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ItACHILLAN ft CO., Lihrbd






II of Stn^rit and Compantive Pbilology, Yale Uoivenity




TmBumuLUBtitM OECl'- 1918


pivmfTY School

8«l gp imd lUarotffid. 1



In the language of one of the savage races mentioned in this volume the word religion means the sacred tree. Although innocent of allegory, yet, as in many other regards, in this definition the savage has suggested a profound truth. For religion is, as it were, a tree. Its roots lie deep in the dartoiess of primeval earth; its growth must precede its sheltering foliage; and its unripened fruits are not pleasant. Yet, watered by a living spring, it has risen out of a soil black and even gruesome, since blood too has fertilized it, but risen nevertheless it has, slowly exalting itself heavenward; and under it sits nearly all mankind.

In the course of this volume we shall study the roots and the higher growth of this tree, which through its age- long development, as any tree chains its earth-drawn sustenance into something more ethereal, has transmuted terror into reverent awe, hunger into hope, lust into love. We shall trace the slow pr(^ess of such roots of religion as bear today the names taboo, fetishism, totemism; see how taboo invested with spiritual power the moral com- mand, insured the home, and made for civilization ; how fetishism confirmed the thou^t that man depends on a spiritual something, gave faith in a power that helped, and made that power the judge of right and wrong; how totemism linked man in communion with the divine and in conjunction with seasonal nature-worship founded ritual in the recurrent form necessary to religious stability. We shall see in short that the higher not only is above the lower but that it has ascended out of the lower. Savi^ry did not give place to civilization but developed into it, was already civilization in the germ.


So Egypt merely intensified the idea of communion when it made the soul the Osiris and burgeoned into the mys- ticism which became the mystery of human brotherhood in divine sonship. All these ideas remained conserved in the higher growth, and others as well ; the belief that the single member might be cut off for the good of the whole, that evil like good had assumed a personal form, that law was established On divine will, and even that the moral was more important than the ritual law : " There are the forty- nine rites to be practised but to be pure of heart is better," said one who lived some centuries before our era.

Naturally, therefore, the question arises: If religion be all one tree, and even the acorn an embryonic oak, is there anything essential that makes the limb which shel- ters us different from others, such as the noble, if narrow, branch called Mohammedanism ; the broad bough of Vishnuism, with its devotion to a personal Lord and its belief that this Lord once lived on earth as man; or Buddhism, with its gentle yet exalted faith ; or Zoroastrian- ism, which gave the world its virgtn-bom saviour, archan- gels, Ahriman, and an eschatology still potent under another name? That a sacred tree may have one Golden Bough is another truth adumbrated by savagery, and such a bough is surely different from others. The inquiry then is not futile, though it can here be answered only by pointing out salient distinctions. Nowhere in Zoroastrianism is there escape from the round of ceremonies and iteration of creed. Mohammedanism sufficed for its time and place, but its fruit never ripened in the sun. Vishnuism freed itself from form ; but its chief fruit, which was loving faith, either became rotten with erotic mysticism, a form of decay which once threatened the fruit of the Golden Bough also, or shrivelled into a dry husk : the sinner dies forgiven who expires ejaculating Rama's Name. As the fruit of our bough is different from this, so it is not that of its nearest spiritual neighbour, Buddhism, either in the primitive atheistic form or in the nihilistic idealism whose crowning



fruit is th« Void. For, as this is no real fruit but its nega- tion. Buddhism is left with nothii^ but the barren leaves of rites and the thomless twigs of its passive doctrine, not to Injure others.

But the fruit of the Golden Bough is active love not passive pity ; its very dogma is that dogma is insufficient ; its pure religion and undehled is this, to serve others; and no bough can be broader: " In every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of Him." In a word, historically the essence of the difference lies here: All higher reli^ons are a complex of early and late growths ; they alt are either intense or broad as compared with their origins. But one religion is more intense and broader than any other. Other religions have been liberal, not only Vishnuism but Zoroastrianism ; others have been intense, vital, like Mohammedanism ; but only one has con- centrated itself upon love of God in man and defined every man as a brother. Christianity came not to destroy, but to fulfil, to change Buddha's negative kindness into actual devotion; to enlarge as well as to intensify the vision of ages. Virile as Mohammedanism, gentle as Hinduism, cath- olic as Greek mysticism, ethical as Hebraism ; it differs, shall we say, in surpassing; or is that to prejudge the case?

Yet this Preface sums up, rather than prejudges. But in the chapters which really lead to it, the writer has sought to present each religion impartially and objectively. His purpose has been to sketch religions not controversially but historically, to set before his readers, who are presumed to be already fairly well informed but not special stu- dents, the main outlines of religious phenomena, as they have appeared and still appear in the world. As such readers will see, he has been cramped by lack of space as well as by personal limitations. Despite the generosity of the publishers, who have permitted this book to outgrow its projected stature, it has been difficult to compress so great a matter into so small a compass. The author him- self feels how curtly he has dismissed many phases on

which he would gladly have enlarged. He has indeed suppressed almost as much as he has published and had he not been assured that there was need of a manual of this sort he would not have ventured to crowd so many problems into one volume. The need was a practical one. The weighty manual of Chantepie de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschickte, not only is a two-volume encyclo- pedia but it shares the disadvantage (tc^ther, it must be admitted, with the advantage) of all encyclopedic works in being written by various hands without correlation, so that what is affirmed here is denied there and what is said there is repeated here. Nevertheless, this will he a stand- ard treatise for such students as can read German or may prefer a French translation. Unhappily it has not yet been done into English. Other manuals, some of them admir- able, have been published, but the authors have generally confined themselves to the higher aspects of religion. Of these the writer would mention particularly the masterly exposition of the great religions by Professor George F. Moore, whose History of Religions, in two volumes, one of which has already appeared, should be in the hands of all advanced students, and Professor George A. Barton's excellent synopsis of Gassical and Oriental religions, called the Religions of the World, which appeared after most of the present volume was written.

The skeleton bibliographies appended to the chapters of this History are intended chiefly to introduce the reader to the literature and put him on the track of other books. No attempt has been made to display titles, only to men- tion a few important works, arranged withal neither alpha- betically nor chronologically, but, in general, according to the precedent reading matter of each chapter or in the order in which the few volumes mentioned may most advantageously be read. These books themselves cite others and are often provided with more extensive bibliog- raphies.

In regard to the rendering of words in the writer^s own



Special field, it has been his experience that in works of this kind transliteration without diacritical marks is prefer- able to that meticulous precision which attempts to render foreign sounds through the inadequate medium of distorted English letters. This attempt becomes really absurd when to dot a nasal conceals the fact that the English nasal itself is practically indistinguishable from the lingual nasal of the original. If any letters are marked, they should be the dentals, which in Sanskrit are really dental and are pronounced quite differently from ours. No English tongue without a special training will ever pronounce Buddha correctly. In respect of the length of Sanskrit vowels, the matter is somewhat other ; but on the whole the author prefers the modem Hindu and classical practice of ignoring vowel-lengths in printing. If Demeter (not Demeler), why Uma? But for those really anxious to know the length of Sanskrit vowels, hints have been given in the index.

In conclusion, the writer desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to several of his colleagues, without indeed implicating them in any responsibility for what he has per- haps inadequately set forth. The general editor of this series, Professor E. Hershey Sneath, has given the writer various useful suggestions and references, especially in the province of European philosophy. The view that Arabia did not belch forth Semites at intervals of half-mil- lenniums is of course (as Semitic scholars will know) that of Professor Albert T. Clay. A lecture on Hebrew mysticism by Professor Frank C. Porter suggested the distinction made between classes of Hebrew prophets. Professor Benj. W. Bacon has kindly revised the notes on the dates of New Testament writings. From his book, mentioned but not explicitly as the source, was taken the phrase which points the distinction between the doctrine of Jesus and the doctrine about Jesus. An unintended reticence, noticed too late, as to the names of two distin- guished scholars may be rectified here. The " excellent


authority " cited on page 371 is the writer's friend and colleague, Professor A. V, W. Jackson. The other eminent scholar, to whom reference is made on page 550, is the well-known writer on Roman institutions. Dr. W. Warde Fowler. New Haven, September 8, 1918.




I Definitiohs, Soukces, Classifications of Rb-


II Gknebal Cbakacthxistics of Pkiuitits Reli- gions 14

III Afucam Rbligioms I, Spiut-Lore .... 24

a, FmsH AND Idol . . . , 3S

IV Reugiom of the Aihtts and Shamans .... 46 V Polynesian Religions t, Spirits, Mvths . . S9

3, Maha and Taboo 67

VI Religions of North America 75

VII Religions of Mexico, Central and Sodtb

America 94

VIII Religion of the Celts 120

tX Religion of tbe Slavic Peoples 138

X Religion of the Teutons 149

OCI Religions of India. Prom the Vedas to .».

Boddba 170

XII Bdbdbism 183

.^XIII Hindu Sbctauah Religions 205

XrV Religions of China. Prb-Cohfuciah Reugion 224

XV Confucius, Lao-tse, Taotsu 349

XVI Reugions of Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism 275

XVII The Rbugiom of Egypt 309

XVIII Babylonian and Assyrian Religion .... 344

XIX Zoroastbiamism 371




XX Thb Reugion op Israel 414

XXI The Reugion op Mohauued 453

XXII Gbeek Rbugiok 483

XXIII The Reugion op the Romans 516

XXIV The Religion of Chkist and Chbistianity . . 552



One of the notable developments of modern scholarship is an increasing interest in the scientific study of religion. It is safe to say that never before has religion been made the subject of such careful and extended investigation as during the last three decades. History, anthropology, psychology, archaeology, comparative religion, and sociology have been drawn upon to aid in the determination and interpretation of the facts of religious experience; each of them mak- ing a substantial contribution toward this important end. Indeed t during this period a new science, the psychology of religion, has come into being, and already a comparatively large literature on this subject has been developed. Philos- ophy, also, has felt the impulse of this interest, and, in the more speculative fields of religious scholarship, a philosophy of religion is rapidly supplanting dogmatic theology in the effort to furnish an ultimate interpretation of the phenomena of religious consciousness. Furthermore, application of the historical method to the study of Old and New Testament Literature has contributed toward a much better under- standing of the Bible, and to a more intelligent appreciation, and a higher valuation, of the Christian religion.

Further interest in religion is manifest in the widespread movement in behalf of systematic religious education. Bi- ology, genetic and child psychology, the psychology of ado- lescence, and experimental pedagogy, are rendering valu- able aid in the organization and application of curricula in this important field. Thus far elementary and secondary religious education has received more attention than reli- gious education in the college. The time seems ripe for more adequate education along these lines in colleges and universities. For this purpose a special literature in the history, psychology and philosophy of religion, and in Old and New Testament Interpretation is necessary. The " Re-



ligious Science and Literature Series " is ^>ecially designed to meet this need. Each book of the Series is written by a well-known specialist, and is prepared with reference to ctass-Toom work. The Series indudes the following vol-

Tbi Histoby op Rjcligiom (Ready)

£. Wuhbnrn Hopkina, Ph.D^ LL.D., Frofeasor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology, Yale Uni- vcraity

Psychology or Rsucioh (,In preparation)

Luther A. Weigle, Ph.D, Profeuor of Giriitian Martnre, Yale Univfrsity

Philosophy op Reugioh (In preparation)

Douglai Clyde Macintosh, Ph.D., Professor of Syslemattc Theology, Yale University

Hisimr AND LniBATtnE or the Old Testakbnt (Id preparation) Charles Cutler Torrey, Ph.D., D.D., Professor of Semitic Languages, Yale University

HiSTOiY or THE RzLiciON OF IsRAii. (Ready)

George A. Barton. Ph.D.. Professor of Biblical Literature and Semitic Languages, Bryn Mawr College HisTOKY AND LiTEKATuu OP THE New Testaiibnt (Id preparation) Henry Thatcher Fowler. Ph.D., Professor of Biblical Literature and History, Brown University

Lir> ahd Tzachincs of Jesus (In preparation)

Edward Increase Bosworth, D.D., Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, and Dean of Obertin Seminary A Book About the Encusb Bislb (In press)

Josiah H. Penninun, Ph.D., LL.D., Professor of English Literature and Vice-provost of the Um- versity of Pennsylvania

HiSTCwr OP THE Christian Religion (In preparation)

John Winthrop Plainer, D.D., Professor ot Ecclesiastical History, Andover Theological Semi-

E. Hers HEY Snbath. Yale University.





A CERTAIN Professor of Rhetoric at Milan, Augustine by name, seeking to define time, said : " Ask tne, and I do not know; ask me not, and I know." Every one knows time, feels conscious of it, recc^nizes that man exists in time. Yet who can define it properly, or say that it ever b^an or never began? So it is with religion. We are conscious of it, we feel that it exists and that we exist as relipous beings; and each of us may know what his own religion is. Yet who can say of religion in general that it is this or that, and who would venture to assert that his own religion is the only religion? To take a concrete ex- ample, what shall we say of a moral atheist and of an immoral theist, are they religious or irreligious?

Nevertheless, we must, as students of religion, attempt some definition of what we are to study, and for the pur- poses of religious history this definition must exclude par- ticulars and include what b common to all the religions we are to investigate. Now what is common to all religions is belief in a superhtunan power and an adjustment of human activities to the requirements of that power, such an adjust- ment as may enable the individual believer to exist more hapfuly. As physical life must be adjusted to its environ- ment, so mental life must be adjusted, and this adjustment is expressed by the activities exercised in view of the re- ligious belief. Our definition then must imply belief, but it should also emphasize the activity, mental and physical, which results from that belief. 1



On the other hand, we ought not to intrude into the defi- nition any implication or expression of the answer to the query whether man has an innate religious faculty or merely impressions that produce that faculty, and we may not even imply in our definition that religion necessitates a belief in spiritual powers, because such belief is not essential. To put into the definition what cannot be omitted and to omit what ought not to be put in: Religion is Squaring human life with superhuman life. In the effort to adjust oneself to superhuman life, belief is assumed, but the definition rather stresses that adjustment without which religion be- comes pretence or hypocrisy. As to belief in a superhuman power, even Positivism, with its " veneration for the power which exercises a dominant influence over life" (Frederic Harrison's definition of religion), really reveres a non- material, if not spiritual power, inasmuch as the power vene- rated cannot be explained in terms of matter or material force and is beyond the control of humanity, while directing it. And so too Buddhism, which has been a thorn in the flesh of those who have tried to make it fit into their more elaborate definitions of religion, is included as a real re- ligion in this definition, for Karma is a superhuman power which lies outside of sense-experience.*

It may perhaps be objected that such a definition as has been proposed is too cold or too vague and does not cor- respond to what we feel religion should be; it ought to contain something which implies a belief in the immortality of the soul, in God, and in our feeling of dependence on him. But this is exactly what has destroyed the value of many famous definitions of religion, which have substituted what men think ought to be the hall-mark of religion for that which is actually found to be essential. For in adopt-

' Although Buddha was an atheist, Tiele represents Buddhism as having " Buddha for its God," simply because Tide's definition re- quires a belief in God as the base of religion. And Sir Monier- Williams, confronted with the same problem as to the status of Buddhism, boldly declared that Buddhism is no religion at alll



ing any such definition we drop back into the attitude of those who make a distinction between the false and the true, as they understand it, the test of real religion ; who say, or think, that wtiat they themselves believe is religion and what tfiey do not believe is superstition.

Yet the definitions of religion furnished by others are of value to the student, who ought not to be without such historical background and to whom it is important to know what other investigators of religion mean when they use that word. Even to glance at the interpretation of religion conveyed by philology is not a waste of time.

To b^in with some of these unconscious revelations given by man's crystallized thought, the Greek sebas and the Latin reverentia imply a theory of religious origins still tat^ht in our schools. Sebas is " shrinking " and reverentia is " ti- midity," and before reverentia became piety or sebas had formed its child eusebeia, these were the earliest verbal equivalents of religion. The word religion itself was de- fined by the later Romans as jusHtia adversus deos. Cicero derived it from relego, implying a careful knowledge of the needs of the gods religentem esse oportet religiasum nefas (be religious but not superstitious). Others connected tfie word with lex, law, and religo, implying an obligation. EarUer still is the notion of religion furnished by Plato in the mocking challenge of the Euthyphro: " Is not religion perhaps merely a science of begging and getting?" This last explanation of religion takes us direct to the modem theory of Lyall,* who regards the principle of do ut des as the " foundation of natural religion." Andrew Lang has remarked that this is virtually the definition of Frazer, who makes religion " a propitiation or conciliation of powers su- perior to man." *

The definition of Seneca, who says that " to know God and imitate him " is religion, brings us to the practical difli-

* Sir A. C. Lyall, Asiatic Studies, London, i8gQ, ii, p. Vj2.

* Andrew Laag, Magic and Rtligion, London, 1901, p. 59.



culty already discussed. This admirable definition is rather a precept than a definition; it is not what religion is but what it should be. So with definitions which make religion imply the love of God, the command of conscience, the feet* tng of trust in God, etc. From the point of view of our study, Schleiermacher's " consciousness of contact between the soul and the universe," though a noble definition of re- ligion, is too noble; it does not apply to the rel^on of savages. Bishop Butler's famous definition, " Religion is the belief in one God or Creator and Moral Governor of the world and in a future state of retribution," would today exclude a host of religious civilized people of his own church, as it even then excluded hosts who were not be- lievers in his religion. The same may be said of James Martineau's " Religion is a belief in an everlasting God, that is, a divine mind and will ruling the universe and hold- ing moral relations with mankind." Noticeable is it that these theologians regard religion as wholly an intellectual conviction, with not a word to imply that man does anything as part of his religion. On the other hand, we have to be on guard just as carefully against those who do not regard intelligence but feeling as the one and only thing in reli- gion, " The mark of real religion," says Pfleiderer, " is sentiment." Tiele, a professed student of religion but more a theologian, agrees with Pfleiderer; while Reville goes so far as to make this sentiment love ; but it is clear that here also " real religion " is merely the author's religion, Tiele, however, resolves religion into " words and deeds," and that is an advance on the definition given by the philosophers and theologians cited above,'

So, to define religion as the " determination of human life by the sentiment of a bond uniting the human mind to that mysterious mind whose domination of the world and of itself it recognizes and to whom it delights in feeling itself

1 Tiele, Elements of Religion, London, 1877. makes words and deeds the expression of conceptions and emotions, but he takes emotion as the starting-point



united" (Reville) is much more than can be said of many religions, and the same fault vitiates Max Miiller's other- wise defective definition of religion as " a longing after the infinite " and " a mental faculty which enables man to ap- prehend the infinite," the latter being only a little more incredible than the former, as was felt by the author him- self.'

From the philosophers we do indeed get one definition that might answer for every phase of belief. This is Ed- ward Caird's, as given in a popular article,* when he says tiiat " a man's religion is the expression of his summed up meaning and the purport of his whole consciousness of things " ; but this implies merely a mental state and attitude toward life and does not imply the recognition of anything superhuman or spiritual, the one essential of religion differ- entiating it from philosophy, which may or may not recog- nize a superhuman element. One may of course arbitrarily define religion as being devoid of such an element, just as a painter may say that art is his religion or Heine that blaue Augen are his heaven ; but he is simply using a well-known conception in an extraordinary manner. Virtually equiva- lent to R^ville's definition is a recent attempt to define re- ligion psychol<^cally as " the endeavour to secure the reo^- nition of socially recognized values through specific actions that are believed to evoke some agency different from the ordinary ego of the individual, or from other merely human beings, and that imply a feeling of dependence upon this agency." »

On the whole, the anthropol<^sts have defined religion in better terms than have the students of comparative religion. They at least know that the Andaman Islander does not ap- prehend the infinite or feel himself delightfully united to a

' In hia Gifford Lectures of iSqi, Muller attempted to explain awa7 the definition given in those of igSo,

* Metaphysical Magamne, June, 1902.

»See W. K. Wright in the Ameriem Journal of Theology. July. 1912, p. 385'-



mysterious mind. But the trouble with the definitions of the anthropologists is that each reflects a one-sided theory. This is the case with E. B. Tylor's "belief in spiritual be- ings," while as a definition it ignores activities set in motion by belief. Mere belief is not religion. One may believe in the moon without having religious relations with the moon, and so one may believe in spirits without their mak- ing part of one's religion. On the other hand, when Saussaye defines religion as the " belief in superhuman powers and worship of them," there is a vitiating error in the assumption that religion implies worship, for there may be no worship and yet a change of conduct may be religious, be, in fact, the sole outer activity resulting from the reli- gious belief.^ Finally it may be said of Arnold's memorable dictum (religion is "morality touched with emotion") that from an historical or comparative point of view it is mean- ingless. Some religions are immoral, as Arnold would de- fine morality, while some are unmoral, or have no obvious connection with morality.

Thus the history of religion is simply the story of how different communities have succeeded in adjusting their lives to what they have believed to be a living power, not identical with their own power but superhuman, even if they themselves may expect eventually, when they too have become more than human, to obtain a similar power or become identified with it. They may even expect as human beings to control this power, but it is not a power they themselves possess in the same degree as does the religious object. We make here, provisionally, no distinction between magic and religion, for, as will be seen, the two are not abso- lutely separate. They are, in fact, closely inter-related. Both at least respect a superhuman power. It is, moreover, a living power. The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone, but to him they are not mere wood and stone,

^ This is iffnored by the French sociologists. Thus M. Durkheim

n"i?s r _ , ......

' pratiques denniet (i.e., of taboo, etc.), and religion a tern of beliefs and practices (see below).


Our present knowlec^ of religious phenomena is based upon various bodies of evidence, none of them unimpeach- able. Since it is quite as important to know the value of the evidence as to be acquainted with the source and the matter itself, it will be well to range the sources in an ascending scale according to their comparative worth.

First. The linguistic evidence. Although, as in the ex- ample given from the Greek sebas, linguistic evidence may occasionally be of considerable value, yet it is more likely to lead astray than to lead aright. It is not evidence that can be accepted, even on the authority of an expert, without great reserve. Especially is etymological evidence of ques- tionable validity. It is liable to be overthrown at any time and is never much more than learned guesswork. Theories based on the identity of Yahweh with a word meaning " hurrah," or on the common origin of god-names in differ- ent branches even of the same race may be true, but they are often as lacking in truth as they are commonly full of ingenuity. Many of them are like a certain theory of the identity of the Aryan and Semitic races, based on the self- evident fact that Abraham is " a Brahman."

Another point in regard to linguistic evidence is often overlooked. This is that even when the derivation of a word is fairly certain, the etymology itself may mislead us, because words change from their etymological meaning and the concept of a divinity which appears to be revealed by a true derivation may not be at all the concept of the divinity as it was when the particular word was applied as a name to the divinity. For example, deus in Latin no more means " shinit^ " than god in English means " invoked," although the etymology of deus and of god point to these conceptions, respectively, as the meaning back of the historical words. The past meaning is not often the present meaning and the two must be carefully distinguished. Further, the concept of any divinity, however named, is from its inception condi-


tioned by the mental and social status of the community. A day called Thursday means the day of Thor and thor is thunder, but for all that we do not recognize a " day of Thor " or a " day of thunder," and no more did the historic Germans worship a god thunder. In fact, far from being a mere noise in the sky, Thor was a heavenly man with a decent family of his own and with intimate relations with his clan on earth. To interpret him in any historical period as mere sound would be an unsound interpretation (to put an old pun to a new use), and so, generally, the names of gods do not really reflect the nature of gods at any historical period, and they may never have done so. For back of the time we know the god there is only the word ; but how it was applied we cannot tell, whether to designate a god, a devil, or a sound per se (in the case of Thor), for we know nothing as to the worship of this now unknown being.

Second. Archaeological evidence. Testimony of the monuments of (a) the neolithic age, and (b) of later times. Mei^e and uncertain is the earliest evidence of religion. We learn that skulls were trepanned and because savages now trepan in order to let out the soul, therefore (it is ai^ed) the men of neolithic times believed in soul. For the same reason they are thought to have believed in a future life. A nascent fetishism has also been predicated of neolithic man because of the objects found buried with his remains, which to others seem proof of a belief in a future life. The testimony, such as it is, is the more uncertain because of the uncertainty when the bronze age, as compared with the neolithic age, begins. But it is not of moment when the ani- mal man began to be religious, especially since we can trace the religious elements as far back as tbe bronze age. The objects buried with the corpse may show that at this period men believed in a happy future life of eating and drinking, when children would need their playthings and men their weapons and customary implements. The cave-pictures of France may point to a prehistoric magical use of ancient


6gures. Prehistoric stone circles may be of religious stg- niiicance, but they may be without religious bearing.

Third, The testimony of ancient writers. Here we must distii^;uish between descriptions of own religions and appraisals of foreign religions. Owing to the fact that the writers who described the religions of others were gen- erally ignorant of them or prejudiced and as a rule got all their information at second hand, the value of this testimony is extremely variable ; often it is most valuable when the author is not trying to describe religion at all but, by acci- dent, as it were, lets out a secret of religion known not even to himself. The most obvious fault in this class of evi- dence, whether furnished by native or foreigner, is its de- ficiency. Whole chapters of religion remain unnoticed, either because the author is ignorant or because he chooses to ignore certain features. Homer, though a Greek, gives but a restricted view of Greek religion; therefore a Greek religion of the Homeric age based only on Homer is incor- rect Tacitus gives a foreigner's appraisement of the reli- gion of the ancient Germans; but it is by no means to be taken as exhaustive or even correct as far as it goes. The testimony of literature anyway, it must be remembered, is only the testimony of those who were able to compose, to leave essays of lasting worth. Thus almost all the testimony of this sort comes from the upper intellectual stratum and gives a one-sided impression. In all such testimony we learn more about the higher side of religion, less about the lower; more of gods, less of goblins. Homer shows us the court-beauties of heaven. The poets of the Rig Veda are concerned less with demonology than with the worship of the great gods. But all the time, both in Greece and in India, the lower cult was there ; only it is not recorded by ' tiie poets.

Fourth. Ethnography. From the study of race-pecul- iarities by trained modern observers is to be obtained the most valuable evidence in regard to religious phenomena in our own day. But, ideal as this testimony might be, much


of it is vitiated by the fact that the observer is not trained ; much, by the fact thai he is trained to see everythir^ through a theory of religious origins, which influences his testimony. It does not make a real difference whether one be an untrained missionary or a prejudiced scientist. All this testimony has to be sifted with great care and even then some of it is entirely worthless. Taken as a whole, however, of course the body of material is of inestimable worth. Fortunately we do not have to depend on isolated or individual observation and generally the reports are mu- tually corrective. It is only necessary to warn the student against trusting too entirely the word of any one authority, however honest and learned he may be. This source con- tains all the data collected by comparative ethnography, in- cluding folk-lore and the translations of original hymns and legends.


Attempts to classify religions have all failed, because there are no clear lines of demarcation between them. Classifications suggested are, for example, natural and re- demptive, natural and moral, tribal, national, and univer- sal. But natural and ethical religions cannot be sharply sundered, and the traits of one race reappear in another. Unsatisfactory is even the minuteness of De la Grasserie, who has made twenty-two divisions of religions.^ The clas- sification of Reville, into polytheistic, monotheistic, national, and nomistic religions, indicates, at best, striking points of difference between important groups. Of all the distinc- tions suggested, those between egoistic and altruistic and natural and ethical are perhaps the worst, yet even national and nomistic are terms largely exchangeable. We shall con- sider religions solely as expressions of various stages of culture found among various races.

Yet even in the loosest grouping we must guard against one error, the implication of an assumed order of progres-

1 Compare Jastrow, Study of Religion, New York, igoi, p. 95.



ston. For example, if animism be discussed before natur- ism, the implication is that the former is more primitive. Again, retrogression in religion must be reckoned with. A religion may have fallen from its former estate and appear as mere devil-worship, whereas in fact it is only a higher religion that has become decadent. Also chance evidence may lead to error. For example, animism has been predi- cated as the " earliest form " of religion on the ground that the trepanned skull of prehistoric man indicates a belief in soul or spirit But what if, though improbable, the earliest religion was worship of the sun or moon? No trace might have been left of this belief, whereas the skull has remained.

One of the oldest classifications of religions ts that which separates them all into orthodox and heterodox. But a little study will show that no religion is altogether hetero- dox. Yet to realize this the study is necessary and it must be pursued with the Buddhist's "open mind." If we take up the superstitions that have ^ouped themselves about the practice of taboo, for instance, only to find them risible or disgusting, we shall lose their ethical and religious bearing. Difficult as it is, we must endeavour rather to put ourselves in the position of the taboo-fearing savage and see what this brother intended and accomplished. Ciod gave him no Moses, but he evolved some of the ten commandments ; his taboos were his tables of the law.

Especially is this attitude desirable in the study of higher religions, where heterodoxy almost blends with orthodoxy. We must examine not with hostility but with sympathetic interest the reason why the Hindu is almost but not quite persuaded. And as with religions, so with theories of re- ligion. Here care and candor are needed. It is careless to assert that there is no race without religion before defin- ii^ religion and examining all races. It is careless to in- duce from the data of one field that the Semitic theory of sacrifice explains all sacrifice. Candor here, too, implies toleration, to listen hopeful of gain to all theories, to dub



no school or scholar "all wrong." All schools see some truth ; no sober scholar is all wrong. Animist and naturist may leam much from each other ; worshippers of the Year- demon may reap a harvest from the devotees of ghosts; even the mythologist and the anthropolt^st, not to speak of the sociologist, might conceivably lie down together, not only in safety but to their mutual advantage.

Theories in regard to religious phenomena are very old. Six or seven hundred years before Christ, the Hindus were already arguing whether their chief devil had been an actual person or was merely a natural phenomenon. A few cen- turies later a Hindu materialist defended the opinion (main- tained two thousand years later by Toland),* that religion was the creation of selfish priests. Others argued that it was a gift of God. But neither with such theories nor with others has the history of religions to do, except as they involve or ignore important data. It has not to establish any theory of the origin of religion but to exhibit the facts on which different theories have been built. Thus we shall not discuss as theories Mannhardt's hypothesis of religion originating in the cult of vegetation-spirits, nor Robertson Smith's view that sacrifice begins as a communion-feast, nor Usener's idea that all gods are at first functional powers, nor Sir J, G. Frazer's ever-changing interpretation of totem- ism and his contention that redemption begins with the regicide, though we shaU have occasion to refer to them all. For the same reason it will be unnecessary to examine the theory of Messrs. Durkheim and Mauss that the collective rather than the individual mind originates religion, a theory which practically maintains that it is impossible to under- stand any religion other than that of the human group in which each is bom; which group has a consciousness so unique that no outsider can do more than register its ob- jective phenomena- Hence modem French sociologists dis- approve of all attempts to appreciate sympathetically any

ijohn Toland, Ckristiamty not Mysterious, London, 1696; Jastrow, op. cit., p. 15.



religion, more particularly those " pre-logical," remote in time, but also those remote in