Abbildungen der Seite


By philosophy we mean, after all, an explanation of ourselves and the world in which we are.* The range of meaning in words is so great that ordinarily we conceal under this term one knows not how much that is mysterious, and that may even be held unnecessary. But something of a philosophy we all of us attain to, as the natural result of our sense impressions, and our inherited ideas. We shall find past philosophies of our own race imbedded in our mythologies and for those of savage nations, we must look to their existing explanations of phenomena, physical and mental, as they are conceived of by them.

At the outset we find that the Hebrews were originally worshippers of nature. Under the name Baal, they personified the Sun. The name Baal lost in time its connection with the Sun and was used as the proper originally worname for a Deity, and one who struggled for preference shippers of Nain men's minds with Yahveh or Jehovah. The progress to the undivided supremacy of Yahveh has been traced by Kuenen at length. It is sufficient to note

*Education and the Succession of Experiences. Vice-Presidential address delivered before the Am. Ass. Adv. Science, by A. R. Grote, August, 1878.

The Hebrews

here that Yahveh was not at first the exclusive God, which he afterwards became, mainly through the exertions of the prophets and preachers, who were, above all things, teachers of morals and a purer conduct. And there is this to be said that, at this earliest time, the ninth century before Christ, when we find Yahvism and Nature-worship contending for supremacy in the religion of the Hebrews, there was no such contention among Aryan peoples, unless we interpret the struggle between Brahmism and Buddhism as such. The early Greeks and Persians had, indeed, disputes among philosophers, but they themselves in their religion had not risen above Nature-worship. During the religious struggles of the Hebrews, Yahvism passed through a stage in which Yahveh was the chief god, others being tolerated, to a time in which all other gods were com

pletely degraded from their position as deities. This Vahveh at one position of Yahveh as merely the principal deity, is principal Deity. paralleled by that of Jupiter and Zeus at a later epoch

in the mythology of Indo-European nations. There is much to be said in favor of the idea that Yahveh originally personated the movements of Nature, or life, although the connection is as yet obscure. But the coloring of the conception of Yahveh by the later Pro

phets is one which is now indelibly affixed. Yahveh length became a stands out pre-eminently as the rewarder of just, and God of purer the punisher of unjust actions among men. At the

time when Christianity appeared, the Hebrew mind was endeavoring to free itself from the anthropomorphic conceptions which clung to Yahveh. This is quite apparent in certain of the teachings of our Saviour. Yahveh was no longer then in advanced minds among Jews, a Being who loved and hated, was



Our Funda



pleased and angry. These conceptions we are yet struggling with, in the progress towards abstract Theism. We have abandoned on the nature side of philosophy, the idea that there is a God behind each mental Notions

of God different particular object, and have arrived at the conception from the that there is only one God behind all objects. But we cling very naturally to the Aryan philosophy rather than the Semitic, and our God is especially a conception drawn from the outside world of Nature, although we call him Jehovah, who is especially the God of inside motive and conduct.

For this reason we are fond of Genesis, which portrays our God in the guise of a wholesale manufacturer of bird and beast and flower, and we flatter ourselves that he exerted the most ingenuity and skill in his creation of ourselves after his own image. Alas! embryology tells us that in one stage we have a tail, and that we resemble the inferior animals too closely in our growth in the womb to allow of our claim to divine honors on account of our bodily form ; while there is no need to deceive ourselves with the notion that Mind is shared by us in no degree with the inferior animals.

But even here the accounts in Genesis show an incomplete idea of the various parts of organized nature, plants and anz

of which, of itself, accounts for their mechanical philoso- mals denied by phy. The interdependence which we now plainly see to exist between plants and animals, and between these and the inorganic world, is itself inconsistent with acts of separate and special creation. Nature has evidently grown up gradually to be what it is to-day through immense periods of time, and an infinite number small adaptive and progressive changes. For instance,

The inter


the earliest land plants were flowerless; insect-loving flowers and the particular insects which assist in fertilizing them seem to have developed and grown up side by side, from simpler and more ancient kinds of plants and insects, so far as we can gather the facts from the fossil remains of both. Special discoveries, contradicting in details the accounts of Genesis, may be plentifully cited, but it is enough that we appreciate the general character of the myth to show its want of correspondence with the facts of Geology and Biology as we now understand them. The crust of the earth consists largely of the remains of both plants and animals, which, when alive, gathered their substance from each other, the earth and atmosphere. There is no comprehension of this fact in Genesis, nothing but a distinguishing of earth, plant and animal, with a mere indication of their surroundings apart from their mutual relations, or merely with reference to a vegetable food for man and animals. The writers of Genesis recognise the different objects as distinct pieces in a puzzle, but our better knowledge shows their interdependence and the way they fit together.

It is true that a great deal which in the Bible is stamped with the approval of Jehovah is bad morality, as we now understand morals. Things were done and commanded to be done which would not now be ordered, or, if ordered, obeyed. The Old Testament shows a transitionary time of moral development, but one in which great lines of advancement for humanity and good conduct were laid out. The consequences of evil behavior we find also in the Classics as well as in modern literature, and I think often in less objectionable shape than in the Hebrew Bible. But men

Progress in Morality.

« ZurückWeiter »