are now well assured that these wonderful vestiges exist not only in the mythologies of Greece and the eastern countries which border on Judæa : we discover the historical facts mentioned in our early Scriptures, and the institutions of the Patriarchs, not only in Persia and in Egypt, but among the disciples of Menu in Hindoostan, in the ancient books of the Chinese, in the traditions and
picture writings of the Mexicans and Peruvians, and in the old Runic tales of the Icelanders and Scandinavians.
It is high time then to lay aside the whimsical idea that Moses was no other than the thrice great Hermes, or that he conversed with Cecrops, or that Abraham made a journey to mount Albordi and taught Magianism in the city of Balkh. We must look for some more adequate cause of so extensive a phenomenon.
The first hypothesis that offers itself to account for facts so general, we had almost said universal, is, that there are some common principles of human nature, some innate sentiments which have given rise to similar modes of thinking and acting in the separated portions of our species. Reflexion may lead the more enlightened in every country to entertain nearly the same ideas of the attributes of the Deity, to acknowledge his moral government of the world, and to perceive the relations in which men stand to Him and to each other. Hence many religious practices might take their rise, which might appear, on casual observation, to prove connexion between nations widely scattered. · The sense of delinquency which guilt inspires in every human breast, and the consciousness of having offended an Almighty Being, and of appearing hateful in his sight, is probably the source of the various penances and voluntary tortures which abound in the religious rites of barbarous nations. The vast distance at which a criminal and debased wretch feels himself from the majesty of a pure and omnipotent spirit, and the impossibility of making any adequate atonement for his offences, seems to have impelled every tribe of men who have risen to any
conception of the Deity, to seek for some intermediate being through whose intercession their devotions might obtain access to the throne of the Most High. Hence the Dæmons or Genii, who among so many Pagan tribes are invested with the office of mediators, and who, in process of time, become the chief objects of worship. Hence the Ormazd of the Persians, the Brahma Vishnu and Siva of the Brahmanists, and the Buddha of the Palasscins, who were all of them in their origin mediators and subordinate divinities. Even the Chinese, whose oldest doctrines approached very near to a simple theism, consecrated three of their earliest emperors, princes of remarkable piety and virtue, and represented them in their sacred books as holding a middle place between heaven and earth, and continually supplicating the Supreme Lord for the happiness of their beloved China. And among Christians, whose religion is in conformity with all the innate sentiments of man, we find proofs of the same impulses. When the Catholics, in their zeal against the impieties of Arius, had in a great measure overlooked or forgotten the mediatorial character of the Messiah, they quickly had recourse to a crowd of inferior mediators.
We are persuaded that these reflexions might be pursued further, and that an explanation might be derived from this source of many tenets and practices which are commonly ascribed to different causes. Still, however, there remains a great number of facts which demand a different solution. Positive and arbitrary institutions which coincide, preclude the idea of casual resemblance, and necessarily lead us to infer a common origin; and when we find these coincidences scattered through the most distant regions, we are forced to go back to the first periods of human society,
We find many traces in history of an epoch when the nations of the earth, and particularly those of Asia, were much more intimately connected than they have since been. In ascending to the first ages of each nation, we continually discover a stronger mutual resemblance. The manners appear more uniform, and converge, if not towards barbarism, towards a state of pastoral simplicity. The first government that seems to have been established after the patriarchal age, was a hierarchy, under which all the offices of religion and the highest civil powers were confided to the same individuals. Traces may be observed on several occasions in our Scripures of this ancient priesthood. The king of Salem was a high priest, and received, in virtue of his spiritual dignity, the portion which was of old allotted to the sacred office. The priesthood in Egypt was early established in authority. We find that the great college of Heliopolis already existed in the time of Joseph, and enjoyed a dignified character. Both in Egypt and in Ethiopia the kings were chosen by, and subject in all things to the controul of the priests. In Chaldea, India, and other countries, their antiquity ascends to a very remote epoch.
At first it is very probable that the priests were elected to the important trusts committed to their charge in virtue of superior wisdom and sanctity of life. However this may have been, it is certain that they soon contrived to make themselves a separate order in the State. With the aid of a military class, with whom they condescended to share their power, they succeeded in establishing the most complicated system of subordination, of which any trace occurs in history; for it is to this early age that we must refer the institution of casts, which prevailed in Egypt, India, Persia, and many other countries. The priests were probably, at first, ministers of the true religion, and held for a time the faith of the patriarchs unadulterated. It would appear, indeed, that most of the ancient mythologies contained in their first principles a genuine theism, which was set forth to the
populace under symbolical representations, and hence in practice became degraded into a low polytheism, but retained even in later times an esoteric doctrine inculcating the unity of God. We learn from Eusebius and Porphyry that such was the case in regard to the Egyptians. We are assured of the same fact with respect to the Persians and Hindoos; and we know from various sources that the intention of the mysteries so much venerated among the ancient pagans, was chiefly the elucidation of this tenet, and the connexion of it with the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments.
The belief in the immortality of the soul was corrupted by the doctrine of its transmigration through the bodies of animals, and this led in many countries to a superstitious abstinence from the use of animal food. Priestcraft was continually employed in strengthening and augmenting its dominion by new resources. Magic, augury, and divination were invented. At the same time, such sciences as contributed to the desired end were not neglected. It is certain that we owe to this ancient hierarchy the knowledge of geometry, the earliest astronomical observations, and except those of our Scriptures, the oldest historical traditions, perhaps also the use of letters.
This system extended its ramifications far and wide. From Egypt and Ethiopia it spread through Africa. It was certainly established very early in Hetruria. The Druids of the Celtæ taught nearly the same doctrines, and professed the same sciences with their brethren in Asia. We are informed by Hesiod and Strabo, that some of the Thracian and Masian tribes bad imbibed similar superstitions, and they seem to have communicated them to their kindred in Germany. From the neighbour
hood of Tibet, probably their first abode, they were carried into Corea and the ancient seats of the Toltec and Aztec hordes.
Mr. Townsend has presented us with an interesting selection of the widely scattered fragments of the primitive religion, which will be read with amusement and instruction. His object being to illustrate and confirm, by means of them, some of the most remarkable points of the Mosaic history, he has confined himself to a few heads, which he might have extended to a much greater number if his intention had been to give an analysis of ancient mythology. He shows that the creation of the world and its emerging from a state of primitive chaos and from an universal ocean, are not only contained in the works of the Grecian poets and philosophers, but are traced among several more ancient nations. It is detailed in a curious extract from one of the Paranas.
“ Of all objects in the created world, water existed first. The universe was dark. In this primeval water did Bhagavat, in a masculine form, tepose for the space of a thousand ages; after which, the intention of creating other beings, for his own wise purposes, became predominant in the mind of the Supreme. In the first place, by his will, was produced one flower of the lotus; then the form of Brahma, who, emerging from the cup of the lotus, looked round and beheld, from the eyes of his four heads, an immeasurable expanse of water. In this flower he passed five hundred years in wonder, perplexity and prayer ; after which he produced the four elements, and the genii which preside over them. From his right side there issued, by the omnipotence of God, a man of perfect beauty, Swayambhuva Menu, that is, son of the Self-existent; and from his left side a woman, named Satarupa.” (P. 43, 44.)
To the same purpose is a passage in the ancient Edda of Sæemund, published by Resenius. It occurs in the principal poem, the Voluspa, of which we regret that no English translation exists. We are indebted for some extraets to Mr. Mallet.
“ In the day-spring of the ages there was neither sea, nor shore, nor refreshing breezes. There was neither earth below, nor heaven above, to be distinguished. The whole was one vast abyss, without herb, and destitute of seeds. The sun had then no palace; the stars knew not their dwelling-places; the moon was unacquainted with her power, &c. After a full description of the chaotic state, it then proceeds to the production of the earth, with its inhabitants.” (P.38.)
The fall of man from a state of primitive innocence and happiness was preserved in the traditions of the pagan world. The fictions of the golden age and the curse brought upon mankind by the box of Pandora, and the fire which Prometheus stole from Heaven, bear an evident allusion to it. The institutions of sacrifice and of the sabbath were nearly universal. It is remarkable also that the seven days of the week were among all nations dedicated to the same planets. Thus the planet Mercury was associated to the fourth day of the week among the Hindus and Scandinavians. In the East Buddha presided over it: in the North it was dedicated to Woden. These proofs are sufficient to convince us that astronomy was propagated among the nations of antiquity from a common source.
A still more re. markable proof of extensive communication is found in the Mexican astronomy. The system of periodical series, and the mode of calculating by great astronomical cycles, are the same in Mexico as in Japan and Tibet. . The names given to the 20 days of the Mexican month scarcely differ from those assigned to the lunar mansions of the oldest division of the zodiac in the East. With these coincidences it is wonderful that the Mexicans had lost all traces of the septenary division of time and of the sabbath.
Before we take leave of this part of Mr. Townsend's work, we shall mention our entire agreement with his observations on the works of Dupuis and his followers. Even in this country the astronomical interpretation of mythology has been carried to an absurd extreme, and we never open a volume of Bryant without lamenting that so much learning should have been so completely thrown away. As to his followers, we give them up to their evil destinies. But among the self-called philosophers of the Continent, a similar method has been pursued in an inverse direction. With them the names of the constellations are not derived from real events, but the historical relation of events from the signs in the heavens, and the ancient traditions of all nations are resolved into mere symbolical expressions of celestial phenomena. Nothing can be more improbable or more contrary to the customs of men, than such an interpretation. Every one is familiar with the expedient adopted on the apotheosis of Augustus; and in China, as Mr. Townsend observes, the signs of the constellations are historical, and have appropriate names calculated to perpetuate the remembrance of actual events. To invert this order is not agreeable to the practice of mankind. Keeping this observation constantly in view, the laborious work of M. Dupuis may be perused with equal instruction and amusement. Absurd as this system is, it is wonderful that it has met with such an advocate as Volney, who on other subjects is generally a sensible writer. Among all the sceptical persons in our island, we have only heard of one perverse enough to enlist under the standard of these blasphemers.
On the whole, we think Mr. Townsend has clearly shown that the events related by Moses were not feigned by him. The coincidence of his relations with the traditions and practices of