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THE question of evil is as old as humanity itself. It enters into all forms of religion. It is the background of mystery in all human life; and its shadow falls over that outward world of cosmical law which seems most removed from it.

Amidst the pervading harmonies of creation there are forces ready to break forth with destructive activity, and to spread around ruin and disaster. Nature is powerful for harm as well as for help, a storehouse of death as well as of life. [See Appendix V.] Darkness and storm alternate with light and serenity; the peaceful courses of the seasons are interrupted by the incalculable fury of the tempest; and even the security of the abiding earth and heavens seems invaded by the explosions of the earthquake and the ominous gloom of the eclipse. These phenomena may be all equally ordered, but they powerfully excite the suggestion of evil in the human imagination. In 30primitive times they touch it with a peculiarly vivid force of apprehension and dread; and even after the light of science has searched the secrecies of Nature, and laid bare its wondrous order everywhere, there lingers in the popular mind a deep distrust of all unwonted phenomena.

In the region of sensitive life the idea of evil presents itself directly. Here it is that Nature is “red in tooth and claw,”44   In Memoriam, LVI. and its very arrangements seem designed not merely to produce good, but to inflict evil. The whole range of animal existence presents a mingled scene of enjoyment and suffering—a scene bright with the activities of life, and health, and triumph, but also dark with the endurance of weakness, terror, and violence, the latter apparently entering into the constitution of the animal world as immediately as the other.

And when we turn to the highest form of life in man himself, the presence of evil haunts it everywhere in endless forms of general and individual experience in all relations of human society, all functions of human industry, and in the noblest energies of human progress. We cannot conceal its working when we look within our own hearts. Nay, here more than anywhere it shows its deepest power, and touches human experience with acutest misery. Different natures will apprehend differently the 31depth and power of evil in human life; but there are none, not even the most sentimental enthusiasts, call dispute its existence; and it requires only a slight degree of moral earnestness to be solemnly arrested by it. The highest natures have been most moved by its mystery; and those who have most realised the greatness of man, and done most for his good, have at the same time felt most pathetically the shadows of evil that rest upon his lot.

So far there can hardly be any difference of opinion as to the fact which we call evil. Whatever men may make of the fact, its presence around them, and in their own life, admits of no denial.

A fact so universal and so painful, touching human life at all points with such a sore pressure, has been necessarily a subject of much inquiry and reflection. Men have never ceased interrogating the mystery which lies around them and within them. The history of religion is in great part a history of the explanations which men have tried to give of it. It is the business of these Lectures to deal with one of these explanations. The Christian answer to the question of evil, apart from all considerations of its essential importance, is one which can never cease to interest all thoughtful minds. It is at least one of the most intelligible and consistent that has been given. But, before entering upon our special task, it will be well to 32bring under brief review such answers as have occurred to the human mind in its successive stages of religious progress. The course of religious thought outside the Jewish and the Christian Revelation may, or may not, be the product of purely natural reflection. Elements of primeval tradition may mingle in it; but, at least, it is the only source whence we can gather the contents of Natural Religion in any intelligible sense of these words.

It is needless to say that we make no attempt to handle this part of our task with historical completeness. Any such attempt would lead us far into the wide field of comparative Theology. [See Appendix VI.] No field of inquiry can be more interesting; but it is beyond our present scope, as it is beyond our knowledge. All that we propose to do is to trace rapidly the chief ideas of evil that meet us in the great world of religious thought—unrepresented by the Jewish or Christian Scriptures. Such a sketch, however rapid, if at all intelligent, can hardly fail to throw a reflected light on the Christian doctrine, and to bring into bolder and more precise relief its distinguishing features. In point of fact it will be found that the answers which have been given to the problems of evil outside of revelation run in a few main lines, which continually repeat themselves, and which 33seem to exhaust all the efforts of human speculation on the subject.

Glancing, then, at the world of religious thought outside of Christianity and its anticipatory revelation, we may be said to meet with the following successive developments of the idea of evil-some of them of the nature of reasoned or speculative solutions, others in the main unconscious generalisations which have dominated human intelligence, without professing to unravel the mystery which it faces.

1. The rudest conception of evil is that which meets us in prehistoric and savage religions. [See Appendix VII.] It is the instinct of the savage to conceive of the external world as upon the whole evil rather than good. No intelligence can be said to mingle with this instinct or to guide it. It is only a crude confused sense in the mind of the savage of the pressure of natural forces upon his security, comfort, or possessions. What is evil, and still less what is good, in any deeper sense, he never asks himself. He is incapable of even forming coherent imaginations of the one or the other; but instinctively he trembles before a Power or Powers which can hurt him, blight the fruits of his labour or destroy his cattle, deny his success in the chase and triumph in war; and he offers rites or uses spells or incantations to drive away these 34Powers, or draw them to his side. The evil is therefore truly far more of a god to him than the good, and devil-worship, however revolting and unintelligible to a later reflectiveness, is only a natural inference of the savage view of life and of Nature. So radical is the hold which evil in some form or another has over the human heart and imagination.

2. As we pass to the earliest forms of historical religion, a higher and better view of Nature meets us. It is still full of evil, but it is also full of good. Its great contrasts of light and shade, of beauty and terror, are reproduced and personified. The external world continues to dominate the religious imagination; but this world is no longer a mere repertory of evil powers ready to crush man or destroy the fruits of his labour. It is a scene of incessant activity, productiveness, and life. The clear sky above, the radiant sunlight, the sweet wind no less than the destructive blast, fire, water, earth, all that is joyful as well as all that is gloomy in the great picture of the outward world, are idealised and clothed in imaginary forms. There may be no depth of intelligence, no clear lines drawn even betwixt natural qualities; yet the one side of the picture is given as well as the other. The brighter side is often given as the more prominent of the two.

There is great variety in the forms of religion 35which occupy this stage of development. The wide group of polytheistic faiths which meets us in the earliest centres of civilisation of which we have any record may be said to belong to it. Some of them are greatly more advanced than others, and rise at points into a region of pure moral conception; but in their origin all may be said to rest on a dual imagination of nature, and none of them quite outreach the conditions of their origin.

The religion of ancient Egypt, supposed by some to represent a more primitive stratum of religious idea than any Aryan or Semitic faith, is a conspicuous example of the rudest form of this embodiment of Nature-force in contrasted types of good and evil. In this as in all Nature-religions, the sun under various names is the great type of the Good—the symbol of joyous activity and beneficence. Evil, again, is pictured in the darkness of night, the cold of winter, or the devastating heat of summer. Osiris seems to gather to himself in the later Egyptian mythology all the higher qualities of active goodness, while Isis is the correspondent passive or receptive principle. Beside these stands Typhon the evil principle, conspicuous as powerful, able to slay Osiris and banish him to the region of the dead, but not able to detain him there. Sought after by Isis, he is found and brought back to life again, as the sun rises again after the darkness of the night. The Evil stands 36beside the Good, and enters into conflict with it, but it no longer fills the imagination.

The religions of Phœnicia and of the older civilisations which spread around the valley of the Euphrates present a similarly rude deification of Nature-force. The Baal of Phœnicia is now good and now evil—now Baal-Adonis and now Baal-Moloch. Ashera, or Astarte, the female divinity, is also partly good and partly evil; now the symbol of joy and grace and beauty, in which aspect she seems to be cognate with the Hellenic Aphrodite and the Ephesian Diana, and now the symbol of terror and grossness. Adonis, torn by a bloody boar, and again reappearing to the light, is the same myth as Osiris killed by Typhon—the Good overcome by the Evil, but not conquered by it. The higher principle regains its ascendancy, and takes its position in front of the other.

In all these conceptions, obviously the Good and Evil are alike drawn from Nature; but there is some movement of thought if not of moral interest. The human intellect has grown, if not to understand Nature, yet not merely to be afraid of it. Everywhere it sees two sides,—light as well as shade—brilliancy, life, and abundance, as well as negation, sterility, and darkness. Nature is no longer formless or merely evil; there is a rude, if incoherent, attempt at classification. Mere blind wonder and fear have 37ceased, and the mind recognises and symbolises the Good no less than the Evil. The conceptions are cloudy and interchangeable, but they are there. The first step in the great movement of religious thought has begun.

The Vedic and Hellenic mythologies mark the greatest advance in this stage of religious thought; and in the latter particularly, the stage outruns itself into the moral sphere. Primarily, however, both mythologies start with Nature. The gods of India and of Greece, no less than of Egypt, are impersonations of natural force. Indra is the symbol of the Sun—of the serene sky—“who makes the lightning to spring forth and launches the light.” The clouds that darken the sky represent the powers of evil that fight against Indra. They march under the guidance of Vritra, or “that which obscures.” Again, the swift winds which chase the clouds are the auxiliaries of Indra, and the two first rays of the morning are twin divinities, traversing the heaven in a rapid car, and scattering in their passage fecundity and life. Varuna (Heaven), Indra (Light), Agni (Fire), are all in turn represented as the great Nature-force and supreme Power. The hymns celebrate them simultaneously; and each, without relation to the other, seems to occupy the chief place. “The whole mythology,” as Max Müller says, “is fluent.” The powers of Nature stand alongside of 38one another rather than in subordination to one another. They are idealisations of natural force, and yet they take to themselves moral attributes, and clothe themselves at times with a gracious and divine personality. It is hardly possible to excel the moral spirit of some of the Vedic hymns, as, for example, the following: “Let me not yet, O Varuna, enter into the house of clay. Have mercy, Almighty; have mercy. Through want of strength, thou strong and bright God, have I gone to the wrong shore. Have mercy, Almighty; have mercy. Whenever we seem, O Varuna, to commit an offence—whenever we break thy law through thoughtlessness—have mercy, Almighty; have mercy.”55   Hymn to Varuna (Rig. vii. 89), translated by Max Müller, ‘Chips from a German Workshop,’ i. 39.

This moral growth is still more conspicuous in the Homeric mythology. The Zeus of Homer is not merely the Vedic Indra—the sun vanquishing darkness; but he is a father and king—the source of moral order, the judge of domestic right. Pallas is not merely the brightness of the serene sky, but the reflection of thought—the source of prudence, eloquence, art, and wit. Apollo is the symbol at once of light and of purity—the Hellenic messenger or Messiah mediating betwixt heaven and earth; [See Appendix VIII.] and even Aphrodite, one of the least moral of the Hellenic 39divinities, is not merely the impersonation of voluptuous beauty, but of all bewitching softness and poetic grace, as she rises from the foam of the Cytherean wave.

But admitting all this, it is none the less true that the most perfect of these conceptions have not only their origin in Nature, but that they never completely rise above it; the vesture of their birth everywhere clings to them. The moral conception is never clearly marked off from the unmoral or even the immoral; the one passes into the other. Even the personal conception sinks back into Nature and loses itself ever and again in the vast and dim realm of the cosmos. Human reflectiveness has greatly advanced, and stands face to face with Nature, no longer in mere dread, nor yet in a mere twofold vision of darkness and light. The darkness, indeed, has almost vanished from the scene. The Evil has lost its power by losing its grossness; it lies hidden away behind the bright creation of that wonderful Olympus. But it is only hidden away. There was such a sunlight in the early Greek imagination that it suffused all the activities of Nature and of life by its glow; but the gloomy shadows lay in wait behind even the glowing Epos. Olympus itself rested on a dark realm of night and chaos, and the gloom of Hades haunted the hero amidst all his cheerful toils and perils. Nowhere,40certainly, in all human history, does the conception of evil play a less powerful part than in the early Greek religion, yet even here it is not banished. It is the formless background out of which rises alike the cosmos of natural beauty and the glory of the heroic life. Moral qualities mingle in the latter and touch it with a splendour more than that of earth, but Nature imprisons and limits both the Good and the Evil. Far as in special traits they may rise above it, they still return to the soil which nurtured them, and which conditions their highest aspirations.

3. It is in a different quarter to which we must look for the first definite growth of a moral conception of evil, or of such a marked separation betwixt the Good and Evil as to place them in direct antagonism. Early in the unknown history of the Aryan tribes, but subsequent to their final dispersion eastwards and westwards, there seems to have occurred, in the primitive home of the race, something of the nature of a religious revolution. The symbolism of Nature, with its tendency to assume a polytheistic shape, and to obscure moral distinctions, must have become unsatisfactory, and led to a strong reaction in some higher mind or minds who had power to turn the popular religious thought in a new and more spiritual direction. The old antagonisms of light and darkness, of sunshine and 41storm, became transformed, as Bunsen says,66   God in History, i. 273. into antagonisms of good and evil—of Powers exerting a beneficent or corrupting influence on the mind. The old Aryan nomenclature underwent a singular change. The terms remained, but received a reversed significance. The appellation of the good powers was applied to the powers of evil. Dævas, for example—cognate with Deva and Dyaus, the name of God, the supreme type of light or the serene sky, the Heaven-Father—came to denote the spirits of evil, or the genii of darkness who fight under the Prince of Darkness.

The author of this remarkable revolution in Aryan thought is generally known as Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, as the name is more correctly written. But beyond the fact of such a name, and the religion connected with it, nothing can be said to be distinctly ascertained. All attempt to construct Persian any more than Egyptian chronology and history seems hopeless. The era of Zarathustra, according to different writers, varies from about 600 B.C. to 1000 B.C., or even a much earlier date. Most scholars entitled to express an opinion on the subject believe that he cannot be placed later than the second-mentioned of these dates. But not only is the date of Zarathustra uncertain, doubts have even been cast upon his personality. It has been 42suggested that the name may stand, not for an individual, but for a school of early Aryan prophets, who initiated the great change of religious thought which has descended to us under the title of Zoroastrianism.

The uncertainty which hangs around the origin of the system cannot be said to attach to the system itself. It is a distinctly-conceived dualism, in which the physical contrasts presented by pre-existing religions have become almost entirely merged in moral antagonism. Man is represented as surrounded by good and evil spirits, ranged under respective leaders—Ormuzd or Ahura-Mazda, the Holy-minded, and Ahriman or Anra-Mainyus, the Evil-minded. These spiritual powers wage with each other an incessant war, and man has to make his choice betwixt them. He cannot serve two masters. He must choose the one and reject the other. The Good Power is represented as the Creator. “I worship and adore,” says Zarathustra, “the Creator of all things, Ahura-Mazda, active Creator, . . . Lord of the worlds—Lord of good things, . . . the first fashioner—who made the pure creation.”77   Substance of hymn from the Avesta, Spiegel’s Translation, ii. 87. And yet Evil is supposed to be also an independent power from the beginning—having a coequal existence with the Good. “In the beginning there was,” says the prophet, “a pair of 43twins—two spirits, each having his own distinct essence. These, the Good and the Evil, rule over us in thought, word, and deed.”88   Hymn from the Avesta, as given by Bunsen in his ‘God in History,’ i. 280. And. the difficulty of the choice betwixt good and evil rests just in this, that the one holds man as really, and, so to speak, as rightfully, as the other.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the marked development of thought which this system exhibits. Good and Evil are so far plainly transferred from the region of Nature to the region of Spirit. The evil is not that which merely hurts, or weakens, or destroys man. It is not merely the gloom of night or the fury of the desolating storm, as in Vedism; or the pale dread of an unknown future, as in Hellenism. Good and Evil are nowhere seen interchanging, or lying in indiscriminate confusion alongside one another. But Evil is from the first a spiritual power behind nature, and operating primarily upon the mind and heart. It is twin with the Good; and through the necessary encounter of the two all things are brought about—the world of life is formed. But, twin in being and in the genesis of the world, they are wholly opposed in character. Veracity, purity, righteousness, are the attributes of the one; lies, uncleanness, and destructiveness are the qualities of the other. In short, the sphere of 44Nature, which we have seen to bound even the loftiest conceptions of the Homeric pantheon, is almost entirely left behind in this remarkable system. We have passed from the outward to the inward—from the cosmical, not merely to the personal, but to the ethical.

Yet when we look more closely, there are traces here also of the aboriginal soil out of which all Nature-religions have grown. Good is not wholly spiritual, or Evil either. A dead body is as polluted as a lie; and a fine field of wheat is as pleasing in the sight of Ahura-Mazda as a purified conscience. It is obvious, further, how the very conception of Evil as twin with Good, and equally independent with it, serves so far to destroy its moral character. That which is an inherent and necessary power in the creation of the world cannot be an essential contradiction of its highest law. Rather it must enter into all created things as their true complement and condition. There are passages from the Zend-Avesta which seem to rise above this necessary dualism or essential twofoldness of evil as well as good in the composition of the world. Bunsen and others have at least drawn a higher meaning from these passages. But there can be little doubt that Persian religious thought never surmounted the fundamental dualism on which it is based, and which has been so prominently identified with it. Some of the nobler Gâthâs, or hymns of the 45Persian scriptures, may speak of the world as divine, or of the Good Spirit ruling us all; but in others the Evil Spirit claims to rank alongside of the Good. And it was the fate of Zoroastrianism to plant the dualistic conception so deep in the human consciousness, that it is seen constantly reappearing in the subsequent history of religious thought, and even within the sphere of Christianity itself.

Nothing, indeed, is more remarkable than the vitality of this conception. It is the definite basis, if not of all Gnostic thought, of those special forms of it which were allied to Orientalism, and which are sometimes spoken of as branches of the Syrian in contrast to the Alexandrian Gnosis. The question of evil, of its origin and its relation to the Supreme Being, was the great question of Gnosticism; and the solution which it gave of the question from one point of view was plainly borrowed from Zoroastrianism. It imagined the Demiourgos, or creator of the natural world, to be an actively malignant or evil being at war with the Supreme—an Ahriman in conflict with the absolute Source of life and goodness. There was this difference—a difference so far in favour of the original system—that in all the phases of Gnosticism the higher Divine Principle is conceived as infinitely apart from the work of creation, abiding in an exclusive supremacy. It is the Evil that is creative or demiurgic, and not the Good. 46The two are not coactive, but the Evil is, so to speak, the only activity invading the passive sphere or abyss of Being. A latent Pantheism, in short, lurks in all Gnostic thought, of which there is no trace in primitive Zoroastrianism. Yet the dualistic stands in front of the pantheistic conception, and probably gave to the various forms of the Syrian Gnosis its popular hold upon many minds in the first Christian ages.

In the third century Dualism took fresh life and burst forth with new momentum under the name of Manichæism. This system especially emphasised the power of Evil as a distinct and coeternal principle in antagonism with the Good.99   In Augustine’s Twenty-three Books ‘Contra Faustum Manichæum,’ Faustus is represented as denying that he believes in two gods, but he admits belief in two principles—“Est quidem quod duo principia confitemur.”—Lib. 2I. c. I.; Migne’s Ed., viii. 387. It acquired a rapid ascendancy, and exercised more influence than any preceding systems of the same character. In the fourth and fifth centuries it paraded itself as almost a rival of Christianity. Augustine was for a time its disciple, and speaks of its great teacher, Faustus, with all his superficiality and lack of precise thought, as a man of eloquence and influence. But even this great outburst of dualistic speculation by no means exhausted its vitality. It sprang up again suddenly in the East in the twelfth century, founding a new sect under the name of Paulicians, who 47seem somehow to have identified their characteristic principles with the teaching of St. Paul. Gibbon has given, in the fifty-fourth chapter of this great history, an animated description of this sect, and of the rapidity with which it spread, notwithstanding violent persecution, through Bulgaria and the borders of the Greek empire into Italy, Germany, and France. “It was discovered,” he says, “that many thousand Catholics of rank and of either sex had embraced the Manichæan heresy”1010   Vol. x. p. 177—Milman’s Ed. (under this new name). The heresy spread, especially in the south of France; and there, amongst other uncatholic opinions, filled up the measure of heterodoxy and contempt for sacred forms which called forth and consecrated the horrors of the Albigensian war. It can hardly be said that even in modern times this old conception has lost its power, when we find one great philosopher writing of another—Mr. J. S. Mill of his father—“that he found it. impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness;” but that he by no means discredited in the same degree “the Sabæan and Manichæan theory of a Good and an Evil Principle struggling against each other for the government of the universe.”1111   Autobiography by J. S. Mill, 1873.


4. The conception of evil was destined to undergo still further modifications outside the sphere of Judaism and Christianity. The original worship of the Aryan race, which under the influence of a noble inspiration passed into the ethical ardour of Zoroastrianism, became transformed on another side, first into the sacerdotal pantheism of Brahmanism, and then into the philosophy of Buddha, which has received various interpretations, but which, in all its interpretations, more or less implies the same conception of evil. It is no part of our work to trace these developments of religious thought flowing from the same fountain-head, partly revolutionary and partly reactionary in their relation to one another. All that it concerns us to note is, that the idea of evil, which is very prominent in both, is quite different from that clearly-defined personality which meets us in the Zoroastrian or Irano-Persian system of which we have been speaking. There the world of created life—man and all things—share in the Evil which, no less than the Good, has been concerned in their production. But while sharing in evil as an essential element of his being, man is at the same time invited to active struggle with it. He has the choice of the Good or the Evil, and all his higher activities are evoked to overcome the one and embrace the other. The Kingdom of Darkness holds him within its sphere, and the Prince of 49Darkness rules him by right, so to speak, of joint property; yet there appears to be a sphere within the conditions of his present life where the evil may be vanquished. The pious heart is promised the inheritance of the earth.1212   ”O Mazda! when on earth our spirit is hardly pressed in the fight, come thou to our aid! The pious hearts dost thou give to inherit the earth.”—Hymn from the Avesta, as given by Bunsen, i. 280. The struggle here, therefore, is not hopeless, and human life may be glorified in deliverance from evil. But when we turn to Brahmanism, we find that evil is no longer merely present in life—no longer merely claims a joint share in it—but has, in fact, become its characteristic condition. Existence itself, or at least conscious existence, has become the Evil. It is no longer a fight against an evil power; it is itself evil. To have passed from the infinite to the finite—from unconsciousness to consciousness—to have been born into this world of change at all, is evil. There is, accordingly, not merely evil in the world, concerned in its production, holding its own in its government, but the world is evil itself, and the mere fact of life is a fall from true Being and Good.

This may seem a strange outcome of the lively Nature-worship of the Aryan tribes, as depicted in the hymns of the Rig-Veda. But it seems to have been a natural consequence of the changes which passed upon the race as they went eastward, settling 50in the valley of the Ganges, and exchanging their nomadic and warlike character for a pacific and settled social state. Surrounded by luxuriant and gigantic forms of nature, and under a comparatively unchanging sky, they seem to have lost their natural activity both of life and imagination. Their bards, as Bunsen says, “gradually became a guild which shaped itself into a priestly caste.”1313   Bunsen, i. 317. Their versatile and joyous symbolism of Nature degenerated into a sacerdotal system, in which Indra and his cognate divinities passed out of notice, and Brahma took their place. Apparently at first a mere abstract name for the contemplation of what was “sacred” or “holy,” this word came to denote (in a neuter form1414   Brahmă (neut.), Brahmâ (mas.) See Appendix IX.) the Divine, the Eternal—in opposition to the temporal, the phenomenal-and also (in a masculine form) the God of the Brahmans, or the chief God of the later Hindu mythology. The idea of Brahma, however, even as a distinct object of worship, remained very impersonal, and never acquired any hold of the popular mind. He is nowhere so much a personality as a Universal Soul or Spirit of the world, of which all finite things are the manifestation. “The Universe is Brahma, it proceeds from Brahma,1515   Creuzer’s Symbolik, &c., i. 496. and is finally again absorbed by Brahma.” Brahma is Being, pure 51Being; all else is his word or image. But in so far as Being has passed into Form, and the Eternal clothed itself with the temporal, and the Infinite become the finite, evil has arisen. To be out of Brahma in any sense is so far evil. “The cycle of the universe is an error;”1616   Extracts from the Vedanta Philosophy, quoted by Bunsen, i. 332. Brahma is the only reality. “Thou, I, the universe must pass away;”1717   Ibid. Brahma alone abides, “without dimension, quality, character, or duality.”1818   Ibid., 381. “A wise man must annihilate all objects of sense in his mind, and contemplate continually only the one Mind which is like pure space.”1919   Ibid.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the vast change which has passed upon Aryan thought in the elaboration of such a system as this, and how entirely it transfers us to a new point of view regarding evil. In one sense it might seem an advanced point of view. It is the result of a more distinct effort of thought—a more meditative philosophy. The Dualism of the Zoroastrian is a more spontaneous suggestion than the Pantheism of the Brahman—an older and so to speak a rougher and more popular type of thought. But the Brahmanical conception of evil, later as it is in its development and more profound in mystery, is really not an advance upon the Zoroastrian conception; rather it is a degeneracy. The 52moral import which we were able to trace everywhere in the one has quite gone out of the other. There can be no genuine moral sphere in an existence which is evil by the mere fact that it is at all; whose very creaturely beginning is a fall from the Divine, and whose only salvation is a return to it, not by any moral effort or renovation, but by re-absorption. This—the only Good—stood at an infinite distance from the creature, whose destiny it was to pass from one form of life to another, conditioned by the preceding. The doctrine of Metempsychosis crowned the Brahmanic system, and contributed to render it one of the most mournful and oppressive of all religions. Life was not only evil in its present consciousness, but there opened before it a series of changes all more or less evil, from which there was no escape but by losing all individuality, and perishing in the abyss of pure Being.

So far, Buddhism was a reaction against all this oppressive sense of misery in life. It taught, in opposition to the apparently endless law of transmigration, and the sacerdotalism which made capital out of this law, that happiness was to be found in a life of conscious virtue, and that religion was not a system of rites and ceremonies, but a true order of reverence, and charity, and self-denial. “To conquer one’s self is a greater victory than to gain a battle.” “He who for only one moment contemplates himself 53in utter repose”—“who cherishes reverence for the virtuous”—this one act of devotion is better than a hundred years’ sacrifices. “To refrain at all times from angry words, and never to do another injury; to observe temperance; to live in profoundest meditation,—lo! this is enjoined in the Buddhas.’2020   Extracts from Buddhist Hymns, quoted by Bunsen, i. 346 et seq. Sayings such as these, which are to be found without number in the Buddhist scriptures, are sufficient to prove the high moral tone of Buddhism, and the extent to which it formed a reformation of the Brahmanical system, which, like the Pharisaism of the Gospels, had become intolerable to many pious hearts. But, not to speak of deeper defects, Buddhism, with all its strenuous culture of moral life, never rose above the degrading conception of existence as a whole presented in the older faith. It preached the divinity of virtue, the negation of desire, the beauty of repose. It tried to clear a space within the present life for the exercise of reverence, and purity, and charity, and honorable obedience. “He who cherishes reverence in his heart, and ever honours his superiors, to him shall be ever added these four gifts—long life, beauty, joy, power.”2121   Ibid., i. 347. But withal, it left life as a natural fact under the curse of evil. Of the four sublime verities, the first is that “existence is suffering,”—and the second, that the 54cause of the suffering is desire or sensation. There is a sense, indeed, in which these Buddhistic aphorisms might bear a Christian meaning. There might seem little to choose betwixt the well-known language of Job and the words of the Buddha proverb, “Man’s birth is full of trouble, and full of toil is his life also;”2222   Extracts from Buddhist Hymns, quoted by Bunsen, i. 348. and “He that loseth his life shall find it,”—“Whoso loveth father and mother better than me,” might seem to find their echo in the divine honour attributed in another proverb to him “who, loose from all human ties, has risen to the divine communion.”2323    Ibid., p. 353. But the spiritual standpoint is vitally different in the two cases. The life of sense, the life of affection, even the life of thought on its active, speculative, or scientific side, is all more or less evil from the Buddhistic point of view. Perfection—Nirvâna—however we may specially interpret the word, is only to be attained by self-contemplation, and in the end by ecstacy. Good, in short, only arises in so far as life in all its actualities is left behind. “The greatest happiness is, not to be born; the next greatest is for those who have been born to die soon.” Even according to Bunsen, who has found a higher divine meaning in Buddhism than many others, this was its final dogma. The curse of evil clung to all sense of individual being. Bliss 55was only reached by annihilating all the conditions of relative existence, and plunging into Nirvâna—the Void—or, so far as can be understood, into Annihilation.2424   Burnouf, Int. à l’Hist. du Buddhisme, p. 522.

If the Dualism of the Irano-Persian faith perpetuated itself in certain forms of Gnosticism, the conception of evil as material existence was no less persistent in the speculation of succeeding ages. It may be questioned whether Brahmanism or Buddhism exerted any direct influence upon Alexandrian philosophy, or the successive forms of what is known as Neo-Platonism. But there can be no doubt that it was the same thought which repeated itself in those speculations. Evil was identified with finite being, or matter per se. Existence of itself simply was conceived of as a descent from the Divine. The idea of emanation, which underlay both the great oriental systems, was no less characteristic of the Alexandrian Gnosis in all its branches. The Infinite or pure Being was the only reality—all else was but as the shadow or manifestation of the Primal Source; and in the progress of descent from this source, evil emerged so soon as the fontal stream of spiritual life touched matter. Every successive evolution of the divine element grew feebler till it ended in opposition to the Divine. Matter and its adjuncts—sensation, desire, bodily affections of whatever kind—were 56all more or less at variance with the Divine, and therefore to be resisted as evil. It is needless to point out how pervading this thought has been, not only in Gnosticism and various forms of medieval mysticism, but throughout the whole history of monasticism, and even many practices of ordinary Christian devotion. It has been the latent spring of Christian asceticism in all its branches. Evil in such cases may not have been exclusively traced to matter, but it has been more or less associated with it; and the way to be good has been supposed to lie through self-mortification and the triumph of the spirit over the desires of the body. The Buddhist doctrine of the annihilation of self, extravagant as it may appear when stated in its nakedness, has a deep root in human nature; and the thought of evil only passing away when all self-feeling has been lost in the Divine, reappears in almost every phase of exalted religious feeling. It may receive a purely spiritual interpretation; but it is also apt to pass into externality, and to confound wrong with certain aspects of the natural life. The activities of natural healthfulness, the joys of sense, the joys even of the domestic hearth—whatever intensifies the mundane aspects of existence—come to be regarded with suspicion as partaking more or less of the lower or material sphere of being. All connected with this sphere is more or less of the nature of evil. The 57Good is only reached in the negation of nature, and in a supposed spiritual elevation of feeling which leaves far behind all mere joys of earth. And so it often happens that a mysticism which claims in its very loftiness to be peculiarly Christian, falls back by its excess into the Buddhistic or Gnostic Error of considering matter and its adjuncts as the source of evil. Manifold as are the forms of error, its range of development lies along two or three main lines; and these lines are seen constantly repeating themselves, sometimes in the most unexpected quarters.

5. We have spoken of the idea of Evil in the early Hellenic religion as. lying alongside the Good in unconscious simplicity. Zeus is the father of gods and men, and yet the faithless husband. The free-hearted Achilles hates concealment. Ulysses is commended for his clever powers of deceit. The moral idea has not worked itself clear from the vague indiscriminate aspects of nature or of life in which “all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean.”2525   Eccles. ix. 2. But Hellenic thought, it is necessary to remember, is a great history of itself. It passes through many stages; and in the course of its development the idea of evil becomes greatly deepened, 58and the conception of a Nemesis or moral order rises within it, if not so purely, yet almost as conspicuously and majestically as in the Hebrew Prophets. The chief sphere of this development is the Greek Tragedy. Behind all the activities of life, and all the play of dramatic passion which compose this Tragedy, there is a stern background of Righteousness which will by no means clear the guilty. A shadowy terror overhangs all wrongdoing, and a curse which cannot be turned away pursues the offenders. This moral background is the great inspiring ideal of the Greek drama, and lends to it its chief grandeur and power. The ideal, in its mere force of awe and majesty, may be said to rival that of Hebrew thought; but in other and essentially moral respects it falls below it. The sphere of moral freedom is recognised but dimly; the distinction betwixt voluntary and involuntary evil comes forth but darkly and hesitatingly. Nemesis is just, but with a justice that spares not; and the darkness of a sublime despair settles on the awful scenes of human crime and misery. The moral elevation of Greek Tragedy, and the contrasts of right and wrong which it sets forth, are the highest and gravest efforts of Gentile thought in a religious direction. They bring us to the very verge of Revelation, but they do not pass within it. And deep and sad, 59tender and pathetic, as are its pictures of human life and heroic duty, the idea of evil which enters into it so largely is yet far short of the idea of sin which emerges on the very threshold of the Hebrew Scriptures.

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