The Urban Dharma Newsletter - June 17, 2007
In This Issue: A Short History of Good and Evil
1. Good and Evil - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2. THE PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM OF GOOD AND EVIL - by Paul Carus
3. BUDDHISM - by Paul Carus,
As I prepare for my class at LMU, I asked the question, What is the history of Good and Evil??? And this is what I came up with, I hope you find it interesting.
1. Good and evil / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In religion, ethics, and philosophy, the phrase, good and evil refers to the evaluation of objects, desires, and behaviors across a dualistic spectrum wherein in one direction are those aspects which are morally positive, and the other are morally negative. The good is sometimes viewed as whatever entails reverence towards either life, continuity, happiness, or human flourishing, while evil is given to be the support for their opposites. Many religious and philosophical views will tend to agree that "good and evil" are abstract concepts and not absolutes. However, there is a general view that the terms are treated as if they were absolutes.
There is no consensus over whether or not either goodness or evil are intrinsic to human nature. The nature of goodness has been given many treatments; one is that the good is based on the natural love, bonding, and affection that begins at the earliest stages of personal development; another is that goodness is a product of knowing truth. Differing views also exist as to why evil might arise. Many religious and philosophical traditions agree that evil behavior itself is an aberration that results from the imperfect human condition ("The Fall of Man"). Sometimes, evil is attributed to the existence of free will and human agency. Some argue that evil itself is ultimately based in an ignorance of truth (ie. human value, sanctity, divinity). A variety of Enlightenment thinkers have alleged the opposite, by suggesting that evil is learned as a consequence of tyrannical social structures.
Although goodness is generally not considered to be a real or well-established property under the laws of physics, each person's highly individual concept of the perfect good has profound psychological significance. Agreement is divided over the extent to which this "goodness" is connected with the real world, but there is little disagreement that one's concept motivates one's actions in the real world.
Theories of moral goodness inquire into what sorts of things are good, and what the word "good" really means in the abstract. As a philosophical concept, goodness might represent a hope that natural love be continuous, expansive, and all-inclusive. In a montheistic religious context, it is by this hope that an important concept of God is derived as an infinite projection of love, manifest as goodness in the lives of people. In other contexts, the good is viewed to be whatever produces the best consequences upon the lives of people, especially with regard to their states of wellbeing.
Origin of the concept
While every language has a word expressing good in the sense of "having the right or desirable quality" (??et?) and bad in the sense "undesirable", the notion of "good and evil" in an absolute moral or religious sense is not ancient, but emerges out of notions of ritual purity and impurity. The basic meanings of ?a??? and ??a??? are "bad, cowardly" and "good, brave, capable", and their absolute sense emerges only around 400 BC, with Pre-Socratic philosophy, in particular Democritus. Morality in this absolute sense solidifies in the dialogues of Plato, together with the emergence of monotheistic thought (notably in Euthyphro which ponders the concept of piety (t? ?s???) as a moral absolute).
This development from the relative or habitual to the absolute is also evident in the terms ethics and morality both being derived from terms for "regional custom", Greek ???? and Latin mores, respectively (see also siðr).
Descriptive, meta-ethical, and normative fields
It is possible to treat the essential theories of value by the use of a philosophical and academic approach. In properly analyzing theories of value, everyday beliefs are not only carefully catalogued and described, but also rigorously analyzed and judged.
There are at least two basic ways of presenting a theory of value, based on two different kinds of questions which people ask:
* What do people find good, and what do they despise?
* What really is good, and what really is bad?
The two questions are subtly different. One may answer the first question by researching the world by use of social science, and examining the preferences that people assert. However, one may answer the second question by use of reasoning, introspection, prescription, and generalization. The former kind of method of analysis is called "descriptive", because it attempts to describe what people actually view as good or evil; while the latter is called "normative", because it tries to actively prohibit evils and cherish goods. These descriptive and normative approaches can be complementary. For example, tracking the decline of the popularity of slavery across cultures is the work of descriptive ethics, while advising that slavery be avoided is normative.
Meta-ethics is the study of the fundamental questions concerning the nature and origins of the good and the vile, including inquiry into the nature of good and evil, as well as the meaning of evaluative language. In this respect, meta-ethics is not necessarily tied to investigations into how others see the good, or of asserting what is good.
Theories of the intrinsically good
A satisfying formulation of goodness would be valuable because it might allow one to construct a good life or society by reliable processes of deduction, elaboration or prioritization. One could answer the ancient question, "How then should we live?", among many other important related questions. It has long been thought that this question can best be answered by examining what it is that necessarily makes a thing valuable, or what the source of value consists in.
One attempt to define goodness describes it as a property of the world. According to this claim, to talk about the good is to talk about something real within the object itself which exists independently of the perception of it. Plato was one advocate of this view, in his expression that there is such a thing as an eternal realm of forms or ideas, and that the greatest of the ideas and the essence of being was goodness, or The good. The good was defined by many ancient Greeks and other ancient philosophers as a perfect and eternal idea, or blueprint. The good is the right relation between all that exists, and this exists in the mind of the Divine, or some heavenly realm. The good is the harmony of a just political community, love, friendship, the ordered human soul of virtues, and the right relation to the Divine and to Nature. The characters in Plato's dialogues mention the many virtues of a philosopher, or a lover of wisdom.
Many people are theists, who support the idea that God(s) created the universe. Such persons may, therefore, claim that the universe has a purpose and value according to the will of such a Creator, and which lies partially beyond human understanding. For instance, Thomas Aquinas was a proponent of this view, and believed to have proven arguments for the existence of God, and the right relations that humans ought to have to the Divine first cause.
Monotheists might also hope in the popular production of infinite universal love. Such hope is often translated as "faith", and wisdom itself is largely defined within religious doctrine as a knowledge and understanding of innate goodness. The concepts of innocence, spiritual purity, and salvation are likewise related to a concept of being in, or returning to, a state of goodness one which, according to various teachings of "enlightenment", approaches a state of holiness (or Godliness).
Another spiritual, transcendental viewpoint is that of Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy which advocated quietism and conformity to the Way, or Tao: "The Tao is the natural order of things. It is a force that flows through every living or sentient object, as well as through the entire universe".
Some believe that good is anything that increases the probability of the universe eventually reaching the Omega Point, and bad is anything that decreases that probability.
It was the belief of Aristotle that virtues consisted in the realization of potentials which were unique to humanity, such as the use of reason. This type of view, called perfectionism, has been recently defended in modern form by Thomas Hurka.
An entirely different form of perfectionism has arisen in response to rapid technological change. Some techno-optimists, especially transhumanists, avow a form of perfectionism in which the capacity to determine good and trade off fundamental values, is expressed not by humans but by software, genetic engineering of humans, artificial intelligence. Skeptics assert that rather than perfect goodness, it would be only the appearance of perfect goodness, reinforced by persuasion technology and probably brute force of violent technological escalation, which would cause people to accept such rulers or rules authored by them.
Welfarist theories of value are those which say that that which is good, and hence valuable, are due to their effects on the wellbeing of persons.
Subjective theories of wellbeing
It is difficult to figure out where an immaterial trait such as "goodness" could reside in the world. A counterproposal is to locate values inside people. Some philosophers go so far as to say that if some state of affairs does not tend to arouse a desirable subjective state in self-aware beings, then it cannot be good.
Most philosophers that think goods have to create desirable mental states also say that goods are experiences of self-aware beings. These philosophers often distinguish the experience, which they call an intrinsic good, from the things that seem to cause the experience, which they call "inherent" goods. Failing to distinguish the two leads to a subject-object problem in which it is not clear who is evaluating what object.
In some theories there is no higher collective value than that of maximizing pleasure for individual(s). Some have even defined goodness and that which is intrinsically valuable as the experience of pleasure, and the bad as the experience of pain. This view is called Hedonism, a monistic theory of value. It has two main varieties: simple, and Epicurean.
Simple hedonism is the view that physical pleasure is the ultimate good. However, the ancient philosopher Epicurus used the word 'pleasure' in a more general sense which encompassed a range of states from bliss to contentment to relief. Contrary to popular caricature, he valued pleasures of the mind to bodily pleasures, and advocated moderation as the surest path to happiness.
Jeremy Bentham's book The Principles of Morals and Legislation prioritized goods by considering pleasure, pain and consequences. This theory had a wide effect on public affairs, up to and including the present day. A similar system was later named Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. More broadly, utilitarian theories are examples of Consequentialism. All utilitarian theories are based upon the maxim of utility, which states that that which is good is that which provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number. It follows from this principle that that which brings happiness to the greatest number of people, is a good.
One of the benefits of tracing good to pleasure and pain is that both things seem to be easily understandable, both in oneself and to an extent in others. For the hedonist, the explanation for helping behavior may come in the form of empathythe ability of a being to "feel" another's pain. People tend to value the lives of gorillas more than those of mosquitoes because the gorilla lives and feels, making it easier to empathize with them. This idea is carried forward in the ethical relationship view and has given rise to the animal rights movement and parts of the peace movement. The impact of sympathy on human behavior is compatible with Enlightenment views, including David Hume's stances that the idea of a self with unique identity is illusory, and that morality ultimately comes down to sympathy and fellow feeling for others, or the exercise of approval underlying moral judgements.
A view adopted by James Griffin (philosopher) attempts to find a subjective alternative to hedonism as an intrinsic value. He argues that it is the satisfaction of one's informed desires which constitutes wellbeing, and not necessarily whether or not said desires actually cause the agent to experience happiness. Moreover, these preferences must be life-relevant, that is, contributing to the success of a person's life overall.
Desire satisfaction may occur without the agent's awareness of the satisfaction of the desire. For example, if a man wishes for his legal will to be enacted after his death, and it is, then his desire has been satisfied despite the fact that he will never experience or know of it.
Objective theories of wellbeing
The idea that the ultimate good exists and is not orderable but is globally measurable is reflected in various ways in classical economics, green economics, welfare economics and the Gross National Happiness and measuring well-being theories, all of which focus on various ways of assessing progress towards that goal, a so-called Genuine Progress Indicator. Modern economics thus reflects very ancient philosophy, but a calculation or quantitative or other process based on cardinality and statistics replaces the simple ordering of values.
For example, in both economics and in folk wisdom, the value of a thing seems to rise so long as it is relatively scarce. However, if it becomes too scarce, it leads often to a conflict, and can reduce collective value. See the separate analysis of wealth.
In the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and in its critique by Karl Marx, human labor is seen as the ultimate source of all new economic value. This is an objective theory of value (see value theory which attributes value to real production-costs, and ultimately expenditures of human labor-time (see also law of value. It contrasts with marginal utility theory, which argues that the value of labor depends on subjective preferences by consumers, which may however also be objectively studied.
The economic value of labor may be assessed technically in terms of its use-value or utility or commercially in terms of its exchange-value, price or production cost (see also labor power. But its value may also be socially assessed in terms of its contribution to the wealth and well-being of a society.
In non-market societies, labor may be valued primarily in terms of skill, time, and output, as well as moral or social criteria and legal obligations. In market societies, labor is valued economically primarily through the labor market. The price of labor may then be set by supply and demand, by strike action or legislation, or by legal or professional entry-requirements into occupations.
Conceptual metaphor theories argue against both subjective and objective conceptions of value and meaning, and focus on the relationships between body and other essential elements of human life. In effect, conceptual metaphor theories treat ethics as an ontology problem and the issue of how to work-out values as a negotiation of these metaphors, not the application of some abstraction or a strict standoff between parties who have no way to understand each other's views.
One more recent philosophical proposal has defined good as "That which increases the quality and quantity of choices available overall." These approaches have been called choice optimization theories. This maxim might be countered by the phenomenon of opportunity costs observed by social scientists. Opportunity cost is when people who are confronted with a greater number of choices also experience greater dismay at their choices after the fact, because of the missed opportunities.
In his Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen asserted free time as the most fundamental good and systems of organizing which enabled it as the most fundamental value in civilization. He refuted the common claim that Asian value theorists had devalued freedom and was clear that a marketplace (creating unity via pricing) valuing free time could be created. Marilyn Waring took a similar view from a feminist perspective, arguing women's time was undervalued and especially the free time they used to raise and teach children. Waring also strongly denied that military hardware or activities were of any value, and attempted to reconcile peace or welfare views of good with the ecological values.
John Rawls's book A Theory of Justice prioritized social arrangements and goods based on their contribution to justice. Rawls defined justice as fairness, especially in distributing social goods, defined fairness in terms of procedures, and attempted to prove that just institutions and lives are good, if rational individuals' goods are considered fairly. Rawls's crucial invention was the original position, a procedure in which one tries to make objective moral decisions by refusing to let personal facts about oneself enter one's moral calculations.
One problem with the approaches of Kant and Rawls is that they are overly procedural. Procedurally fair processes of the type used by Kant and Rawls may not leave enough room for judgment, and therefore, reduce the totality of goodness. For example, if two people are found to own an orange, the standard fair procedure is to cut it in two and give half to each. However, if one wants to eat it while the other wants the rind to flavor a cake, cutting it in two is clearly less good than giving the peel to the baker and feeding the core to the eater.
Applying procedural fairness to an entire society therefore seems certain to create recognizable inefficiencies, and therefore be unfair, and (by the equivalence of justice with fairness) unjust.
This strikes at the very foundation of Kantian ethics, because it shows that hypothetical goods can be better than categorical goods, and therefore be more desirable, and even more just.
Many views value unity as a good: to go beyond eudaimonia by saying that an individual person's flourishing is valuable only as a means to the flourishing of society as a whole. In other words, a single person's life is, ultimately, not important or worthwhile in itself, but is good only as a means to the success of society as a whole. Some elements of Confucianism are an example of this, encouraging the view that people ought to conform as individuals to demands of a peaceful and ordered society.
According to the naturalistic view, the flourishing of society is not, or not the only, intrinsically good thing. Defenses of this notion are often formulated by reference to biology, and observations that living things compete more with their own kind than with other kinds. Rather, what is of intrinsic good is the flourishing of all sentient life; extending to those animals which have some level of similar sentience, such as Great Ape personhood. Others go farther, by declaring that life itself is of intrinsic value.
By another approach, one achieves peace and agreement by focusing, not on one's peers (who may be rivals or competitors), but on the common environment. The reasoning goes that as living beings it is clearly and objectively good we are surrounded by an ecosystem that supports life. Indeed, if we weren't, we couldn't even recognize that or discuss it. The anthropic principle in cosmology recognizes this view.
Under materialism or even embodiment values, or in any system that recognizes the validity of ecology as a scientific study of limits and potentials, an ecosystem is a fundamental good. To all who investigate, it seems that goodness, or value, exists within an ecosystem, Earth. Creatures within that ecosystem and wholly dependent on it, evaluate good relative to what else could be achieved there. In other words, good is situated in a particular place and one does not dismiss everything that is not available there (such as very low gravity or absolutely abundant sugar candy) as "not good enough", one works within its constraints. Transcending them and learning to be satisfied with them, is thus another sort of value, perhaps called satisfaction, or in Buddhism enlightenment.
Values and the people that hold them seem necessarily subordinate to the ecosystem. If this is so, then what kind of being could validly apply the word "good" to an ecosystem as a whole? Who would have the power to assess and judge an ecosystem as good or bad? By what criteria? And by what criteria would ecosystems be modified, especially larger ones such as the atmosphere (climate change) or oceans (extinction) or forests (deforestation)? For discussion see debates on monoculture and permaculture.
"Remaining on Earth" as the most basic value. While green ethicists have been most forthright about it, and have developed theories of Gaia philosophy, biophilia, bioregionalism that reflect it, the questions are now universally recognized as central in determining value, e.g. the economic "value of Earth" to humans as a whole, or the "value of life" that is neither whole-Earth nor human. Many have come to the conclusion that without assuming ecosystem continuation as a universal good, with attendant virtues like biodiversity and ecological wisdom it is impossible to justify such operational requirements as sustainability of human activity on Earth.
One response is that humans are not necessarily confined to Earth, and could use it and move on. A counter-argument is that only a tiny fraction of humans could ever do this, and those would be self-selected by ability to do technological escalation on others (for instance, the ability to create large missiles on which to flee the planet and simultaneously threaten others who sought to prevent them). Another counter-argument is that extraterrestrial life would encounter the fleeing humans and be forced to destroy them as a locust species. A third is that if there are no other worlds fit to support life (and thus no extraterrestrials competing with humans to occupy them) it is both futile to flee, and foolish to imagine that it would take less energy and skill to protect the Earth as a habitat, than it would take to construct some new habitat.
Accordingly remaining on Earth, as a living being surrounded by a working ecosystem, is a fair statement of the most basic values and goodness to any being we are able to communicate with. A moral system without this axiom seems simply not actionable.
However, most religious systems acknowledge an afterlife and improving this is seen as an even more basic good. In many other moral systems, also, remaining on Earth in a state that lacks honor or power over self is less desirable - consider seppuku in bushido, kamikazes or the role of suicide attacks in Jihadi rhetoric. In all these systems, remaining on Earth is perhaps no higher than a third-place value.
Radical values environmentalism can be seen as either a very old or a very new view: that the only intrinsically good thing is a flourishing ecosystem; individuals and societies are merely instrumentally valuable, good only as means to having a flourishing ecosystem. The Gaia philosophy is the most detailed expression of this overall thought but it strongly influenced Deep Ecology and the modern Green Parties.
It is often claimed that aboriginal peoples never lost this sort of view - anthropological linguistics studies links between their languages and the ecosystems in which they lived and which gave rise to their knowledge distinctions. Very often, environmental cognition and moral cognition were not distinguished in these languages - offenses to nature were like those to other people, and Animism reinforced this by giving nature "personality" via myth. Anthropological theories of value explore these questions.
Most people in the world reject older situated ethics and localized religious views. However small-community-based and ecology-centric views have gained some popularity in recent years. In part, this has been attributed to the desire for ethical certainties. Such a deeply-rooted definition of goodness would be valuable because it might allow one to construct a good life or society by reliable processes of deduction, elaboration or prioritisation. Ones that relied only on local referents one could verify for oneself, creating more certainty and therefore less investment in protection, hedging and insuring against consequences of loss of the value.
History and novelty
An event is often seen as being of value simply because of its novelty in fashion and art. By contrast, cultural history and other antiques are sometimes seen as of value in and of themselves due to their age. Philosopher-historians Will and Ariel Durant spoke as much with the quote, "As the sanity of the individual lies in the continuity of his memories, so the sanity of the group lies in the continuity of its traditions; in either case a break in the chain invites a neurotic reaction"
Assessment of the value of old or historical artifacts takes into consideration, especially but not exclusively: the value placed on having a detailed knowledge of the past, the desire to have tangible ties to ancestral history, and/or the increased market value scarce items traditionally hold.
Creativity and innovation and invention are sometimes upheld as fundamentally good especially in Western industrial society - all imply newness, and even opportunity to profit from novelty. Bertrand Russell was notably pessimistic about creativity and thought that knowledge expanding faster than wisdom necessarily was fatal.
The abstract nature of the concept of goodness, however, has led to the idea that it is fundamentally spurious in many religious and philosophic circles. Within them the basic viewpoint is that the formation of the concept of intrinsic goodness, on specific persons, places, objects, or ideas, will then create a bias against other phenomena of the same category. This formation of opposites then produces barriers to the generation of true knowledge, which must be overcome in order to produce real enlightenment.
Sometimes more thorough attempts will also be made to describe the origin of evil and how it might tend to come into existence as well, and sometimes those attempts will fall under the category of describing as false various forms of goodness. Among some schools of thought, the idea is put forth that all evil comes from the excessive pursuit of goods of lesser value, at the expense of goods of greater value. For instance, greed derives from the pursuit of gain for one's self, generally a good thing, at the expense of others, generally a bad thing. Overeating may result from the exchange of momentary pleasure derived from the eating of food, for the greater good of long term health. In psychology similar processes might occur in the formation of various types of addictions. No particular thing is thus considered to be intrinsically bad automatically, but rather evil will come from the pursuit of various goods in excess, to the expense of other more important ones, which are then neglected.
2. THE PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM OF GOOD AND EVIL. / History of the Devil, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
THE question as to the nature of evil is by far the most important problem for philosophical, religious, and moral consideration. The intrinsic presence of suffering is the most obvious feature that determines the character of existence throughout, but gives at the same time origin to the most important blessings that make life worth living. It is pain that sets thoughts to thinking; a state of undisturbed happiness would make reflexion, inquiry, and invention redundant. It is death which begets the aspiration of preserving oneself beyond the grave. Without death there would be no religion. And it is sin that imparts worth to virtue. If there were no going astray, there would be no seeking for the right path; there would be no merit in goodness. Blame and praise would have no meaning. In this absence of want, imperfection, and all kinds of ill, there would be no ideals, no progress, no evolution to higher goals.
The Mythology of Evil.
Mythology being always a popular metaphysics, it is a matter of course that the idea of evil has been personified among all nations. There is no religion in the world but has its demons or evil monsters who represent pain, misery, and destruction. In Egypt the powers of darkness were feared and worshipped under various names as Set or Seth, Bess, Typhon, etc. Though the ancient Gods of Brahmanism are not fully differentiated into evil and good deities, we have yet the victory of Mahâmâya, the great goddess, over Mahisha, the king of the giants. 2 Buddhists call the personification of evil Mâra, the tempter, the father of lust and sin, and the bringer of death. Chaldean sages personify the chaos that was in the beginning, in Tiamat, the monster of the deep. The Persians call him Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, the demon of darkness and of mischief, the Jews call him Satan the fiend, the early Christians, Devil (d??ß????), i. e., slanderer, because, as in the story of Job, he accuses man, and his accusations are false. The old Teutons and Norsemen called him Loki. The Middle Ages are full of devils, and demonologies of the Japanese and Chinese are perhaps more extensive than our own.
The evolution of the idea of evil as a personification is one of the most fascinating chapters in history, and the changes which characterise the successive phases are instructive. While the old Pagan views survive in both Hebrew and Christian demonologies, we are constantly confronted with accretions and new interpretations. Franz Xaver Kraus, in his History of Christian Art 2concedes that our present conception of the demons of evil is radically different from that of the early Christians. He says:
"The popular conceptions of the early Christians concerning devils are essentially different from those of the present time. The serpent or the dragon as a picture of the Devil appears not only in the Old Testament (Genesis iii. 1), but also in Babylonian literature, in the Revelation of St. John (xii. 9), and in the Acts of the Martyrs. We read in the Vision of Perpetua: "Under the scales themselves [i. e., for weighing the souls] the dragon lies, of wonderful magnitude.'"
The intellectual life of mankind develops by gradual growth. The old views are, as a rule, preserved but transformed. There is nowhere an absolutely new start. Either the main idea is preserved and details are changed, or vice versa, the main idea is objected to while the details remain the same. Gunkel has proved 1 that the splendid description of Leviathan (in Job xli) as a monster of the deep protected by scales is a reproduction of Chaldæan mythology, and God's fight with the monsters of the deep is a repetition of Bel Merodach's conquest of Tiamat. Changes of a radical nature take place in the religious conceptions of mankind, yet the historical connexion is preserved.
The conception of evil in its successive personifications would be humorous if most of its pages (especially those on witch-prosecution) were not at the same time very sad. But for that reason we must recognise the prestige of the Devil. The pedigree of the Evil One is older than the oldest European aristocracy and royal families; it antedates the Bible and is more ancient than the Pyramids.
Having outlined in the preceding chapters the history of the Devil, we shall now devote the conclusion of this book to a philosophical consideration of the idea of evil; and here we are first of all confronted with the problem of the objective existence of evil.
The Era of Subjectivism.
The question presents itself: "Is not evil the product of mere illusion? Is it not a relative term which ought to be dropped as a one-sided conception of things? Does it not exist simply because we view life from our own subjective standpoint, and must it not disappear as soon as we learn to comprehend the world in its objective reality?" The tendency to regard evil as a purely negative term is at present very prevalent, for it agrees with the spirit of the times and is one of the most popular notions of to-day.
In ancient times man was in the habit of objectifying the various aspirations and impulses of his soul. In order to understand beauty the Greek mind fashioned the ideal of Aphrodite, and the moral authority of righteousness appeared to the Jew as Yahveh the Lord, the Legislator of Mount Sinai. Religious aspirations were actualised in the Church by means of ceremonials and ecclesiastical institutions.
Things changed at the opening of that era in the evolution of mankind which is commonly called modern history. A new age was prepared through the inventions of gunpowder, the compass, and printing, and began at the end of the fifteenth century with the discovery of America, and the Reformation. The more the horizon of the known world grew, the more man began to comprehend the importance of his own subjectivity. The tendency of philosophy since Descartes and of religion since Luther, has been to concentrate everything in man's individual consciousness. That alone should have value which had become part of man's soul. Man's consciousness became his world, and thus, in religion, conscience began to be regarded as the ultimate basis of conduct. Men felt that religion should not be an external, but an internal, factor. Toleration became a universal requirement, and subjectivity was made the cornerstone of public and private life. Thus the era of the Reformation showed itself as a revolutionary movement, which, proclaiming the right of individualism and subjectivity, overthrew the traditional authority of an external objectivity.
The originators of this movement did not intend to discard all objective authority, but the spirit of nominalism which dominated them prevailed over their movement in its further progress. The last consequences of the principle of subjectivity, which starts with the famous assumption cogito ergo sum, were not anticipated by Descartes, for he naively assumes objective existence on one of the most trivial arguments. Nor would Luther with his peculiar education and stubborn narrowness, which were by no means inconsistent accompaniments of his greatness, ever have endorsed later theories based upon the purely subjective aspect of conscience; but the fact remains that the last consequence of the recognition of the supremacy of the subjective principle is a denial of any objective authority in philosophy, politics, religion, and ethics, which leads in politics to anarchism, i. e., individualism pushed to its extreme; in philosophy to agnosticism, i. e., the denial of any cognisable objectivity, worked out most systematically in Kant's critical idealism. In ethics it is the refusal to recognise any objective authority in morals; which leads either to Bentham's ethical egotism and hedonism or to intuitionism, and finally to Nietzsche's immoralism.
Our present civilisation is based upon the Protestant ideal of individualism, and nobody who lives and moves in our time can be blind to the enormous benefits which we derive from it. Nevertheless, we must beware of the onesidedness of subjectivism. Objectivism is not so utterly erroneous in principle as it appears from the point of view of modern subjectivism. The external methods of the Roman Church are mistaken; the tyranny of its hierarchical system which substitutes the priest's authority and an infallible papacy for God's authority is radically wrong; and the main task of Protestantism consisted in protesting against this authority, which, in spite of its self-asserted catholicity, is based upon the human authority of fallible mortals, an authority that was more frequently misused through bigotry and ignorance than through malice and selfishness.
There are Protestants who might object that Protestantism is not merely negative; it is also positive. It is not only a protest, but also an affirmation. True, indeed! But most of the Protestant affirmations are simply relies of the old Romanism which bound the consciences of man and crippled his reasoning power. The fanatics among the Protestants are by no means friends of liberty and free inquiry; and the positive power, the new factor in history that was destined to build up a new civilisation, was nothing else than Science. Therefore, Protestantism is not as yet the last word spoken in the religious development of mankind. We must look to higher aims and more positive issues, and a new reformation of the Church will obtain them only on the condition of its again recognising the importance of objectivity.
Mankind will not return to the dogmatic system of hierarchical institutions, which would only bind again the consciences of men by man-made authority. But the fact must be recognised that truth is not a mere subjective conception; it must be seen that truth is a statement of facts, and, accordingly, that it contains an objective element, and that this objective element is the essential part of established truth.
In the old period of objectivism, the ultimate authority was lodged in great men, prophets, reformers, and priests, whose spirit, after it had been adapted to the needs of the powerful, was embodied in Church institutions. The new objectivism discards all human authority; it rests ultimately upon science, which is an appeal to facts. Truth is no longer what the Church teaches, or what some infallible man may deem wise to proclaim; nor is it what appears to me as true, or to you as true; but it is that which according to methodical critique has been proved to be objectively true, i. e., so proved that everybody who investigates it will find it to be so.
Objective truth, demonstrable by evidence and capable of revision, or, in a word, Science, is the highest, the most reliable and the most valuable revelation of God. God reveals himself in the facts of life, among which we include our afflictions and personal experiences; God speaks in our conscience, which is, as it were, the moral instinct, the result of all our inherited and acquired experiences, and this is the reason why the voice of conscience makes itself heard in our soul with that automatic force which is characteristic of all deep-seated subconscious reactions. God also appears in our sentiments, our ideal aspirations, our devotions, our hopes and our yearnings. All these various manifestations are important and must not be lost sight of; but above them all is the objectivity of truth which speaks through science.
It is impossible for all men to be scientists, but for that reason it is not necessary that their minds and hearts should be enslaved by blind faith. The faith of every man should be the trust in truth, not in fairy tales that must be taken for granted, but in the truth,--the truth which in its main outlines is simple enough to be comprehensible to all,--the truth that this world of ours is a cosmic harmony in which no wrong can be done without producing evil effects all around.
Faith in the objective authority of truth is the next step in the religious evolution of mankind. We stand now at the threshold of the third period which will be, to characterise it in a word, an era of scientific objectivism. The tendency of the second era was negative, revolutionising, theorising; the tendency of the third will be positive, constructive, practical.
Negativism and subjectivism appear from the standpoint of the positivism and objectivism of the first period as the work of the destroyer, of the negative spirit, the Devil. It is a reaction. This explains why Milton's Satan actually became a hero. Milton was a Protestant, a revolutionist, a subjectivist, and he unconsciously sympathised with Satan, who in the terms of a philosopher of the age declares:
The mind is its own place and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same
And what I should be."
The negativism of the second period is not a mistake. It was an indispensable condition of the third period; for it manufactured the tools for a higher and better positivism,--criticism. But criticism is insufficient for positive construction; we must have actual results, methodical work, and positive issues; and the prophet of the twentieth century finds it necessary again to emphasise the importance of objectivity.
Is Evil Positive?
A modern fable characterises the relativity of good and evil in the story of a farmer, who, weeding his field with a cultivator, curses the morning-glories which grow luxuriantly on his maize stalks as being created by the Devil. In the meantime his little daughter weaves a wreath of the same flowers and praises the beauty of God's handiwork. Evil and good may be relative, but relativity does not imply non-existence. Relations are facts too. If mischief is wrought by good things being out of place, the evil does not become chimerical but is as positive as any other reality.
In the same way, the relativity of knowledge does not prove (as some agnostic philosophers claim) the impossibility of knowledge. Concrete things, such as stones and other material bodies, are not the only realities; relations, too, are actual, and the same thing may under different conditions be either good or evil.
A proper comprehension of the relativity of goodness and badness, far from invalidating the objectivity of the moral ideal, will become a great stimulus that will work for the realisation of goodness, for there ought to be nothing so bad but that it can by judicious management be turned to good account. Badness, however, is sometimes spoken of as a mere negation, and the assertion is made that it is not a positive factor. Looking for the most characteristic representative of this view among the ablest authors of our time, we find a statement written by the well-known author of the novel Ground
Arms! Bertha von Suttner, one of the most prominent advocates of universal peace on earth. She knows as well as Schopenhauer that the ills of life are positive, for she describes all the horrors of war in their drastic reality. Nevertheless, Bertha von Suttner devotes in her ingenious book The Inventory of a Soul a whole chapter to the proposition "The Principle of Evil a Phantom." 1 She says:
"I do not believe in the phantoms of badness, misery, and death. They are mere shadows, zeros, nothingnesses. They are negations of real things, but not real things themselves.... There is light, but there is no darkness: darkness is only the non-existence of light. There is life, death is only a local ceasing of life-phenomena. . . . We grant that Ormuzd and Ahriman, God and Devil, are at least thinkable, but there are other opposites in which it is apparent that one is the non-existence of the other. For instance: noise and silence. Think of a silence so powerful as to suppress a noise. . . . Darkness has no degree, while light has. There is more light or less light, but various shades of darkness can mean only little or less light. Thus, life is a magnitude, but death is a zero. Something and nothing cannot be in struggle with each other. Nothing is without arms, nothing as an independent idea is only an abortion of human weaknesses . . . two are necessary to produce struggle. If I am in the room, I am here; if I leave it, I am no longer here. There can be no quarrel between my ego-present and ego-absent."
This is the most ingenious and completest denial of the existence of evil that we know of, and it is presented with great force. It is the expression of the negativism of philosophy from Descartes to Spencer. It seems to be consistent monism. And yet, we cannot accept it.
True enough, the idea of a personal Devil is as imaginary as a fairy, or an elf, or a hobgoblin; true also that there is no evil in itself, and no goodness in itself; the dualism of the Manichees is untenable. The evil principle cannot be conceived as an independent substance, essence, or entity. But for that reason we cannot shut our eyes to its real and positive existence. Granted that silence is the absence of noise; yet noise is not goodness, neither is silence badness. While I think or write, noise is to me an evil, while silence is bliss. Silence, where a word of cheer is expected or needed, may be a very positive evil, and a lie is not merely an absence of truth. The absence of food is a mere negation, but considered in relation to its surroundings, as an empty stomach, it is hunger; and hunger is a positive factor in this world of ours. Sickness can be considered as a mere absence of health, but sickness is caused either by a disorder in the system or the presence of injurious influences, both of which are unquestionably positive. A debt is a negative factor in the books of the debtor, but what is negative to the debtor is positive to the creditor.
If negative ideas were "mere abortions of human weakness," as Bertha von Suttner claims, how could mathematicians have any use for the minus sign? And if the idea of evil were an empty superstition, how could its influence upon mankind have been so lasting? On the one hand it is true that all existence is positive, but on the other hand we ought to know that existence in the abstract is neither good nor bad; goodness and badness depend upon the relations among the various existent things. And these relations may be good as well as evil. Some existences destroy other existences. Certain bacilli are destructive of human life, certain antidotes destroy bacilli. There are everywhere parasites living upon other lives, and what is positive or life-sustaining to the one is negative and destructive to the other, and every such negation is a reality, the effectiveness of which neutralises the action of another reality.
The idea of goodness is by no means equivalent with existence, and badness with non-existence. Existence is the reality; it is the indivisible whole, the one and all. Good and evil, however, are views taken from a certain given standpoint, and from this standpoint good and evil are features forming a contrast, but as such they are always actualities; neither the one nor the other is a mere nothing. The question is only whether we have a right to regard our own standpoint as the positive one, representing that which is good, and all the powers that hinder human life as negative or evil.
The answer to this question seems to be that any and every being will naturally regard its own standpoint as the positively given fact, and every factor that destroys it as negative; his pleasure appears to him the standard of goodness.
And we grant that every being is entitled to take this standpoint, and that subjectivism naturally forms the initial stage of all ethical valuation. But we cannot rest satisfied with the principle of subjective autonomy as a solution of the problem of good and evil.
Is there an Objective Standard of Goodness?
Supposing that good were indeed simply that which gives pleasure or enhances my life, and bad that which gives pain or threatens to destroy it, the standard of goodness and badness would be purely subjective. The famous savage chief quoted by Tylor, and from Tylor by Spencer, would have fathomed the problem of good and evil when he declared that "bad is if anybody took away his wife, but if he took away the wife of some one else, that would be good." 1 Good would be that which pleases me; and the good as an objective reality would not exist. There would be something good for me, for you, and for many others, but what might be good for me might be bad for you. Goodness and badness would be purely subjective qualities without any objective value.
The view which bases ethics upon a consideration of pleasure and pain and defines goodness as that which affords the greatest amount of pleasurable feelings is called hedonism. The coarsest form of hedonism (as represented by Bentham) makes the pleasure of the individual supreme; it bases its ethics upon selfishness, and sees in altruism only refined egotism. The altruist is said to love but himself in others.
Let me add here that the intuitionalist basing ethics upon the voice of his conscience is, closely considered, also a hedonist, or at least a subjectivist, for he finds the ultimate authority for conduct in himself, viz., in the pleasure of those motor ideas of his which he calls his conscience: what he is pleased to consider as ethical, he thinks is ethical. His standard of morality is the subjectivity of his conviction, which he is unable either to analyse or to trace to its origin. He differs from Bentham's hedonism of ethical egotism only in this, that the pleasure of his conscience overrules the lower pleasures of the senses.
Modern utilitarianism, as represented by Mr. Spencer, remains a purely subjective ethics, for it makes the greatest happiness of the greatest number the maxim of ethics; and by doing so it introduces no objective principle, but it simply proposes to replace every single subjectivity by the sum total of all subjectivities; and subjective ethical maxims are not as yet truly ethical; they remain on the level of the world-conception of Tylor's savage.
All subjective ethical theories fail to see the cardinal point of ethics, for the very nature of ethics is objective. If there is no objective authority for moral conduct, we had better openly declare that ethics is an illusion and what we call ethics is simply all arithmetical calculation in which pleasures and pains are weighed against one another and morality is at best only a dietetics of the soul. As a matter of fact, however, he who opens his eyes will see that there is an objective authority for conduct in life. Life and the factors in life are not purely what we make them. Here we are to run a race, and the course of the individual as much as that of mankind and all living beings is prescribed in a very definite and unmistakable way on the lines of what since Darwin we have accustomed ourselves to call evolution. We must learn to recognise the necessity of progress which leads us onward on a straight and narrow path. Those who willingly obey the laws of progress advance on the path in spite of its thorns, joyously and gladly. The reluctant are urged forward and feel the smart of nature's whip, while he who obstinately refuses to heed the laws of the cosmic order goes to the wall.
Nature has no consideration for our sentiments, be they pleasures or pains. Happy is he who delights in acting according to her laws. But he who seeks other pleasures is doomed. Look at the situation from whatever standpoint you may, the criterion of right and wrong, of good and bad, of true and false, lies not in the greater or lesser amount of pleasure and pain, but in the agreement of our actions with the cosmic order; and morality is that which is in accord with the law of evolution. Ethics teaches us to do voluntarily what after all we must do whether or not it may please us.
In a word, ethics is unthinkable without duty, and the essential element of duty is its objective reality, its inflexible sternness, and its austere authority.
We say to the hedonist, a good action is not moral because it gives pleasure, but because it accords with duty; and we must not be on the search for that which gives us pleasure but must endeavor to find our highest pleasure in doing that which the cosmic law (or, religiously speaking, God) demands of us.
Those who deny that there is any objective norm of right and wrong in the universe, are inclined to claim with Huxley, that man survived not on account of his morality, but on the contrary, on account of his immorality. It has been said that man is more rapacious, more egotistical, more immoral, than brutes. Without denying that an immoral man may sometimes appear more brutish than a brute, we cannot see that man is as immoral as, or even more immoral than, brutes. But the case is worth considering.
Says the wolf in Æsop's fable: "Why is it right for you to eat the lamb, when for me it is supposed to be wrong?" Is not man in the same predicament as the wolf, and does not mankind slaughter more animals than all the wolves in the world ever ate?
Granted that the wolf's pleadings are substantiated, we observe that man lives, but wolves are exterminated, which seems good evidence in favor of man's being in greater accord with the cosmic laws. And yet the actions of both, the wolf and the man, seem to be identical; or rather, if the blackness of a crime depended upon quantitative measurement by addition, we should have to decide in favor of the wolves; for man at the present time kills more sheep, pigs, and other animals in one year than wolves could devour in a century. Yet man possesses the impudence to call the wolf a robber and to drive him from the fold whenever he attempts to imitate man's voracity. What is the justification of slaughter in the one case, and what its condemnation in the other?
In answering this question we shall not idealise man's mode of living on the flesh of his fellow-creatures. For it appears that from a moral standpoint it would be preferable to sustain life without slaughtering lambs and calves, fowl and fishes. The case must not be considered from an abstract or ideal standpoint, but simply treated as a comparison of the wolf's conduct with man's conduct; and we find that the more sheep a man eats, the more he raises. The wolf eats them without raising them. The wolf murders the lamb. However, the slaughter of the lamb by man is no murder, for it serves to increase and to sustain human souls, and the souls of man possess more truth and a higher insight into nature. The lamb dies as a sacrifice on the altar of humanity, and this sacrifice is right and good if, and in so far as, it substitutes higher life for lower life. Subjectively considered the wolf has the same right as man to kill a lamb; and also the same right as the lamb would have to kill wolves or men. The difference between man's and the wolf's actions appears only when we take into account the objective conditions of man's superiority, giving him a wider dominion of power which he can maintain because his soul is a better reflector of truth than are the notions of a wolf.
We must insist here that the attainment of a higher life, consisting in a fuller comprehension of truth and a greater acquisition of power, is one of the most essential requisites of morality. Morality is not a negative quality, but a very positive endeavor. We must abandon the old standpoint of negativism, that goodness consists in not doing certain things which are forbidden. Genuine goodness consists in daring and doing; and in doing the right thing. One genuine and positive virtue atones for many sins that consist in mere omissions. The sheep is by no means (as is frequently claimed) more moral than the wolf. The wolf is bad enough, but he is at least courageous and keen; the sheep is a coward, and with all its cowardice it is stupid. It is time to discard the ovine ideal of morality which praises all lack of energy and of accomplishments as the highest type of goodness. What we need is a positive conception of virtue based upon a careful consideration of the requirements of life.
What higher life and lower life is cannot be declared to be an arbitrary distinction. It is not purely subjective, but can be defined according to an objective standard. Good to the savage is that which pleases him, and bad that which hurts him. Good, to him who has deciphered the religious mystery of the universe and understands the nature of God, is that which produces higher life, and bad is that which hinders, or perverts, or destroys it.
God is a religious term, and it is often claimed that knowledge of God does not fall within the domain of science; the idea of God and all other religious terms are claimed to be extra-scientific. Thus there are two parties both of which are under the influence of nominalistic subjectivism: religious agnostics and infidel agnostics. The belief of the former is as irrational as the disbelief of the latter. If there is an objective authority for conduct, we must be able to know it; we can obey it only in so far as we know it. Now experience teaches us that there is an authority for conduct, and the theory of evolution promises to prove it by positive evidence. This authority for conduct is called in the language of religion "God." Our scientists formulate under the name "laws of nature" that which is immutable in the various phenomena, that which is universal in the variety of happenings, that which is eternal in the transient, and every law of nature is in its sphere a rigorous authority for conduct which in this sense is part and parcel of God's being.
The most important laws of nature in the ethical domain are those which regulate all the various and sometimes very delicate relations of man to man, which concatenate our fates and set soul to soul in a mutually helpful responsion.
Existence is one harmonious entirety; there is not a thing in the world but is embraced in the whole as a part of the whole. The One and All is the condition of every creature's being; it is the breath of our breath, the sentiency of our feelings, the strength of our strength. Nothing exists of itself or to itself. All things are interrelated; and as all masses are held together by their gravity in a mutual attraction, so there is at the bottom of all sentiment a mysterious longing, a yearning for the fulness of the whole, a panpathy which finds a powerful utterance in the psalms of all the religions on earth. No creature is an isolated being, for the whole of existence affects the smallest of its parts. Says Emerson:
"All are needed by each one,
Nothing is fair or good alone."
The unity of the whole, the intercoherence of all things, the oneness of all norms that shape life, is not a mere theory but an actual reality; and in this sense the scriptural saying "God is Love" is a truth demonstrable by natural science.
Science proves that the whole of existence presents itself throughout as regulated by law; that it is not a chaos, not an incomprehensible riddle, but a cosmos. As a cosmos it is intelligible, and sentient creatures can learn to understand its nature and adapt themselves to it. God is that feature in the world which conditions and produces reason; and reason is nothing but a reflexion of the world-order. The cosmic order of existence, the harmony of its laws, its systematic regularity, makes intelligence possible, and sentient beings will naturally develop into minds. God is that which changes individuals into persons, for reason and a rational will are the essential characteristic of personality.
Taking this ground we say, (adopting here, for the sake of simplicity, the religious term God,) those beings are good which are images of God.
The nature of progress is not (as Mr. Spencer has it) an increase of heterogeneity, but growth of soul. Evolution is not mere adaptation to surroundings, but a more and more perfect incarnation of truth. Adaptation to surroundings is, from an ethical point of view, an incidental blessing only of the power afforded by right conduct. 1
All facts of experience are revelations, but those facts which teach us morality (man's conduct to his fellow-beings) embody truths of special importance. They exercise a wholesome influence upon the development of our souls, even though the primitive man was not able to fully understand their why and wherefore. In the lack of a clear comprehension of facts themselves, man's imagination clothes them in the garb of mythological imagery. In our own days the great teachers of morality are still regarded as the Indian regards the medicine-man, and the sacraments of the Church are treated like the totems of savages. Religion is now slowly passing out of the old stage of magic into the higher stage of a direct comprehension of facts. Myth changes into knowledge, and the allegory of the parable begins to be understood.
As astrology changed into astronomy, so the religion of miracles will give way to the religion of science.
We often bear God spoken of as good, and he is sometimes represented as goodness in general. But God is more than goodness. God is the objective reality of existence regarded as the ultimate authority for conduct. God is thus the standard of goodness; to call God good is an anthropomorphism. His creatures are more or less good, according as they are more or less faithful portraits of him, and as they obey his will. God is neither good nor bad, neither moral nor immoral, he is unmoral; yet, his nature and character is the ultimate criterion of goodness and of morality. And God's will can be learned from his revelations, which in the terms of science are called experiences, and which we formulate with exactness in what is called "the laws of nature."
God is not existence itself; He is not, either singly or collectively, the facts of the world; He is not the sum total of objects or existences. God is the norm of existence, that factor which conditions the cosmic order and is formulated by naturalists as laws of nature. Being the norm of existence, God is, above all, that omnipresent feature in the facts, in the objects of the world, in reality, which commands obedience. God's will appears as that something in experience to which we have to conform. In a word, God is the standard of morality and the ultimate authority for conduct. This is nomotheism, but not pantheism, for it recognises the distinction between God and the All or sum total of existence. God is something distinct and definite, not an indifferent omneity. This is monotheism, but not the old monotheism, for it no longer looks upon God as one individual ego-being. Yet it preserves the nucleus of the oldest conception of God, and accepts at the same time all that is true in pantheism.
God was always an idea of moral import. God was and will remain (so long as the word is retained) the ultimate authority for conduct. Since the order of the world in its most general features is of intrinsic necessity, which means that under no conditions could it be imagined otherwise, God is the raison d'être not only of the world as it actually exists but of any possible world; and in this sense nomotheism teaches that God is supernatural. Supernaturalism may be untenable as it was understood by dogmatists, yet there is a truth in supernaturalism which will remain true forever.
Those who see in the facts of nature only matter in motion will naturally be surprised at the fact that a cosmos with living and morally aspiring beings can develop out of it. A deeper insight into the conditions of nature reveals to us that the world is a well regulated cosmos, having its own definite and immutable laws, and these laws are realities as much as material things. They are not concrete entities, but they are real, nevertheless., and indeed of greater importance than the existence of sense-perceptible objects. The cosmos is not only an enormous mass of innumerable atoms, and molecules, and masses of suns and stars, but its finer texture shows that down into its most delicate details it is a wonderful systematic whole, full of life and consistency, and possessing an outspoken and clearly intelligible character, and the world-order which makes the world a whole possesses objectivity, i. e., it is a reality independent of what we think it to be. The world is not as we think it to be, but we must think the world as it is, and our duty is to act accordingly.
These are the plain facts of science which even the man who has no idea of science must heed. Only those creatures can in the long run of evolution survive who act according to the truth. Thus, the truth became embodied in moral rules, even before science could deduce or explain them. Religion is a revelation in so far as it is an anticipation of certain truths which were at the time of their invention still uncomprehended. Religious ideas, accordingly, had to be symbols, and could be communicated only in parables. Now, the more science progresses, the better shall we learn to understand the meaning of these parables.
God is in all things, but he is best revealed in man,--especially in the morally aspiring man, and this is the meaning of the ideal of a God-man, or Christ,--a Saviour whose teachings are the way, the truth, and the life.
Every man's conception of God is a measure of his own stature. He pictures God according to his comprehension, and thus it is natural that every man has a different notion of God, every one's God being characteristic of his mental and moral caliber. On the lowest stages of civilisation devils and gods are almost indistinguishable, but while they become properly differentiated in the onward march of mankind we cannot fail to detect the parallelism between God and Satan which is never lost. The god of savages is a bloodthirsty chieftain; the god of sentimentalists is a good old papa; the god of the superstitious is a magician and a trickster; the god of the slave is a tyrannical master; the god of the egotist is an ego-world-soul; and the gods of the wise, of the just, of the free, of the courageous are wisdom, justice, freedom, and courage. The conception of evil in all these phases will always be the contrast to the ideal embodiment of all goodness.
Satan is at once a rebel and a tyrant. He proclaims independence but his rule bodes oppression and slavery. He himself is represented in chains, for the liberty of sin, which is licence, enthralls the mind. As Satan is a captive of his own making, so all the beings that belong to him are his prisoners. He is their torturer and destroyer.
A most drastic picture of Satan which is found in the missal of Poitiers, 1 is described by Didron as follows:
"He is chained to the mouth of hell as a dog to its kennel, and yet wields his trident sceptre as the monarch of the place which he guards. Cerberus and Pluto in one, he is yet a Cerberus of Christian art, a demon more hideous and more filled with energy than Pagan art has offered. . . . This image figures the various aspects of infernal sin, by its many faces, having a face on the breast as well as on the head, a face on each shoulder and a face at each hip. How many more behind? With long ears like those of a hound, thick short horns of a bull, his legs and arms are covered with scales, and seem to issue from the mouths of the faces at his joints. He has a lion's head with tusks, and hands like the claws of a bear. His body, open at the waist, reveals a nest of serpents darting forth and hissing. In this monster we find all the elements of a dragon, leviathan, lion, fox, viper, bear, bull, and wild boar. It is a compound of each evil quality in these animals, embodied in a human form." Didron, Iconography II., p. 118.
While Satan is the rebel who seeks liberty for himself and oppression of others, God's kingdom signifies the establishment of right, which insures the liberties of all. Satan promises liberty, but God gives liberty. Schleiermacher, a learned and thoughtful man but of a weak constitution, physically as well as spiritually, still bows down in submissive awe before a God whom he conceived most probably after the model of the Prussian government, and defines religion as the "feeling of absolute dependence."
Poor Schleiermacher! What an abominable religion didst thou preach in spite of thy philosophical caution which, in the eyes of zealous believers, amounted to heresy!
It is worth while to criticise Schleiermacher's definition of religion, because it found favor with many people, especially in liberal circles; for it appealed to the free religious people as a definition which omitted the name of God and retained the substance of religion. Would it not be better to retain the name of God and purify its significance, than to discard the word and retain the substance and source of the old superstitions? But it is an old experience that the Liberals are iconoclasts of external formalities and idolators of reactionary thoughts. They retain the cause of obstruction, and discard some of its indifferent results, in which it happens to find expression. They cure the symptoms of the disease but are very zealous in extolling its cause as the source of all that is good.
Schopenhauer in comment upon Schleiermacher's definition, said that if religion be the feeling of absolute dependence, the most religious animal would not be man, but the cur.
To the lovers of freedom the feeling of dependence is a curse, and Sasha Schneider has well pictured it as a terrible monster whose prey are the weak--those whose religion is absolute submissiveness.
Truly if we cannot have a religion which makes us free and independent, let us discard religion! Religion must be in accord not only with morality but also with philosophy; not only with justice, but also with science; not only with order, but also with freedom.
Man is dependent upon innumerable conditions of his life; yet his aspiration is not to be satisfied with the consciousness of his plight; his aspiration is to become independent and to become more and more the master of his destiny. If religion is the expression of that which constitutes the humanity of man, Schleiermacher's definition is, wrong and misleading, for religion is the very opposite. Religion is that which makes man more of a man, which develops his faculties and allows him more independence.
Monarchical Europe has generally characterised the Devil as the rebel in the universe, and in a certain sense he is. But he represents revolution only in its misguided attempts to gain liberty. Every rebellion which is not in its own nature self-destructive, is an expression of the divine spirit. Every dash for liberty is a righteous deed, and a revolutionary movement that has the power and inherent good sense to be able to stay, is of God.
Satan may be the representative of rebellion; God symbolises liberty. Satan may promise independence by a call to arms against rules and order; God gives independence by self-control and discretion. Satan is sham freedom, in God we find true freedom. Satan is an indispensable phase in the manifestation of God; he is the protest against God's dispensation as a yoke and an imposition, and thus revolting against the law prepares the way to the covenant of love and spontaneous good-will.
We must only learn that independence cannot be gained by a rebellion against the constitution of the universe, or by inverting the laws of life and evolution, but by comprehending them and adapting ourselves to the world in which we live. By a recognition of the truth, which must be acquired by painstaking investigation and by accepting the truth as our maxim of conduct, man rises to the height of self-determination, of dominion over the forces of nature, of freedom. It is the truth that makes us free.
So long as the truth is something foreign to us, we speak of obedience to the truth; but when we have learned to identify ourselves with truth, the moral ought ceases to be a tyrannical power above us, and we feel ourselves as its representatives; it changes into aspirations in us. True religion is love of truth, and being such it will not end in a feeling of dependence, but reap the fruit of truth, which is liberty, freedom, independence.
The Devil-Conception in Its Relation to the God-Conception.
The evolution of the conception of evil is by no means an unimportant chapter in the history of religion, for the idea a man has of Satan is characteristic of his mental and moral nature.
While the Bible declares that man is made in the image of God, anthropologists say that men make their gods after their own image: and the truth is that every God-conception is characteristic of the man who holds it. It has been said: I will tell you who you are when you tell me what your conception of God is.
But the same observation holds good as to the conception of the Devil, and we might as well say, "I will tell you who you are when you tell me what your conception of the Devil is."
There is a similarity between our conceptions of good and evil which cannot be accidental, for it is natural that all our thoughts should possess a certain family likeness. Your idea of the Devil is your best interpretation of your idea of God. It will be interesting to compare one of the most famous representations of God, holding the universe in his hands with the pictures of Mara, the Buddhist Satan with the world-wheel in his clutches.
This similarity can be proved from history.
The Trinity conception of Satan is as old as the Trinity conception of God. As we have Trinities among the Pagan deities, for instance among the Greeks, the three-headed Hecuba; so we have three-headed monsters as for instance, the three-headed Cerberus; and in the history of Christian art a similar parallelism obtains between God-representations arid Devil -representations. The idea of representing the divine trinity as a person having three faces may have originated in a modification of the two-headed Janus.
Professor Kraus says concerning the trinitarian demons of Christianity:
"The diabolical dragon is described as a three-headed monster (probably in recollection of Cerberus) in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, and in the Good Friday Sermon of Eusebius of Alexandria, who addresses the Devil 'Three-headed Beelzebul'. The idea of the Demon as a serpent with the head of a woman appears not earlier than the Middle Ages, in Bede, from whom it is quoted by Vincent de Beauvais."
Dante describes the three-faced Satan in these lines:
"Oh, what a sight!
How passing strange it seemed when I did spy
Upon his head three faces: one in front
Of hue vermilion, the other two with this
Midway each shoulder joined and at the crest;
The right 'twixt wan and yellow seemed; the left
To look on, such as come from whence old Nile
Stoops to the lowlands. Under each shot forth
Two mighty wings, enormous as became
A bird so vast. No plumes had they,
But were in texture like a bat, and these
He flapped in the air, that from him issued still
Three winds wherewith Cocytus to its depth
Was frozen. At six eyes he wept: the tears
Adown three chins distilled with bloody foam.
At every mouth his teeth a sinner champed,
Bruised as with ponderous engine; so that three
Were in this guise tormented." (Hell. Canto xxxiv.)
As according to Christian doctrine God is actualised in the God-man, so Satan in his turn is represented as the Antichrist and is pictured as a human caricature full of ugliness and wickedness. Professor Kraus continues:
"Simultaneously with the conception of the Devil as a dragon are found in the Acts of the Martyrs notions of him as an awful negro (a Moor or Ethiopian). The same views are found in Augustine, Gregory the Great, and the Apocryphal Acts of St. Bartholomew. In the latter, the idea is so far developed as to represent the Devil as the archetype of deformity: he becomes a negro with a dog's snout, covered with hair down to his toes, with glowing eyes, fire in his mouth, smoke issuing from his nostrils, and with the wings of a bat. We see that this pleasant description of the Evil One, which perhaps is based on job xli. 9 et seq., contains all the elements of the grotesque conception of the Middle Ages. They are found also in the Vita S. Antonii where also the horns of the Devil are mentioned."
Compare for instance Milton's Satan with Goethe's Mephistopheles! The one heroic like the English nation, a Protestant, a rebel, a dissenter, a subjectivist (see page 351 ff.), the other a sage, a scholar, a philosopher, like a German poet. Goethe's Mephistopheles is not as grand as Milton's Satan, but he is in his way not less interesting, for he is more ingenious, more learned, more poetical. He is a philosophical principle, being the spirit of criticism; and as such he plays an important part in the economy of nature.
Mephistopheles characterises himself in these words:
I am the spirit that denies!
And justly so: For all things from the void
Called forth, deserve to be destroyed.
T'were better, then, were nought created.
Thus, all which you as sin have rated,--
Destruction,--aught with evil blent,--
That is my proper element."
And what a sympathy exists between Mephistopheles, the spirit of criticism and the dignified author of the Universe. The Lord says in the Prelude to Faust:
"In self-indulgence man finds soon his level
He seeks repose and ease; and stops to grow.
Gladly on him the comrade I'll bestow
Who will provoke and must create as Devil."
As God, now and then, needs the Devil, so the Devil is anxious from time to time to pay his respects to the good Lord. After the heaven is closed Mephistopheles remains alone on the stage and says:
"At times the Ancient Gent I like to see,
Keep on good terms with him and am most civil."
Hobbling away, he stops before leaving the stage and turning to the audience adds:
"Tis truly fine of such a grand grandee
So humanly to gossip with the Devil."
Evil personified appears at first sight repulsive. But the more we study the personality of the Devil, the more fascinating it becomes. In the beginning of existence the Evil One is the embodiment of everything unpleasant, then of everything bad, evil, and immoral. He is hatred, destruction, and annihilation incarnate, and as such he is the adversary of existence, of the Creator, of God. The Devil is the rebel of the cosmos, the independent in the empire of a tyrant, the opposition to uniformity, the dissonance in universal harmony, the exception to the rule, the particular in the universal, the unforeseen chance that breaks the law; he is the individualising tendency, the craving for originality, which bodily upsets the ordinances of God that enforce a definite kind of conduct; he overturns the monotony that would permeate the cosmic spheres if every atom in unconscious righteousness and with pious obedience slavishly followed a generally prescribed course.
The ingenuous question, "Why does not God kill the Devil?" is comical enough, because we feel instinctively that it is impossible. I know of a good old lady who prayed daily with great fervor and piety that God might have mercy on the Devil and save him. Think of it closely, and this attitude is touching! How many great theologians have seriously discussed the problem whether the Devil could be saved. Like that good old lady, they were so engrossed in the literal belief of their mythology that they did not see that the problem implied a contra-diction. For God and Devil are relative terms, and God would cease to be God if there were no Devil.
The universe is such that the evolution of a higher life is possible only through great strain. The evolution of the warm glow of a soul out of the cold clay of the earth, of moral aspirations out of the fierce hatred that animates the struggle for existence, of intelligence, thought and foresight out of the brute indifference of that unthinking something which we call matter in motion, is due to extraordinary exertions; it is the product of work performed by the expenditure of enormous energy, and constant efforts are required merely to preserve the treasures already won. Difficulties to be overcome are called in the terminology of mechanics "the power of resistance," and this power of resistance is, closely considered, an essential and even a beneficial factor in the constitution of the universe.
If there were no power of resistance, if no efforts were needed to reach any end desired, if the world were pleasure and goodness throughout, we should have no evolution, no progress, no ideals; for all spheres of existence would float in one universal ocean of bliss, and all things would be intoxicated with heavenly delight.
Pain produces the want of something better, and deficiencies arouse the desire for improvement. If the feeling substance of moners had all their wants satisfied without further exertion, man would never have risen out of the bythos of amæboid existence, and if the man of to-day lived in a Schlaraffia, he would not trouble about new inventions, progress, or any amelioration; he would simply live on in unthinking enjoyment. There would be no need of making any effort, no need of struggling against evils, no need of virtue, no need of working out our salvation. There would be no badness, but there would be no goodness, either. All existence would be soaked with moral indifference.
Good is good only because there is evil, and God is God because there is a Devil.
As evil is not a mere negation, so the figure of Satan in religion is not an idle fancy. Goethe says:
"Ich kann mich nicht bereden lassen,
Macht mir den Teufel nur nicht klein:
Ein Kerl, den alle Menschen hassen,
Der muss was sein!"
["You have the Devil underrated.
I cannot yet persuaded be!
A fellow who is all-behated,
Must something be."]
Now, let us look at the mythical figure of Satan as represented in theology, folklore, and poetry. Is he not really a most interesting man? Indeed, in spite of being a representative of all kinds of crimes, be possesses many redeeming features so as to be great and noble. According to the account in the second chapter of Genesis, Satan is the father of science, for he induced Eve to make Adam taste of the fruit of knowledge, and the Ophites, a gnostic sect, worshipped the serpent for that reason. Satan produces the unrest in society, which, in spite of many inconveniences, makes the world move onward an(l forward; he is the patron of progress, investigation, and invention. Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and other men of science were regarded as his offspring and persecuted on his account by the Church. And when we glance over the records of the Devil-contracts, we learn to have respect for the old gentleman. Milton's Satan is a grand character, a noble-souled rebel, who would rather undergo an eternity of torture than suffer humiliation.
Consider but the fact that, taking the statement of his adversaries alone, the Devil is the most trustworthy person in existence. He has been cheated by innumerable sinners, saints, angels, and (according to various old Church legends) even by the good Lord himself; and yet he has never been found wanting in the literal and punctilious fulfilment of all his promises; and all the bad experiences he has had in the course of millenniums have not in the least lowered his character. His mere word is honored as the holiest oath, or as the best signature verified with seals and legal witnesses. The instances are rare in which it is known that persons with whom he has had business transactions have requested him to sign a contract, to give a pledge, or to show any proof that he would honestly abide by his word; his honesty was never doubted by anybody. And mind you, it is not the Devil who boasts of his integrity, but this is the conclusion at which we arrive from the evidences adduced by his enemies.
Our sympathy for this martyr of honest conduct, the dupe of God and man, grows when we consider our own nature and relation to his Satanic majesty. With our hands upon our hearts, must we not confess that every one of us, in spite of man's boastful claim of a likeness to God, has some trait or other that makes him kin to the Devil? I do not mean here to make reference to actual sin or grievous transgressions, but to things of which we scarcely think of repenting. Did we never in an hour of humor laugh at our neighbor? Did we never joke at the cost of somebody else? Did we never bulldoze, tease, or tantalise our very best friends? Did we never enjoy the awkward situation in which some poor innocent had been caught? And why should we not? If we took away from life its satire, jokes, and other "deviltries," it would lose part of its most fragrant zest, and if we constructed a man consisting of virtues only, would not that fellow be the most unbearable bore in the world, wearisome beyond description? For it is a sprinkling of petty vices that makes even a great man human. A mere ethical machine would neither be attractive nor arouse our sympathies.
The Devil is the father of all misunderstood geniuses. It is he who induces us to try new paths; he begets originality of thought and deed. He tempts us to venture out boldly into unknown seas for the discovery of new ways to the wealth of distant Indias. He makes us dream of and hope for more prosperity and greater happiness. He is the spirit of discontent that embitters our hearts, but in the end often leads to a better arrangement of affairs. In truth, he is a very useful servant of the Almighty, and all the heinous features of his character disappear when we consider the fact that he is necessary in the economy of nature as a wholesome stimulant to action and as the power of resistance that evokes the noblest efforts of living beings.
God, being the All in All, regarded as the ultimate authority for conduct, is neither evil itself nor goodness itself; but, nevertheless, he is in the good, and he is in the evil. He encompasses good and evil. God is in the growth and in the decay; he reveals himself in life, and he reveals himself in death. He will be found in the storm, he will be found in the calm. He lives in good aspirations and in the bliss resting upon moral endeavors; but he lives also in the visitations that follow evil actions. It is his voice that speaks in the guilty conscience, and he, too, is in the curse of sin, and in this sense he is present even in the evil itself. Even evil, temptation, and sin elicit the good: they teach man. He who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to perceive, will read a lesson out of the very existence of evil, a lesson which, in spite of the terrors it inspires, is certainly not less impressive, nor less divine, than the sublimity of a holy life; and thus it becomes apparent that the existence of Satan is part and parcel of the divine dispensation. Indeed we must grant that the Devil is the most indispensable and faithful helpmate of God. To speak mystically, even the existence of the Devil is filled with the presence of God.
3. BUDDHISM. / History of the Devil, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
BUDDHISM is a religious revolution against the evils that are dominant in Brahmanism. Gautama Shakyamuni, who claimed to be the Enlightened One, the Buddha, rejected bloody sacrifices, the authority of the Vedas, trust in rituals and the caste system, and taught a religion of moral endeavor which was to be obtained by enlightenment, or the bodhi. He recognised the existence of evil and sought salvation in the radical abolition of all selfishness through the extension of an all-comprehensive love toward all creatures.
The many-sidedness of Buddhism is well illustrated in the Buddhistic conception of evil and of a final escape from evil, which is taught to the thinker in the shape of a philosophy, and to the uneducated masses in the garb of a poetical myth, affording the artist a good opportunity for representing deep thoughts in allegorical form.
Mara, the Evil One.
Evil is personified in Mara, the Buddhist Devil, who represents temptation, sin, and death. He is identified with Namuche, one of the wicked demons in Indian mythology with whom Indra struggles. Namuche is the mischievous spirit who prevents rain and produces drought. The name Namuche means "not letting go the waters." However, Indra, the god of thunder-storms, forces him to surrender the fertilising liquids and restores the life-bringing element to the earth.
Mara is also called Papiyan 1 the Wicked One or the Evil One, the Murderer, the Tempter. In addition he is said to be Varsavarti, 2 meaning "he who fulfils desires." Varsavarti, indeed, is one of his favorite names. In his capacity as Varsavarti, Mara personifies the fulfilment of desire or the triple thirst, 3 viz., the thirst for existence, the thirst for pleasure, the thirst for power. He is the king of the Heaven of sensual delight.
There is a deep truth in this conception of Mara as Varsavarti. It means that the selfishness of man is Satan and the actual satisfaction of selfishness is Hell.
This reminds us of one of Leander's Märchen, in which we are told that once a man died and awoke in the other world. There St. Peter appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. He then ordered breakfast, the daily papers, and all the comforts he was accustomed to in life, and this kind of life lasted for many centuries until he got sick of it and began to swear at St. Peter and to complain of how monotonous it was in Heaven, whereupon St. Peter informed him that he was in Hell, for hell is where everybody has his own sweet will, and heaven is where everybody follows God's will alone. Similarly, according to the Buddhist conception, the heaven of sensual delight is hell, the habitation of the Evil One.
In the Dhammapada, Mara is not so much a person as a personification. The allegorical nature of the Evil One is plainly felt in every passage in which Mara's name occurs. We read, for instance:
"He who lives looking for pleasures only, his senses uncontrolled, immoderate in his food, idle and weak, him Mara will certainly overthrow as the wind throws down a feeble tree."
Buddhism in its original and orthodox purity knows nothing of devils except Mara, representing the egotistical pleasures, sensuality, sin, and death; but Buddhist mythology from the ancient Jatakas down to the most modern folklore of China and Japan has peopled the universe with evil spirits of all kinds, such as the demons of thunder and lightning, to personify the various ills of life and the dangers that lurk everywhere in nature.
While the evil consequences of sin are depicted in the tortures of Hell which are similar to the Christian belief, the final escape from evil is expressed in the belief that all good Buddhists will be reborn in the Western Paradise.
Mara, the Enemy of Buddha.
In the life of Buddha, Mara plays an important part. He is that principle which forms an obstacle to the attainment of Buddhahood. Having told how, in the night of the great renunciation, the deity of the door swung the gate open to let the future Buddha out, the Jataka continues:
"At that moment Mara came there with the intention of stopping the Bodisat; and standing in the air, he exclaimed, 'Depart not, O my lord! in seven days from now the wheel of empire will appear, and will make you sovereign over the four continents and the two thousand adjacent isles. Stop, O my lord!"
The prince refused to listen to Mara's wily insinuation.
When Buddha, in his search for enlightenment, had tried for seven years to find the right path in asceticism and self-mortification, his health began to give way and he was shrunken like a withered branch. At this moment Mara drew near and suggested to him the thought of giving up his search for enlightenment. We read in the Padhana Sutta: 1
"Came Namuche speaking words full of compassion: 'Thou art lean, ill-favored, death is in thy neighborhood. Living life, O thou Venerable One, is better! Living, thou wilt be able to do good works. Difficult is the way of exertion, difficult to pass, difficult to enter upon.'
"To Mara, thus speaking, Bhagavat said: 'O thou friend of the indolent, thou wicked one, for what purpose hast thou come here? Even the least good work is of no use to me, and what good works are required ought Mara to tell? I have faith and power; and understanding is found in me. While thus exerting myself, why do you ask me to live? While the flesh is wasting away the mind grows more tranquil, and my attention, understanding, and meditation becomes more steadfast. Living thus, my mind does not look for sensual pleasures. Behold a being's purity!
"Lust thy first army is called; discontent thy second; thy third is called hunger and thirst; thy fourth desire; thy fifth is called sloth and drowsiness; thy sixth cowardice; thy seventh doubt; thy eighth hypocrisy and stupor, gain, fame, honor, and what celebrity is falsely obtained by him who exalts himself and despises others. This, O Namuche, is thine, the Black One's fighting army. None but a hero conquers it, and whoever conquers it obtains joy. Woe upon life in this world! Death in battle is better for me than that I should live defeated.
"Seeing on all sides an army arrayed and Mara on his elephant, I am going out to do battle that he may not drive me from my place. This army of thine, which the world of men and gods cannot conquer, I will crush with understanding, as one crushes an unbaked earthen pot with a stone.
"Having made my thoughts subject to me and my attention firm, I shall wander about from kingdom to kingdom training disciples. They will be zealous and energetic, obedient to the discipline of one free from lust, and they will go to the place where there is no mourning.
"And Mara said: 'For seven years I followed Bhagavat, step by step, but found no fault in the Perfectly Enlightened and Thoughtful One.'"
When Buddha went to the Bo-tree Mara, the Evil One, proposed to shake his resolution, either through the allurements of his daughters or by force. "He sounded the war cry and drew out for battle." The earth quaked, when Mara, mounted on his elephant, approached the Buddha. The gods, among them Sakka, the king of the gods, and Brahma, tried to stay Mara's army, but none of them was able to stand his ground, and each fled straight before him. Buddha said:
"'Here is this multitude exerting all their strength and power against me alone. My mother and father are not here, nor a brother, nor any other relative. But I have these Ten Perfections, like old retainers long cherished at my board. It therefore behooves me to make the Ten Perfections my shield and my sword, and to strike a blow with them that shall destroy this strong array.' And he remained sitting and reflected on the Ten Perfections."--Buddhism in Translations. By H. C. Warren, pp. 77-78.
Mara caused a whirlwind to blow, but in vain; he caused a rain-storm to come in order to drown the Buddha, but not a drop wetted his robes; he caused a shower of rocks to come down, but the rocks changed into bouquets; he caused a shower of weapons--swords, spears, and arrows--to rush against him, but they became celestial flowers; he caused a shower of live coals to come down from the sky, but they, too, fell down harmless. In the same way hot ashes, a shower of sand, and a shower of mud were transmuted into celestial ointments. At last he caused a darkness, but the darkness disappeared before Buddha, as the night vanishes before the sun. Mara shouted: "Siddhattha, arise from the seat. It does not belong to you. It belongs to me." Buddha replied: "Mara, you have not fulfilled the ten perfections. This seat does not belong to you, but to me, who have fulfilled the ten perfections." Mara denied Buddha's assertion and called upon his army as witnesses, while Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions. When the hosts of the gods saw the army of Mara flee, they cried out: "Mara is defeated! Prince Siddhattha has conquered! Let us celebrate the victory!"
When Buddha had attained enlightenment, Mara tempted him once more, saying:
"Pass away now, Lord, from existence! Let the Blessed One now die! Now is the time for the Blessed One to pass away!"
Buddha made reply as follows:
"I shall not die, O Evil One! until not only the brethren and sisters of the order, but also the lay-disciples of either sex shall have become true hearers, wise and well trained, ready and learned, versed in the Scriptures, fulfilling all the greater and the lesser duties, correct in life, walking according to the precepts,--until they, having thus themselves learned the doctrine, shall be able to tell others of it, preach it, make it known, establish it, open it, minutely explain it and make it clear,--until they, when others start vain doctrines, shall be able by the truth to vanquish and refute it, and so to spread the wonder-working truth abroad!
"I shall not die until this pure religion of mine shall have become successful, prosperous, wide-spread, and popular in all its full extent, until, in a word, it shall have been well proclaimed among men!"
When, shortly before Buddha's death, Mara repeated his words as quoted above, "Pass away now, Lord, from existence," Buddha answered:
"Make thyself happy; the final extinction of the Tathagata shall take place before long."
Mara in Buddhist Art.
In the various sculptures representing scenes of Buddha's life there is a figure holding in his hand a kind of double club or vajra--i. e., thunderbolt, as it is usually called. Since the expression of this man with the thunderbolt decidedly shows malevolence, the interpretation naturally suggested itself that he must be one of Buddha's disciples who was antagonistic to his teachings. The common explanation of this figure, accordingly, designated him as Devadatta, the Buddhistic Judas Iscariot, who endeavored to found a sect of his own, and who according to Buddhistic legends is represented as an intriguer bent on the murder of Buddha. The various representations of this figure, however, are not altogether those of a disciple who tries to outdo Buddha in sternness and severity of discipline, but frequently bear the character of a Greek faun, and resemble, rather, Silenus, the foster-father of Bacchus, representing all kinds of excesses in carousing and other pleasures. Moreover, the same figure with the thunderbolt appears in representations of Buddha's entering Nirvana, at a time when Devadatta had been long dead. Alfred Grünwedel, for these reasons, proposes to abandon the traditional interpretation of the thunderbolt-bearer as Devadatta, and it appears that he has found the right interpretation when he says: 1
"This figure which accompanies Buddha from the moment he leaves his father's house until he enters Nirvana, and who waylays him in the hope of awakening in him a thought of lust or hatred or envy, who follows him like a shadow, can be no one but Mara Papiyan, the Wicked One, the demon of passion. The thunderbolt in Mara's hand is nothing but the old attribute of all Indian gods. In his capacity as the god of pleasure, Mara is especially entitled to this attribute of the Hindu gods. As Vasavatti he reigns in the highest domain of the pleasure heaven, surrounded by dancing girls and musicians."
It seems probable that the contrast in which Mara or Varsavarti stands to the Buddha began by and by to be misunderstood. For the thunderbolt-bearer Vajrapani is gradually changed into a regular attendant of Buddha, and the Vajra, or thunderbolt, is now interpreted as an attribute of Buddha himself. Thus it happened that among the northern Buddhists the Vaira became the indispensable attribute of the lamas. It is called Dorje in Tibet and Ojir in Mongolia.
* * *
The attack of Mara upon Buddha under the bo-tree is a favorite subject of Buddhist artists, who gladly avail themselves of this opportunity to show their ingenuity in devising all kinds of beautiful and hideous shapes. Beautiful women represent the temptations of the daughters of Mara, and the hideous monsters describe the terrors of Mara's army.
In Buddhistic mythology Mara, the Evil One, is, in harmony with the spirit of Buddha's teachings, represented as the Prince of the World. It is Mara who holds the wheel of life and death (Chavachakra, i. e., wheel of becoming) in his hands, for all living beings reside in the domain of death. The hand of death is upon every one who is born. He is the ruler in the domains of the nidanas, the twelve links of the chain of causation, or dependent origination.
The Twelve Nidanas.
The twelve nidanas are a very old doctrine, which possibly goes back to Buddha himself, and may contain elements that are older. While the general meaning of the chain of causation is clearly indicated by the first and last links, which imply that ignorance, not-knowing, or infatuation is at the bottom of all evil, there are great difficulties in the interpretation of the details, and Mr. Warren thinks that it is a combination of two chains of causation representing similar thoughts. He says:
"The Buddhist Sacred Books seem to claim Dependent Origination as the peculiar discovery of the Buddha, and I suppose they would have us understand that he invented the whole formula from beginning to end. But it is to be observed that the formula repeats itself, that the human being is brought into existence twice--the first time under the name of consciousness, and name and form and by means of ignorance and karma, the second time in birth and by means of desire (with its four branches called attachments) and karma again, this time called existence. 1 Therefore, though Buddhaghosa is at great pains to explain this repetition as purposely intended for practical ends, yet one is much inclined to surmise that the full formula in its present shape is a piece of patchwork put together of two or more that were current in the Buddha's time and by him--perhaps expanded, perhaps contracted, but at any rate made into one. If the Buddha added to the formula of Dependent Origination, it would appear that the addition consisted in the first two propositions. For ignorance, of course, is the opposite of wisdom, and wisdom is the method for getting rid of ignorance."--Buddhism in Translations, p. 115.
Whatever may have been the original wording, the traditional formula of the causation of evil has been, without change, faithfully preserved in the triumphal progress of Buddhism from India to Japan. One of the oldest passages in which the twelve nidanas are enumerated is found in the Questions of King Milinda, p. 79, where we read:
"By reason of ignorance came the Confections, 2 by reason of the Confections consciousness, by reason of consciousness name-and-form, by reason of name-and-form the six organs of sense, by reason of them contact, by reason of contact sensation, by reason of sensation thirst, by reason of thirst craving, by reason of craving becoming, by reason of becoming birth, by reason of birth old age and death, grief, lamentation, sorrow, pain, and despair. Thus is it that the ultimate point in the past of all this time is not apparent."--Translated by T. W. Rhys Davids in Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXXV.
The Samyutta Nikaya enumerates as the second nidana "karma," i. e., action. The passage reads:
"On ignorance depends karma;
"On karma depends consciousness
"On consciousness depend name and form;
"On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
"On the six organs of sense depends contact
"On contact depends sensation
"On sensation depends desire;
"On desire depends attachment;
"On attachment depends existence;
"On existence depends birth;
"On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation. misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery arise.
"But on the complete fading out and cessation of ignorance ceases karma;
"On the cessation of karma ceases consciousness On the cessation of consciousness ceases name and form;
"On the cessation of name and form cease the six organs of sense;
"On the cessation of the six organs of sense ceases contact; On the cessation of contact ceases sensation
"On the cessation of sensation ceases desire;
"On the cessation of desire ceases attachment
"On the cessation of attachment ceases existence
"On the cessation of existence ceases birth;
"On the cessation of birth cease old age and death, sorrow,
lamentation, misery, grief, and despair. Thus does this entire aggregation of misery cease."--Buddhism in Translations, Warren, p. 166.
The Pali terms are: (1) avijja (ignorance), (2) sankhara (organised formation) or kamma (Karma), (3) vinnyana (sentiency), (4) nama-rupa (name and form, i. e., individuality), (5) salayatana (the six fields, i. e., the five senses and mind), (6) phasso (contact), (7) vedana (sensation), (8) tanha (thirst), (9) upadana (craving), (10) bhava (growth), (11) jati (birth), (12) jaramarana, etc. (old age, death, sorrow, etc.).
It seems that we have three chains of causation combined into one. One chain explains that Karma, i. e., deed or activity, produces first vinnyana (sentiency), and then nama-rupa (name and form, or personality); the other begins with sensation, as known in the six senses or salayatana, which by contact (phasso) produces first consciousness (vedana) and then thirst (tanha). The third group, which may be the peculiarly Buddhistic addition to the two older formulas, is founded in the first, or first and second, and the four concluding links of the traditional chain, stating that ignorance (avijja) produces blindly in its random work organisations (sankharas). These sankharas or elementary organisms are possessed of craving (upadana), which leads to conception (bhava) and birth (jati), thus producing old age, death, sorrow, and misery of any kind.
The Wheel of Life.
Life in its eternal rotation is represented in Buddhist mythology as a wheel that is held in the clutches of the Evil One.
Judging from a communication of Caroline A. Foley (in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1894, p. 389), the allegory of the world-wheel, the wheel of life, must be much older than is commonly thought, for it is mentioned already in the Divyavadana, pp. 299-300.
Caroline Foley says:
"There it is related how Buddha instructed Ananda to make a wheel (cakram karayitavyam) for the purpose of illustrating what another disciple, Maudgalyayana, saw when he visited other spheres, which it seems he was in the habit of doing. The wheel was to have five spokes (pancagandakam), between which were to be depicted the hells, animals, pretas, gods, and men. In the middle a dove, a serpent, and a hog, were to symbolise lust, hatred, and ignorance. All round the tire was to go the twelve-fold circle of causation (pratityasamutpado) in the regular and in the inverse order. Beings were to be represented 'as being born in a supernatural way (aupapadukah), as by the machinery of a waterwheel, falling from one state and being produced in another.' The wheel was made and placed in the 'grand entrance gateway' (dvarakoshtake), and a bhikshu appointed to interpret it."
Samsara, or the circuit of life, the eternal round of birth, death, and rebirth, as summarily expressed in the doctrine of the twelve nidanas or twelve-linked chain of causation, is painted around the tire of the wheel.
How carefully the Buddhistic conception of Mara, as the Prince of the world, holding in his clutches the wheel of life, has been preserved, we can learn from a comparison of an old fresco in the deserted caves of Ajanta, Central India, 1 with Tibetan and Japanese pictures of the same subject. 2 All of them show in the centre the three causes of selfhood, viz., hatred, spite, and sloth, symbolised in a serpent, a cock, and a pig. They are also called the three fires, or the three roots of evil, which are raga (passion), doso (sin), moho (infatuation).
The Hindu picture exhibits six divisions,--the realm of gods, the realm of men, the realm of nagas (or snakes), the realm of paradise, the realm of ghosts, and the realm of hell. The Tibetan picture shows the same domains, only less distinctly separated, while the Japanese picture shows only five divisions. In order to show the omnipresence of the Buddha as the principle that sustains all life, the Japanese picture shows a Buddha statue in the hub, while in the Hindu wheel every division contains a Buddha figure. This Buddha in the world is the Buddha of transformations, Nirmana-Kaya, representing the tendency of life toward enlightenment. Outside of the wheel two other Buddha figures appear. At the right-hand corner there is Buddha, the teacher, in the attitude of expounding the good law of righteousness. It is the Dharma-Kaya, the Buddha embodied in the dharma, i. e. the law, religion, or truth. In the left-hand corner there is Buddha in the state of rest, represented as Sambhoga-Kaya, the Buddha who has entered into Nirvana and attained the highest bliss.
The twelve nidanas are an essential element in the Buddhist wheel of life, and are commonly represented by twelve little pictures either on the tire or surrounding the tire.
On the Japanese wheel, which exhibits the nidanas more clearly than the older wheels, the series begins at the bottom, rising to the left-hand side and turning down again on the right-hand side.
The first nidana (in Pali Avijja), ignorance, is pictured as a passionate man of brutish appearance.
The second nidana (in Pali Sankhara, Sanskrit Samskara), which is commonly but badly translated in English by "confection," represents the ultimate constitutions of life or primary forms of organisation, meaning a disposition of structures that possess the tendency to repeat the function once performed. It is represented as a potter's wheel on which vessels are manufactured. The word should not be confused with samsara, which is the whole wheel of life, or the eternal round of transmigration.
The third nidana is vinnyana, or awareness, being the sentiency that originates by the repetition of function in the dispositions or organised structures previously formed. It is animal sense-perception, represented as a monkey.
The fourth nidana is "nama-rupa," i. e., name and form, which expression denotes what we call personality, the name of a person and his personal appearance. It is represented by a pilot steering a boat.
The fifth nidana is called the six fields or "shadayatana," which are what we call the five senses and mind, or thinking, which is considered by Buddhists as a sixth sense. It is pictured as a human organism.
The sixth nidana is "phasso" or "sparsa," i. e., the contact of the six fields, with their objects, represented as a lover's embrace.
Rising from a contact of the six fields with their objects, the seventh nidana is produced as "vedana," i. e., sensation or sentiment, illustrated by a sighing lover. If the sixth nidana is enacted in the garden scene of Goethe's "Faust," the seventh is characterised by Margaret's song, "My peace is gone, my heart is sore." (Scene xv.)
From sentiment, as the eighth nidana, "tanha," i. e., thirst or desire, rises. The picture exhibits the flirtation of two separated lovers.
The ninth nidana is "upadana," i. e., the clinging to existence. The picture shows us the lover following the footsteps of his love.
The tenth nidana is "bhava" (bridal embrace), or existence in its continuation, finding its artistic expression in the union of the lovers, who, seated on the back of an elephant, are celebrating their marriage feast.
The eleventh nidana is birth, "jati," in the picture represented as a woman in her throes.
The remaining groups represent the twelfth nidana and its various sufferings, which consist of old age, disease, death, lamentation, complaints, punishments, and all kinds of tribulations.
The twelve pictures on the Hindu wheel are less distinct, but there is no question about their meaning being exactly the same. Beginning at the top on the right-hand side, we find first an angry man, representing ignorance, then a figure which might be a potter forming vessels of clay on the potter's wheel, representing the formation of dispositions or primary soul-forms. The third picture represents a monkey climbing a tree, symbolising animal perception or the individuality of organisms. The fourth- picture shows a ship on a stream, representing the origin of mind under the allegory of a pilot. The fifth picture seems to be a house built upon five foundation stones, which we interpret as the five senses, the superstructure representing mind, the sixth sense. Then follows the sixth picture, a woman, kindling desire of contact. The seventh represents sentiment in the shape of two sighing lovers. The eighth picture represents thirst or desire as two separated lovers. The ninth picture, reminding us of Adam and Eve in Paradise, is a man plucking flowers or fruits from a tree; it illustrates the tasting of the apple of sexual love. The tenth picture illustrates pregnancy, the eleventh birth, and the twelfth is the demon of death carrying away the white body of a dead man.
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The wheel of life as now frequently pictured in Buddhist temples of Japan can, in its wanderings from India through Tibet and China, be traced back to a remote antiquity, for we know positively that this conception of the Evil One in his relation to the world, existed about two thousand years ago, in the days when Buddhism still flourished in India, but it is not improbable that it must be dated back to a time preceding Buddha. We may fairly assume that when Buddha lived, such or similar representations of the significance of evil in life existed and that he utilised the traditional picture for the purposes of spreading his own religion, adding thereto his own interpretation, and thus pouring new wine into old bottles. There is a possibility that the picture must be dated back to the age of demonolatry, when the idea prevailed that the good god need not be worshipped but only the evil god, because he alone is dangerous to mankind.
That the same idea as expressed in the Buddhist wheel of life existed in the remotest antiquity of our earliest civilisations can be seen at a glance by looking at the picture of the Chaldean bronze tablet (on page 46 of this volume), which represents the three worlds, the realm of the gods, the abode of men, and the domain of the dead, as being held in the clutches of a terrible monster. The similarity of the tablet to the Buddhist wheel of life is too striking to be fortuitous.
Religious symbols, formulas, and rites are, as a rule, punctiliously preserved even after a radical change of the fundamental ideas that are embodied therein. Judging by analogy from the religious evolution of other nations, we must assume that the original form of worship among the Accadians was as much demonolatrous as it is at a certain stage of civilisation among all savage tribes, and this bronze plate appears to preserve the lingering features of a prehistoric world-conception. The simplest explanation that suggests itself is to regard the monster holding the world-picture as the deity of evil, who in the period when religion still consisted merely in the fear of evil, was worshipped as the actual prince of the world whose wrath was propitiated by bloody sacrifices.
If this view should prove to be correct, the Chaldean bronze plate of the monster holding in its claws the world would be the connecting link between the very dawn of religious notions with the foundation of Buddhism, where the worship of the evil deity has disappeared entirely. But the influence of this old mode of expression extends even into the sphere of the origin of Christianity, although here it fades from sight. In the New Testament the Buddhist term "the wheel of life" is used once more, but it is a mere echo of a remote past; its original significance is no longer understood. Speaking of the great damage caused in the world by the tongue, St. James says:
[Thus the tongue that defileth the whole body standeth among our limbs; and it setteth on fire the wheel of becoming and is set on fire by hell.]
The version of King James translates the term t????? ?e??se?? which in the Vulgate reads rosa nativitatis, by course of nature."
The Buddhism of Tibet is not yet sufficiently explored on account of the inaccessibility of the country, but it is safe to say that its demonology is highly developed and shows traces of strong Hindu influences. Prominent among, the evil spirits is mKha'sGroma, the Tibetan form of the Hindu Goddess Kali (see page 99), who is represented as a frightful monster with a leonine head, surrounded by a halo of flames and ready to devour everything she sees.
In China Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism exist peacefully side by side, and there is scarcely a home in the country where the customary homage would not be paid to Lao-Tsze and Confucius as well as to Buddha. Indeed, there are numerous illustrations in which these three great masters are together represented as dominating the moral life of China.
In Japan the conditions are similar, except that in the place of the popular Taoism we find Shintoism, which is the aboriginal nature-worship of the country, consisting at present in the observation of national festivals, in which form it has of late been declared to be the official state religion of the country.
The folklore of Chinese Taoism and Japanese Shintoism was naturally embodied in the mythology of the Buddhists, and we find therefore in their temples innumerable representations of hell with all their traditional belongings; Emma, the stern judge of Meifu, the dark tribunal; Kongo, the sheriff, and all the terrible staff of bailiffs, torturers, and executioners, among whom the steer-headed Gozu and the horse-headed Mezu are never missing. By the side of the judge's desk stands the most perfect mirror imaginable, for it reflects the entire personality of every being. Since man's personality, according to the Buddhistic soul-conception, is constituted by the deeds done during life, the glass makes apparent all the words, thoughts, and actions of the delinquent who is led before it; whereupon he is dealt with according to his deserts. If good deeds prevail, he is rewarded by being reincarnated in a higher state of existence, be it on earth, or in the Western Paradise, or in one of the heavens of the gods; or, if bad deeds prevail, he sinks into lower spheres, in which case he must go back to life in the shape of that creature which represents his peculiar character; or, if he has been very wicked, he is doomed to hell, whither he is carried in the ho nokuruma, the fiery cart, the conveyance of the infernal regions. The sentence is pronounced in these words:
"Thy evil deeds are not the work of thy mother, father, relatives, friends, advisers. Thou alone hast done them all; thou alone must gather the fruit." (Devad. S.)
Dragged to the place of torment, he is fastened to red hot irons, plunged into fiery lakes of blood, raked over burning coals, and "he dies not till the last residue of his guilt has been expiated."
But the Devil is not always taken seriously, and it appears that the Chinese and Japanese exhibit all the humor they are capable of in their devil pictures and statues, among which the Oni-no-Nembutzu, the Devil as a monk, is perhaps the most grotesque figure.
In the later development of Northern Buddhism, all the evils of this world, represented in various devil personalities, are conceived as incarnations of Buddha himself, who, by showing the evil consequences of sin, endeavors to convert mankind to holiness and virtue.
We find in the Buddhist temples of China and Japan so-called Mandaras, which represent the world-conception of Buddhism in its cosmic entirety. The word Mandara means "a complete ensemble," and it exhibits a systematically arranged group of Buddha-incarnations. The statue of the highest Buddha who dwells in Nirvana always stands in the centre. It is "Bodhi," enlightenment, or "Sambodhi," perfect enlightenment, that is to say, the Truth, eternal rightness, or rather, Verity, the objective reality that is represented in truth, which is the same forever and aye. He is personified under the name Amitabha, which means boundless light, being that something the recognition of which constitutes Buddhahood. He is like God, the Father of the Christians, omnipresent and eternal, the light and life of the world, and the ultimate authority of moral conduct. Another prominent Buddha incarnation is Maitreya, the Buddha to come, who is the Christian holy spirit. He is the comforter whose appearance was promised by Buddha shortly before parting from his disciples.
The catalogue of the Musée Guimet of Paris, the best religious museum in the world, describes a Mandara, in which the highest Buddha in the centre of the group is surrounded by a number of his incarnations of various degrees and dignities. These are the Bodhisattvas, prophets and sages of the world, who have either taught mankind or set them good examples by their virtuous lives. On the right we see a group of personified abstracts, piety, charity, science, religion, the aspiration for progress. On the left is a third class, consisting of the ugly figures of demons, whose appearance is destined to frighten people away from sensuality, egotism, and evil desires.
The devils of Buddhism, accordingly, are not the enemies of Buddha, and not even his antagonists, but his ministers and co-workers. They partake of Buddha's nature, for they, too, are teachers. They are the rods of punishment, representing the curse of sin, and as such have also been fitly conceived as incarnations of the Bodhi. In this interpretation, the Buddhist devils cease to be torturers and become instruments of education who contribute their share to the general system of working out the final salvation of man.
Christian salvation consists in an atonement of sin through the bloody sacrifice of a sinless redeemer; Buddhist salvation is attained through enlightenment. Hence Christ is the sufferer, the innocent man who dies to pay with his life the debt of others who are guilty.
Buddha, is the teacher who by example and instruction shows people the path of salvation.
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