Hegel’s Philosophy of History
We have to begin with the Oriental World, but not before the period in which we discover States in it. The diffusion of Language and the formation of races lie beyond the limits of History. History is prose, and myths fall short of History. The consciousness of external definite existence only arises in connection with the power to form abstract distinctions and assign abstract predicates; and in proportion as a capacity for expressing Laws (of natural or social life) is acquired, in the same proportion does the ability manifest itself to comprehend objects in an unpoetical form. While the ante-historical is that which precedes political life, it also lies beyond self-cognizant life; though surmises and suppositions may be entertained respecting that period, these do not amount to facts. The Oriental World has as its inherent and distinctive principle the Substantial (the Prescriptive), in Morality. We have the first example of a subjugation of the mere arbitrary will, which is merged in this substantiality. Moral distinctions and requirements are expressed as Laws, but so that the subjective will is governed by these Laws as by an external force. Nothing subjective in the shape of disposition, Conscience, formal Freedom, is recognized. Justice is administered only on the basis of external morality, and Government exists only as the prerogative of compulsion. Our civil law contains indeed some purely compulsory ordinances. I can be compelled to give up another man’s property, or to keep an agreement which I have made; but the Moral is not placed by us in the mere compulsion, but in the disposition of the subjects – their sympathy with the requirements of law. Morality is in the East likewise a subject of positive legislation, and although the moral prescriptions (the substance of their Ethics) may be perfect, what should be internal subjective sentiment is made a matter of external arrangement. There is no want of a will to command moral actions, but of a will to perform them because commanded from within. Since Spirit has not yet attained subjectivity, it wears the appearance of spirituality still involved in the conditions of Nature. Since the external and the internal, Law and Moral Sense, are not yet distinguished – still form an undivided unity – so also do Religion and the State. The Constitution generally is a Theocracy, and the Kingdom of God is to the same extent also a secular Kingdom as the secular Kingdom is also divine. What we call God has not yet in the East been realized in consciousness, for our idea of God involves an elevation of the soul to the supersensual. While we obey, because what we are required to do is confirmed by an internal sanction, there the Law is regarded as inherently and absolutely valid without a sense of the want of this subjective confirmation. In the law men recognize not their own will, but one entirely foreign. Of the several parts of Asia we have already eliminated as unhistorical, Upper Asia (so far and so long as its Nomad population do not appear on the scene of history), and Siberia. The rest of the Asiatic World is divided into four districts: first, the River-Plains, formed by the Yellow and Blue Stream, and the Upland of farther Asia – China and the Mongols. Secondly, the valley of the Ganges and that of the Indus. The third theatre of History comprises the river-plains of the Oxus and Jaxartes, the Upland of Persia, and the other valley-plains of the Euphrates and Tigris, to which Hither-Asia attaches itself. Fourthly, the River-plain of the Nile.
With China and the Mongols – the realm of theocratic despotism – History begins. Both have the patriarchal constitution for their principle – so modified in China, as to admit the development of an organized system of secular polity; while among the Mongols it limits itself to the simple form of a spiritual, religious sovereignty. In China the Monarch is Chief as Patriarch. The laws of the state are partly civil ordinances, partly moral requirements; so that the internal law – the knowledge on the part of the individual of the nature of his volition, as his own inmost self – even this is the subject of external statutory enactment. The sphere of subjectivity does not then, attain to maturity here, since moral laws are treated as legislative enactments, and law on its part has an ethical aspect. All that we call subjectivity is concentrated in the supreme head of the State, who, in all his legislation has an eye to the health, wealth, and benefit of the whole. Contrasted with this secular Empire is the spiritual sovereignty of the Mongols, at the head of which stands the Lama, who is honored as God. In this Spiritual Empire no secular political life can be developed.
In the second phase – the Indian realm – we see the unity of political organization – a perfect civil machinery, such as exists in China – in the first instance, broken up. The several powers of society appear as dissevered and free in relation to each other. The different castes are indeed, fixed; but in view of the religious doctrine that established them, they wear the aspect of natural distinctions. Individuals are thereby still further stripped of proper personality – although it might appear as if they derived gain from the development of the distinctions in question. For though we find the organization of the State no longer, as in China, determined and arranged by the one all-absorbing personality (the head of the State) the distinctions that exist are attributed to Nature, and so become differences of Caste. The unity in which these divisions must finally meet, is a religious one; and thus arises Theocratic Aristocracy and its despotism. Here begins, therefore, the distinction between the spiritual consciousness and secular conditions; but as the separation implied in the above mentioned distinctions is the cardinal consideration, so also we find in the religion the principle of the isolation of the constituent elements of the Idea; – a principle which posits the harshest antithesis – the conception of the purely abstract unity of God, and of the purely sensual Powers of Nature. The connection of the two is only a constant change – a restless hurrying from one extreme to the other – a wild chaos of fruitless variation, which must appear as madness to a duly regulated, intelligent consciousness.
The third important form – presenting a contrast to the immovable unity of China and to the wild and turbulent unrest of India – is the Persian Realm. China is quite peculiarly Oriental ; India we might compare with Greece; Persia on the other hand with Rome. In Persia namely, the Theocratic power appears as a Monarchy. Now Monarchy is that kind of constitution which does indeed unite the members of the body politic in the head of the government as in a point; but regards that head neither as the absolute director nor the arbitrary ruler, but as a power whose will is regulated by the same principle of law as the obedience of the subject. We have thus a general principle, a Law, lying at the basis of the whole, but which, still regarded as a dictum of mere Nature (not as free and absolute Truth) is clogged by an antithesis (that of formal freedom on the part of man as commanded to obey positive alien requirements). The representation, therefore, which Spirit makes of itself is, at this grade of progress, of a purely natural kind – Light. This Universal principle is as much a regulative one for the monarch as for each of his subjects, and the Persian Spirit is accordingly clear, illuminated – the idea of a people living in pure morality, as in a sacred community. But this has on the one hand as a merely natural Ecclesia, the above antithesis still unreconciled; and its sanctity displays the characteristics of a compulsory, external one. On the other hand this antithesis is exhibited in Persia in its being the Empire of hostile peoples, and the union of the most widely differing nations. The Persian Unity is not that abstract one of the Chinese Empire; it is adapted to rule over many and various nationalities, which it unites under the mild power of Universality as a beneficial Sun shining over all – waking them into life and cherishing their growth. This Universal principle – occupying the position of a root only – allows the several members a free growth for unrestrained expansion and ramification. In the organization of these several peoples, the various principles and forms of life have full play and continue to exist together. We find in this multitude of nations, roving Nomades; then we see in Babylonia and Syria commerce and industrial pursuits in full vigor, the wildest sensuality, the most uncontrolled turbulence. The coasts mediate a connection with foreign lands. In the midst of this confusion the spiritual God of the Jews arrests our attention – like Brahm, existing only for Thought, yet jealous and excluding from his being and abolishing all distinct speciality of manifestations [avatars], such as are freely allowed in other religions. This Persian Empire, then – since it can tolerate these several principles, exhibits the Antithesis in a lively active form, and is not shut up within itself, abstract and calm, as are China and India – makes a real transition in the History of the World. If Persia forms the external transition to Greek life, the internal, mental transition is mediated by Egypt. Here the antitheses in their abstract form are broken through; a breaking through which effects their nullification. This undeveloped reconciliation exhibits the struggle of the most contradictory principles, which are not yet capable of harmonizing themselves, but, setting up the birth of this harmony as the problem to be solved, make themselves a riddle for themselves and for others, the solution of which is only to be found in the Greek World. If we compare these kingdoms in the light of their various fates, we find the empire of the two Chinese rivers the only durable kingdom in the World. Conquests cannot affect such an empire. The world of the Ganges and the Indus has also been preserved. A state of things so destitute of (distinct) thought is likewise imperishable, but it is in its very nature destined to be mixed with other races – to be conquered and subjugated. While these two realms have remained to the present day, of the empires of the Tigris and Euphrates on the contrary nothing remains, except, at most, a heap of bricks; for the Persian Kingdom, as that of Transition, is by nature perishable, and the Kingdoms of the Caspian Sea are given up to the ancient struggle of Iran and Turan. The Empire of the solitary Nile is only present beneath the ground, in its speechless Dead, ever and anon stolen away to all quarters of the globe, and in their majestic habitations; – for what remains above ground is nothing else but such splendid tombs.
With the Empire of China History has to begin, for it is the oldest, as far as history gives us any information ; and its principle has such substantiality, that for the empire in question it is at once the oldest and the newest. Early do we see China advancing to the condition in which it is found at this day ; for as the contrast between objective existence and subjective freedom of movement in it, is still wanting, every change is excluded, and the fixedness of a character which recurs perpetually, takes the place of what we should call the truly historical. China and India lie, as it were, still outside the World’s History, as the mere presupposition of elements whose combination must be waited for to constitute their vital progress. The unity of substantiality and subjective freedom so entirely excludes the distinction and contrast of the two elements, that by this very fact, substance cannot arrive at reflection on itself – at subjectivity. The Substantial [Positive] in its moral aspect, rules therefore, not as the moral disposition of the Subject, but as the despotism of the Sovereign.
No People has a so strictly continuous series of Writers of History as the Chinese. Other Asiatic peoples also have ancient traditions, but no History. The Vedas of the Indians are not such. The traditions of the Arabs are very old, but are not attached to a political constitution and its development. But such a constitution exists in China, and that in a distinct and prominent form. The Chinese traditions ascend to 3000 years before Christ; and the Shu-King, their canonical document, beginning with the government of Yao, places this 2357 years before Christ. It may here be incidentally remarked, that the other Asiatic kingdoms also reach a high antiquity. According to the calculation of an English writer, the Egyptian history (e.g.) reaches to 2207 years before Christ, the Assyrian to 2221, the Indian to 2204. Thus the traditions respecting the principal kingdoms of the East reach to about 2300 years before the birth of Christ. Comparing this with the history of the Old Testament, a space of 2400 years, according to the common acceptation, intervened between the Noachian Deluge and the Christian era. But Johannes von MŁller has adduced weighty objections to this number. He places the Deluge in the year 3473 before Christ – thus about 1000 years earlier – supporting his view by the Septuagint. I remark this only with the view of obviating a difficulty that may appear to arise when we meet with dates of a higher age than 2400 years before Christ, and yet find nothing about the Flood. – The Chinese have certain ancient canonical documents, from which their history, constitution, and religion can be gathered. The Vedas and the Mosaic records are similar books; as also the Homeric poems. Among the Chinese these books are called Kings, and constitute the foundation of all their studies. The Shu-King contains their history, treats of the government of the ancient kings, and gives the statutes enacted by this or that monarch. The Y-King consists of figures, which have been regarded as the bases of the Chinese written character, and this book is also considered the groundwork of the Chinese Meditation. For it begins with the abstractions of Unity and Duality, and then treats of the concrete existences pertaining to these abstract forms of thought. Lastly, the Shi-King is the book of the oldest poems in a great variety of styles. The high officers of the kingdom were anciently commissioned to bring with them to the annual festival all the poems composed in their province within the year. The Emperor in full court was the judge of these poems, and those recognized as good received public approbation. Besides these three books of archives which are specially honored and studied, there are besides two others, less important, viz. the Li-Ki (or Li-King) which records the customs and ceremonial observances pertaining to the Imperial dignity, and that of the State functionaries (with an appendix, Yo-King, treating of music); and the Tshun-tsin, the chronicle of the kingdom Lu, where Confucius appeared. These books are the groundwork of the history, the manners and the laws of China. This empire early attracted the attention of Europeans, although only vague stories about it had reached them. It was always marvelled at as a country which, self-originated, appeared to have no connection with the outer world. In the thirteenth century a Venetian (Marco Polo) explored it for the first time, but his reports were deemed fabulous. In later times, everything that he had said respecting its extent and greatness was entirely confirmed. By the lowest calculation, China has 150,000,000 of inhabitants; another makes the number 200,000,000, and the highest raises it even to 300,000,- 000. From the far north it stretches towards the south to India; on the east it is bounded by the vast Pacific, and on the west it extends towards Persia and the Caspian. China Proper is over- populated. On both rivers, the Hoang-ho and the Yang-tse-Kiang, dwell many millions of human beings, living on rafts adapted to all the requirements of their mode of life. The population and the thoroughly organized State-arrangements, descending even to the minutest details, have astonished Europeans ; and a matter of especial astonishment is the accuracy with which their historical works are executed. For in China the Historians are some of the highest functionaries. Two ministers constantly in attendance on the Emperor, are commissioned to keep a journal of everything the Emperor does, commands, and says, and their notes are then worked up and made use of by the Historians. We cannot go further into the minutiae of their annals, which, as they themselves exhibit no development, would only hinder us in ours. Their History ascends to very ancient times, in which Fohi is named as the Diffuser of culture, he having been the original civilizer of China. He is said to have lived in the twenty-ninth century before Christ – before the time, therefore, at which the Shu-King begins; but the mythical and prehistorical is treated by Chinese Historians as perfectly historical. The first region of Chinese history is the north- western corner – China Proper – towards that point where the Hoang-ho descends from the mountains; for only at a later period did the Chinese empire extend itself towards the south, to the Yang-tse-Kiang. The narrative begins with the period in which men lived in a wild state, i.e., in the woods, when they fed on the fruits of the earth, and clothed themselves with the skins of wild beasts. There was no recognition of definite laws among them. To Fohi (who must be duly distinguished from Fo, the founder of a new religion) is ascribed the instruction of men in building themselves huts and making dwellings. He is said to have directed their attention to the change and return of seasons, to barter and trade; to have established marriage; to have taught that Reason came from Heaven, and to have given instructions for rearing silkworms, building bridges, and making use of beasts of burden. The Chinese historians are very diffuse on the subject of these various origins. The progress of the history is the extension of the culture thus originated, to the south, and the beginning of a state and a government. The great Empire which had thus gradually been formed, was soon broken up into many provinces, which carried on long wars with each other, and were then reunited into a Whole. The dynasties in China have often been changed, and the one now dominant is generally marked as the twenty-second. In connection with the rise and fall of these dynasties arose the different capital cities that are found in this empire. For a long time Nankin was the capital; now it is Pekin; at an earlier period other cities. China has been compelled to wage many wars with the Tartars, who penetrated far into the country. The long wall built by Shi-hoang-ti – and which has always been regarded as a most astounding achievement – was raised as a barrier against the inroads of the northern Nomades. This prince divided the whole empire into thirty-six provinces, and made himself especially remarkable by his attacks on the old literature, especially on the historical books and historical studies generally. He did this with the design of strengthening his own dynasty, by destroying the remembrance of the earlier one. After the historical books had been collected and burned, many hundreds of the literati fled to the mountains, in order to save what remained. Every one that fell into the Emperor’s hands experienced the same fate as the books. This Book- burning is a very important circumstance, for in spite of it the strictly canonical books were saved, as is generally the case. The first connection of China with the West occurred about 64 A.D. At that epoch a Chinese emperor despatched ambassadors (it is said) to visit the wise sages of the West. Twenty years later a Chinese general is reported to have penetrated as far as Judea. At the beginning of the eighth century after Christ, the first Christians are reputed to have gone to China, of which visit later visitors assert that they found traces and monuments. A Tartar kingdom, Lyan-Tong, existing in the north of China, is said to have been reduced and taken possession of by the Chinese with the help of the Western Tartars, about 1100 A.D. This, nevertheless, gave these very Tartars an opportunity of securing a footing in China. Similarly they admitted the Manchus with whom they engaged in war in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which resulted in the present dynasty’s obtaining possession of the throne. Yet this new dynasty has not effected further change in the country, any more than did the earlier conquest of the Mongols in the year 1281. The Manchus that live in China have to conform to Chinese laws, and study Chinese sciences.
We pass now from these few dates in Chinese history to the contemplation of the Spirit of the constitution, which has always remained the same. We can deduce it from the general principle, which is, the immediate unity of the substantial Spirit and the Individual; but this is equivalent to the Spirit of the Family, which is here extended over the most populous of countries. The element of Subjectivity – that is to say, the reflection upon itself of the individual will in antithesis to the Substantial (as the power in which it is absorbed) or the recognition of this power as one with its own essential being, in which it knows itself free – is not found on this grade of development. The universal Will displays its activity immediately through that of the individual: the latter has no self-cognizance at all in antithesis to Substantial, positive being, which it does not yet regard as a power standing over against it – as, (e.g.) in Judaism, the “Jealous God” is known as the negation of the Individual. In China the Universal Will immediately commands what the Individual is to do, and the latter complies and obeys with proportionate renunciation of reflection and personal independence. If he does not obey, if he thus virtually separates himself from the Substance of his being, inasmuch as this separation is not mediated by a retreat within a personality of his own, the punishment he undergoes does not affect his subjective and internal, but simply his outward existence. The element of subjectivity is therefore as much wanting to this political totality as the latter is on its side altogether destitute of a foundation in the moral disposition of the subject. For the Substance is simply an individual – the Emperor – whose law constitutes all the disposition.
Nevertheless, this ignoring of inclination does not imply caprice, which would itself indicate inclination – that is, subjectivity and mobility. Here we have the One Being of the State supremely dominant – the Substance, which, still hard and inflexible, resembles nothing but itself – includes no other element. This relation, then, expressed more definitely and more conformably with its conception, is that of the Family. On this form of moral union alone rests the Chinese State, and it is objective Family Piety that characterizes it. The Chinese regard themselves as belonging to their family, and at the same time as children of the State. In the Family itself they are not personalities, for the consolidated unity in which they exist as members of it is consanguinity and natural obligation. In the ‘State they have as little independent personality; for there the patriarchal relation is predominant, and the government is based on the paternal management of the Emperor, who keeps all departments of the State in order. Five duties are stated in the Shu-King as involving grave and unchangeable fundamental relations, 1. The mutual one of the Emperor and people. 2. Of the Fathers and Children. 3. Of an elder and younger brother. 4. Of Husband and Wife. 5. Of Friend and Friend. It may be here incidentally remarked, that the number Five is regarded as fundamental among the Chinese, and presents itself as often as the number Three among us. They have five Elements of Nature – Air, Water, Earth, Metal, and Wood. They recognize four quarters of Heaven and a centre. Holy places, where altars are erected, consist of four elevations, and one in the centre. The duties of the Family are absolutely binding, and established and regulated by law. The son may not accost the father, when he comes into the room; he must seem to contract himself to nothing at the side of the door, and may not leave the room without his father’s permission. When the father dies, the son must mourn for three years – abstaining from meat and wine. The business in which he was engaged, even that of the State, must be suspended, for he is obliged to quit it. Even the Emperor, who has just commenced his government, does not devote himself to his duties during this time. No marriage may be contracted in the family within the period of mourning. Only the having reached his fiftieth year exempts the bereaved from the excessive strictness of the regulations, which are then relaxed that he may not be reduced in person by them. The sixtieth year relaxes them still further, and the seventieth limits mourning to the color of the dress.
A mother is honored equally with a father. When Lord Macartney saw the Emperor, the latter was sixty-eight years old, (sixty years is among the Chinese a fundamental round number, as one hundred is among us), notwithstanding which he visited his mother every morning on foot, to demonstrate his respect for her. The New Year’s congratulations are offered even to the mother of the Emperor; and the Emperor himself cannot receive the homage of the grandees of the court until he has paid his to his mother. The latter is the first and constant counsellor of her son, and all announcements concerning his family are made in her name. – The merits of a son are ascribed not to him, but to his father. When on one occasion the prime minister asked the Emperor to confer titles of honor on his father, the Emperor issued an edict in which it was said: “Famine was desolating the Empire: Thy father gave rice to the starving. What beneficence! The Empire was on the edge of ruin: Thy father defended it at the hazard of his life. What fidelity! The government of the kingdom was intrusted to thy father: he made excellent laws, maintained peace and concord with the neighboring princes, and asserted the rights of my crown. What wisdom! The title therefore which I award to him is: Beneficent, Faithful and Wise.” – The Son had done all that is here ascribed to the Father. In this way ancestors – a fashion the reverse of ours – obtain titles of honor through their posterity. But in return, every Father of a Family is responsible for the transgressions of his descendants; duties ascend, but none can be properly said to descend.
It is a great object with the Chinese, to have children who may give them the due honors of burial, pay respect to their memory after death, and decorate their grave. Although a Chinese may have many wives, one only is the mistress of the house, and the children of the subordinate wives have to honor her absolutely as a mother. If a Chinese husband has no children by any of his wives, he may proceed to adoption with a view to this posthumous honor. For it is an indispensable requirement that the grave of parents be annually visited. Here lamentations are annually renewed, and many, to give full vent to their grief, remain there sometimes one or two months. The body of a deceased father is often kept three or four months in the house, and during this time no one may sit down on a chair or sleep in a bed. Every family in China has a Hall of Ancestors where all the members annually assemble; there are placed representations of those who have filled exalted posts, while the names of those men and women who have been of less importance in the family are inscribed on tablets; the whole family then partake of a meal together, and the poor members are entertained by the more wealthy. It is said that a Mandarin who had become a Christian, having ceased to honor his ancestors in this way, exposed himself to great persecutions on the part of his relatives. The same minuteness of regulation which prevails in the relation between father and children, characterizes also that between the elder brother and the younger ones. The former has, though in a less degree than parents, claims to reverence.
This family basis is also the basis of the Constitution, if we can speak of such. For although the Emperor has the right of a Monarch, standing at the summit of a political edifice, he exercises it paternally. He is the Patriarch, and everything in the State that can make any claim to reverence is attached to him. For the Emperor is chief both in religious affairs and in science – a subject which will be treated of in detail further on. – This paternal care on the part of the Emperor, and the spirit of his subjects – who like children do not advance beyond the ethical principle of the family circle, and can gain for themselves no independent and civil freedom – makes the whole an empire, administration, and social code, which is at the same time moral and thoroughly prosaic – that is, a product of the Understanding without free Reason and Imagination.
The Emperor claims the deepest reverence. In virtue of his position he is obliged personally to manage the government, and must himself be acquainted with and direct the legislative business of the Empire, although the Tribunals give their assistance. Notwithstanding this, there is little room for the exercise of his individual will; for the whole government is conducted on the basis of certain ancient maxims of the Empire, while his constant oversight is not the less necessary. The imperial princes are therefore educated on the strictest plan. Their physical frames are hardened by discipline, and the sciences are their occupation from their earliest years. Their education is conducted under the Emperor’s superintendence, and they are early taught that the Emperor is the head of the State and therefore must appear as the first and best in everything. An examination of the princes takes place every year, and a circumstantial report of the affair is published through the whole Empire, which feels the deepest interest in these matters. China has therefore succeeded in getting the greatest and best governors, to whom the expression “Solomonian Wisdom” might be applied; and the present Manchu dynasty has especially distinguished itself by abilities of mind and body. All the ideals of princes and of princely education which have been so numerous and varied since the appearance of Fenelon’s “Telemaque” are realized here. In Europe there can be no Solomons.
But here are the place and the necessity for such government ; since the rectitude, the prosperity, the security of all, depend on the one impulse given to the first link in the entire chain of this hierarchy. The deportment of the Emperor is represented to us as in the highest degree simple, natural, noble and intelligent. Free from a proud taciturnity or repelling hauteur in speech or manners, he lives in the consciousness of his own dignity and in the exercise of imperial duties to whose observance he has been disciplined from his earliest youth. Besides the imperial dignity there is properly no elevated rank, no nobility among the Chinese; only the princes of the imperial house, and the sons of the ministers enjoy any precedence of the kind, and they rather by their position than by their birth. Otherwise all are equal, and only those have a share in the administration of affairs who have ability for it. Official stations are therefore occupied by men of the greatest intellect and education. The Chinese State has consequently been often set up as an Ideal which may serve even us for a model.
The next thing to be considered is the administration of the Empire. We cannot speak, in reference to China, of a Constitution; for this would imply that individuals and corporations have independent rights – partly in respect of their particular interests, partly in respect of the entire State. This element must be wanting here, and we can only speak of an administration of the Empire. In China, we have the reality of absolute equality, and all the differences that exist are possible only in connection with that administration, and in virtue of the worth which a person may acquire, enabling him to fill a high post in the Government. Since equality prevails in China, but without any freedom, despotism is necessarily the mode of government. Among us, men are equal only before the law, and in the respect paid to the property of each; but they have also many interests and peculiar privileges, which must be guaranteed, if we are to have what we call freedom. But in the Chinese Empire these special interests enjoy no consideration on their own account, and the government proceeds from the Emperor alone, who sets it in movement as a hierarchy of officials or Mandarins. Of these, there are two kinds – learned and military Mandarins – the latter corresponding to our Officers. The Learned Mandarins constitute the higher rank, for, in China, civilians take precedence of the military. Government officials are educated at the schools; elementary schools are instituted for obtaining elementary knowledge. Institutions for higher cultivation, such as our Universities, may, perhaps, be said not to exist. Those who wish to attain high official posts must undergo several examinations – usually three in number. To the third and last examination – at which the Emperor himself is present – only those can be admitted who have passed the first and second with credit; and the reward for having succeeded in this, is the immediate introduction into the highest Council of the Empire. The sciences, an acquaintance with which is especially required, are the History of the Empire, Jurisprudence, and the science of customs and usages, and of the organization and administration of government. Besides this, the Mandarins are said to have a talent for poetry of the most refined order. We have the means of judging of this, particularly from the Romance, Ju-kiao-li, or, “The Two Cousins,” translated by Abel Remusat: in this, a youth is introduced who having finished his studies, is endeavoring to attain high dignities. The officers of the army, also, must have some mental acquirements; they too are examined; but civil functionaries enjoy, at stated above, far greater respect. At the great festivals the Emperor appears with a retinue of two thousand Doctors, i.e. Mandarins in Civil Offices, and the same number of military Mandarins. (In the whole Chinese State, there are about 15,000 civil, and 20,000 military Mandarins.) The Mandarins who have not yet obtained an office, nevertheless belong to the Court, and are obliged to appear at the great festivals in the Spring and Autumn, when the Emperor himself guides the plough. These functionaries are divided into eight classes. The first are those that attend the Emperor, then follow the viceroys, and so on. The Emperor governs by means of administrative bodies, for the most part composed of Mandarins. The Council of the Empire is the highest body of the kind: it consists of the most learned and talented men. From these are chosen the presidents of the other colleges. The greatest publicity prevails in the business of government. The subordinate officials report to the Council of the Empire, and the latter lay the matter before the Emperor, whose decision is made known in the Court Journal. The Emperor often accuses himself of faults; and should his princes have been unsuccessful in their examination, he blames them severely. In every Ministry, and in various parts of the Empire, there is a Censor (Ko-tao), who has to give the Emperor an account of everything. These Censors enjoy a permanent office, and are very much feared. They exercise a strict surveillance over everything that concerns the government, and the public and private conduct of the Mandarins, and make their report immediately to the Emperor. They have also the right of remonstrating with and blaming him. The Chinese History gives many examples of the noble-mindedness and courage of these Ko-taos. For example: A Censor had remonstrated with a tyrannical sovereign, but had been severely repulsed. Nevertheless, he was not turned away from his purpose, but betook himself once more to the Emperor to renew his remonstrances. Foreseeing his death, he had the coffin brought in with him, in which he was to be buried. It is related of the Censors, that – cruelly lacerated by the torturers and unable to utter a sound – they have even written their animadversions with their own blood in the sand. These Censors themselves form yet another Tribunal which has the oversight of the whole Empire. The Mandarins are responsible also for performing duties arising from unforeseen exigencies in the State. If famine, disease, conspiracy, religious disturbances occur, they have to report the facts; not, however, to wait for further orders from government, but immediately to act as the case requires. The whole of the administration is thus covered by a network of officials. Functionaries are appointed to superintend the roads, the rivers, and the coasts. Everything is arranged with the greatest minuteness. In particular, great attention is paid to the rivers; in the Shu-King are to be found many edicts of the Emperor, designed to secure the land from inundations. The gates of every town are guarded by a watch, and the streets are barred all night. Government officers are always answerable to the higher Council. Every Mandarin is also bound to make known the faults he has committed, every five years; and the trustworthiness of his statement is attested by a Board of Control – the Censorship. In the case of any grave crime not confessed, the Mandarins and their families are punished most severely. From all this it is clear that the Emperor is the centre, around which everything turns; consequently the well-being of the country and people depends on him. The whole hierarchy of the administration works more or less according to a settled routine, which in a peaceful condition of things becomes a convenient habit. Uniform and regular, like the course of nature, it goes its own way, at one time as at another time; but the Emperor is required to be the moving, ever wakeful, spontaneously active Soul. If then the personal character of the Emperor is not of the order described – namely, thoroughly moral, laborious, and while maintaining dignity, full of energy – everything is relaxed, and the government is paralyzed from head to foot, and given over to carelessness and caprice. For there is no other legal power or institution extant, but this superintendence and oversight of the Emperor. It is not their own conscience, their own honor, which keeps the offices of government up to their duty, but an external mandate and the severe sanctions by which it is supported. In the instance of the revolution that occurred in the middle of the seventeenth century, the last Emperor of the dynasty was very amiable and honorable; but through the mildness of his character, the reins of government were relaxed, and disturbances naturally ensued. The rebels called the Manchus into the country. The Emperor killed himself to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies, and with his blood wrote on the border of his daughter’s robe a few words, in which he complained bitterly of the injustice of his subjects. A Mandarin, who was with him, buried him, and then killed himself on his grave. The Empress and her attendants followed the example. The last prince of the imperial house, who was besieged in a distant province, fell into the hands of the enemy and was put to death. All the other attendant Mandarins died a voluntary death. Passing from the administration to the Jurisprudence of China, we find the subjects regarded as in a state of nonage, in virtue of the principle of patriarchal government. No independent classes or orders, as in India, have interests of their own to defend. All is directed and superintended from above. All legal relations are definitely settled by rules; free sentiment – the moral standpoint generally – is thereby thoroughly obliterated. It is formally determined by the laws in what way the members of the family should be disposed towards each other, and the transgression of these laws entails in some cases severe punishment. The second point to be noticed here, is the legal externality of the Family relations, which becomes almost slavery. Every one has the power of selling himself and his children; every Chinese buys his wife. Only the chief wife is a free woman. The concubines are slaves, and – like the children and every other chattel – may be seized upon in case of confiscation.
A third point is, that punishments are generally corporal chastisements. Among us, this would be an insult to honor; not so in China, where the feeling of honor has not yet developed itself. A dose of cudgelling is the most easily forgotten; yet it is the severest punishment for a man of honor, who desires not to be esteemed physically assailable, but who is vulnerable in directions implying a more refined sensibility. But the Chinese do not recognize a subjectivity in honor; they are the subjects rather of corrective than retributive punishment – as are children among us; for corrective punishment aims at improvement, that which is retributive implies veritable imputation of guilt. In the corrective, the deterring principle is only the fear of punishment, not any consciousness of wrong; for here we cannot presume upon any reflection upon the nature of the action itself. Among the Chinese all crimes – those committed against the laws of the Family relation, as well as against the State – :are punished externally. Sons who fail in paying due honor to their Father or Mother, younger brothers who are not sufficiently respectful to elder ones, are bastinadoed. If a son complains of injustice done to him by his father, or a younger brother by an elder, he receives a hundred blows with a bamboo, and is banished for three years, if he is in the right; if not, he is strangled. If a son should raise his hand against his father, he is condemned to have his flesh torn from his body with red-hot pincers. The relation between husband and wife is, like all other family relations, very highly esteemed, and unfaithfulness – which, however, on account of the seclusion in which the women are kept, can very seldom present itself – meets with severe animadversion. Similar penalties await the exhibition on the part of a Chinese of greater affection to one of his inferior wives than to the matron who heads his establishment, should the latter complain of such disparagement. In China, every Mandarin is authorized to inflict blows with the bamboo; even the highest and most illustrious – Ministers, Viceroys, and even the favorites of the Emperor himself – are punished in this fashion. The friendship of the Emperor is not withdrawn on account of such chastisement, and they themselves appear not sensibly touched by it. When, on one occasion, the last English embassy to China was conducted home from the palace by the princes and their retinue, the Master of the Ceremonies, in order to make room, without any ceremony cleared the way among the princes and nobles with a whip. As regards responsibility, the distinction between malice prepense and blameless or accidental commission of an act is not regarded; for accident among the Chinese is as much charged with blame, as intention. Death is the penalty of accidental homicide. This ignoring of the distinction between accident and intention occasions most of the disputes between the English and the Chinese; for should the former be attacked by the latter – should a ship of war, believing itself attacked, defend itself, and a Chinese be killed as the consequence – the Chinese are accustomed to require that the Englishman who fired the fatal shot should lose his life. Everyone who is in any way connected with the transgressor, shares – especially in the case of crimes against the Emperor – the ruin of the actual offender: all his near kinsmen are tortured to death. The printers of an objectionable book and those who read it, are similarly exposed to the vengeance of the law. The direction which this state of things gives to private revenge is singular. It may be said of the Chinese that they are extremely sensitive to injuries and of a vindictive nature. To satisfy his revenge the offended person does not venture to kill his opponent, because the whole family of the assassin would be put to death; he therefore inflicts an injury on himself, to ruin his adversary. In many towns it has been deemed necessary to contract the openings of wells, to put a stop to suicides by drowning. For when anyone has committed suicide, the laws ordain that the strictest investigation shall be made into the cause. All the enemies of the suicide are arrested and put to the torture, and if the person who has committed the insult which led to the act, can be discovered, he and his whole family are executed. In case of insult therefore, a Chinese prefers killing himself rather than his opponent; since in either case he must die, but in the former contingency will have the due honors of burial, and may cherish the hope that his family will acquire the property of his adversary. Such is the fearful state of things in regard to responsibility and non-responsibility; all subjective freedom and moral concernment with an action are ignored. In the Mosaic Laws, where the distinction between dolus, culpa, and casus, is also not yet clearly recognized, there is nevertheless an asylum opened for the innocent homicide, to which he may betake himself. – There is in China no distinction in the penal code between higher and lower classes. A field-marshal of the Empire, who had very much distinguished himself, was traduced on some account, to the Emperor; and the punishment for the alleged crime, was that he should be a spy upon those who did not fulfil their duty in clearing away the snow from the streets. – Among the legal relations of the Chinese we have also to notice changes in the rights of possession and the introduction of slavery, which is connected there with it. The soil of China, in which the chief possessions of the Chinese consist, was regarded only at a late epoch as essentially the property of the State. At that time the Ninth of all moneys from estates was allotted by law to the Emperor. At a still later epoch serfdom was established, and its enactment has been ascribed to the Emperor Shi-hoang- ti, who in the year 213 B.C., built the Great Wall; who had all the writings that recorded the ancient rights of the Chinese, burned; and who brought many independent principalities of China under his dominion. His wars caused the conquered lands to become private property, and the dwellers on these lands, serfs. In China, however, the distinction between Slavery and freedom is necessarily, not great, since all are equal before the Emperor – that is, all are alike degraded. As no honor exists, and no one has an individual right in respect of others, the consciousness of debasement predominates, and this easily passes into that of utter abandonment. With this abandonment is connected the great immorality of the Chinese. They are notorious for deceiving wherever they can. Friend deceives friend, and no one resents the attempt at deception on the part of another, if the deceit has not succeeded in its object, or comes to the knowledge of the person sought to be defrauded. Their frauds are most astutely and craftily performed, so that Europeans have to be painfully cautious in dealing with them. Their consciousness of moral abandonment shows itself also in the fact that the religion of Fo is so widely diffused; a religion which regards as the Highest and Absolute – as God – pure Nothing; which sets up contempt for individuality, for personal existence, as the highest perfection.
We come, then, to the consideration of the religious side of the Chinese Polity. In the patriarchal condition the religious exaltation of man has merely a human reference – simple morality and right-doing. The Absolute itself, is regarded partly as the abstract, simple rule of this right-doing – eternal rectitude ; partly as the power which is its sanction. Except in these simple aspects, all the relations of the natural world, the postulates of subjectivity – of heart and soul – are entirely ignored. The Chinese in their patriarchal despotism need no such connection or mediation with the Highest Being; for education, the laws of morality and courtesy, and the commands and government of the Emperor embody all such connection and mediation as far as they feel the need of it. The Emperor, as he is the Supreme Head of the State, is also the Chief of its religion. Consequently, religion is in China essentially State-Religion. The distinction between it and Lamaism must be observed, since the latter is not developed to a State, but contains religion as a free, spiritual, disinterested consciousness. That Chinese religion, therefore, cannot be what we call religion. For to us religion means the retirement of the Spirit within itself, in contemplating its essential nature, its inmost Being. In these spheres, then, man is withdrawn from his relation to the State, and betaking himself to this retirement, is able to release himself from the power of secular government. But in China religion has not risen to this grade, for true faith is possible only where individuals can seclude themselves – can exist for themselves independently of any external compulsory power. In China the individual has no such life; – does not enjoy this independence: in any direction he is therefore dependent; in religion as well as in other things; that is, dependent on objects of nature, of which the most exalted is the material heaven. On this depend harvest, the seasons of the year, the abundance and sterility of crops. The Emperor, as crown of all – the embodiment of power – alone approaches heaven; individuals, as such, enjoy no such privilege. He it is, who presents the offerings at the four feasts; gives thanks at the head of his court, for the harvest, and invokes blessings on the sowing of the seed. This “heaven” might be taken in the sense of our term “God,” as the Lord of Nature (we say, for example, “Heaven protect us!”); but such a relation is beyond the scope of Chinese thought, for here the one isolated self-consciousness is substantial being, the Emperor himself, the Supreme Power. Heaven has therefore no higher meaning than Nature. The Jesuits indeed, yielded to Chinese notions so far as to call the Christian God, “Heaven” – “Tien”; but they were on that account accused to the Pope by other Christian Orders. The Pope consequently sent a Cardinal to China, who died there. A bishop who was subsequently despatched, enacted that instead of “Heaven,” the term “Lord of Heaven” should be adopted. The relation to Tien is supposed to be such, that the good conduct of individuals and of the Emperor brings blessing; their transgressions on the other hand cause want and evil of all kinds. The Chinese religion involves that primitive element of magical influence over nature, inasmuch as human conduct absolutely determines the course of events. If the Emperor behaves well, prosperity cannot but ensue; Heaven must ordain prosperity. A second side of this religion is, that as the general aspect of the relation to Heaven is bound up with the person of the Emperor, he has also its more special bearings in his hands; viz., the particular well-being of individuals and provinces. These have each an appropriate Genius (Chen), which is subject to the Emperor, who pays adoration only to the general Power of Heaven, while the several Spirits of the natural world follow his laws. He is thus made the proper legislator for Heaven as well as for earth. To these Genii, each of which enjoys a worship peculiar to itself, certain sculptured forms are assigned. These are disgusting idols, which have not yet attained the dignity of art, because nothing spiritual is represented in them. They are therefore only terrific, frightful and negative; they keep watch – as among the Greeks do the River-Gods, the Nymphs, and Dryads – over single elements and natural objects. Each of the five Elements has its genius, distinguished by a particular color. The sovereignty of the dynasty that occupies the throne of China also depends on a Genius, and this one has a yellow color. Not less does every province and town, every mountain and river possess an appropriate Genius. All these Spirits are subordinate to the Emperor, and in the Annual Directory of the Empire are registered the functionaries and genii to whom such or such a brook, river, etc., has been intrusted. If a mischance occurs in any part, the Genius is deposed as a Mandarin would be. The Genii have innumerable temples (in Pekin nearly 10,000) to which a multitude of priests and convents are attached. These “Bonzes” live unmarried, and in all cases of distress are applied to by the Chinese for counsel. In other respects, however, neither they nor the temples are much venerated. Lord Macartney’s Embassy was even quartered in a temple – such buildings beings used as inns. The Emperor has sometimes thought fit to secularize many thousands of these convents; to compel the Bonzes to return to civil life; and to impose taxes on the estates appertaining to the foundations. The Bonzes are soothsayers and exorcists: for the Chinese are given up to boundless superstitions. This arises from the want of subjective independence, and presupposes the very opposite of freedom of Spirit. In every undertaking – e.g., if the site of a house, or of a grave, etc., is to be determined – the advice of the Soothsayers as asked. In the Y-King certain lines are given, which supply fundamental forms and categories – on account of which this book is called the “Book of Fates.” A certain meaning is ascribed to the combination of such lines, and prophetic announcements are deduced from this groundwork. Or a number of little sticks are thrown into the air, and the fate in question is prognosticated from the way in which they fall. What we regard as chance, as natural connection, the Chinese seek to deduce or attain by magical arts; and in this particular also, their want of spiritual religion is manifested.
With this deficiency of genuine subjectivity is connected moreover, the form which Chinese Science assumes. In mentioning Chinese sciences we encounter a considerable clamor about their perfection and antiquity. Approaching the subject more closely, we see that the sciences enjoy very great respect, and that they are even publicly extolled and promoted by the Government. The Emperor himself stands at the apex of literature. A college exists whose special business it is to edit the decrees of the Emperor, with a view to their being composed in the best style; and this redaction assumes the character of an important affair of State. The Mandarins in their notifications have to study the same perfection of style, for the form is expected to correspond with the excellence of the matter. One of the highest Governmental Boards is the Academy of Sciences. The Emperor himself examines its members; they live in the palace, and perform the functions of Secretaries, Historians of the Empire, Natural Philosophers, and Geographers. Should a new law be proposed, the Academy must report upon it. By way of introduction to such report it must give the history of existing enactments; or if the law in question affects foreign countries, a description of them is required. The Emperor himself writes the prefaces to the works thus composed. Among recent Emperors Kien-long especially distinguished himself by his scientific acquirements. He himself wrote much, but became far more remarkable by publishing the principal works that China has produced. At the head of the commission appointed to correct the press, was a Prince of the Empire; and after the work had passed through the hands of all, it came once more back to the Emperor, who severely punished every error that had been committed. Though in one aspect the sciences appear thus pre-eminently honored and fostered, there are wanting to them on the other side that free ground of subjectivity, and that properly scientific interest, which make them a truly theoretical occupation of the mind. A free, ideal, spiritual kingdom has here no place. What may be called scientific is of a merely empirical nature, and is made absolutely subservient to the Useful on behalf of the State – its requirements and those of individuals. The nature of their Written Language is at the outset a great hindrance to the development of the sciences. Rather, conversely, because a true scientific interest does not exist, the Chinese have acquired no better instrument for representing and imparting thought. They have, as is well known, beside a Spoken Language, a Written Language; which does not express, as our does, individual sounds – does not present the spoken words to the eye, but represents the ideas themselves by signs. This appears at first sight a great advantage, and has gained the suffrages of many great men – among others, of Leibnitz. In reality, it is anything but such. For if we consider in the first place, the effect of such a mode of writing on the Spoken Language, we shall find this among the Chinese very imperfect, on account of that separation. For our Spoken Language is matured to distinctness chiefly through the necessity of finding signs for each single sound, which latter, by reading, we learn to express distinctly. The Chinese, to whom such a means of orthoepic development is wanting, do not mature the modifications of sounds in their language to distinct articulations capable of being represented by letters and syllables. Their Spoken Language consists of an inconsiderable number of monosyllabic words, which are used with more than one signification. The sole methods of denoting distinctions of meaning are the connection, the accent, and the pronunciation – quicker or slower, softer or louder. The ears of the Chinese have become very sensible to such distinctions. Thus I find that the word Po has eleven different meanings according to the tone: denoting “glass” – “to boil” – “to winnow wheat” – “to cleave asunder” – “to water” – “to prepare” – “an old woman” – “a slave” – “a liberal man” – “a wise person” – “a little.” – As to their Written Language, I will specify only the obstacles which it presents to the advance of the sciences. Our Written Language is very simple for a learner, as we analyze our Spoken Language into about twenty-five articulations, by which analysis, speech is rendered definite, the multitude of possible sounds is limited, and obscure intermediate sounds are banished: we have to learn only these signs and their combinations. Instead of twenty-five signs of this sort, the Chinese have many thousands to learn. The number necessary for use is reckoned at 9,353, or even 10,516, if we add those recently introduced; and the number of characters generally, for ideas and their combinations as they are presented in books, amounts to from 80,000 to 90,000. As to the sciences themselves, History among the Chinese comprehends the bare and definite facts, without any opinion or reasoning upon them. In the same way their Jurisprudence gives only fixed laws, and their Ethics only determinate duties, without raising the question of a subjective foundation for them. The Chinese have, however, in addition to other sciences, a Philosophy, whose elementary principles are of great antiquity, since the Y-King – the Book of Fates – treats of Origination and Destruction. In this book are found the purely abstract ideas of Unity and Duality; the Philosophy of the Chinese appears therefore to proceed from the same fundamental ideas as that of Pythagoras. The fundamental principle recognized is Reason – Tao; that essence lying at the basis of the whole, which effects everything. To become acquainted with its forms is regarded among the Chinese also as the highest science; yet this has no connection with the educational pursuits which more nearly concern the State. The works of Lao-tse, and especially his work “Tao-te-King,” are celebrated. Confucius visited this philosopher in the sixth century before Christ, to testify his reverence for him. Although every Chinaman is at liberty to study these philosophical works, a particular sect, calling itself Tao-tse, “Honorers of Reason,” makes this study its special business. Those who compose it are isolated from civil life; and there is much that is enthusiastic and mystic intermingled with their views. They believe, for instance, that he who is acquainted with Reason, possesses an instrument of universal power, which may be regarded as all-powerful, and which communicates a supernatural might; so that the possessor is enabled by it to exalt himself to Heaven, and is not subject to death (much the same as the universal Elixir of Life once talked of among us). With the works of Confucius we have become more intimately acquainted. To him, China owes the publication of the Kings, and many original works on Morality besides, which form the basis of the customs and conduct of the Chinese. In the principal work of Confucius, which has been translated into English, are found correct moral apophthegms; but there is a circumlocution, a reflex character, and circuitousness in the thought, which prevents it from rising above mediocrity. As to the other sciences, they are not regarded as such, but rather as branches of knowledge for the behoof of practical ends. The Chinese are far behind in Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy, notwithstanding their quondam reputation in regard to them. They knew many things at a time when Europeans had not discovered them, but they have not understood how to apply their knowledge: as e.g. the Magnet, and the Art of Printing. But they have made no advance in the application of these discoveries. In the latter, for instance, they continue to engrave the letters in wooden blocks and then print them off: they know nothing of movable types. Gunpowder, too, they pretended to have invented before the Europeans; but the Jesuits were obliged to found their first cannon. As to Mathematics, they understand well enough how to reckon, but the higher aspect of the science is unknown. The Chinese also have long passed as great astronomers. Laplace has investigated their acquisitions in this department, and discovered that they possess some ancient accounts and notices of Lunar and Solar Eclipses; but these certainly do not constitute a science. The notices in question are, moreover, so indefinite, that they cannot properly be put in the category of knowledge. In the Shu-King, e.g., we have two eclipses of the sun mentioned in the space of 1,500 years. The best evidence of the state of Astronomy among the Chinese, is the fact that for many hundred years the Chinese calendars have been made by Europeans. In earlier times, when Chinese astronomers continued to compose the calendar, false announcements of lunar and solar eclipses often occurred, entailing the execution of the authors. The telescopes which the Chinese have received as presents from the Europeans, are set up for ornament; but they have not an idea how to make further use of them. Medicine, too, is studied by the Chinese, but only empirically; and the grossest superstition is connected with its practice. The Chinese have as a general characteristic, a remarkable skill in imitation, which is exercised not merely in daily life, but also in art. They have not yet succeeded in representing the beautiful, as beautiful; for in their painting, perspective and shadow are wanting. And although a Chinese painter copies European pictures (as the Chinese do everything else) correctly; although he observes accurately how many scales a carp has; how many indentations there are in the leaves of a tree; what is the form of various trees, and how the branches bend; – the Exalted, the Ideal and Beautiful is not the domain of his art and skill. The Chinese are, on the other hand, too proud to learn anything from Europeans, although they must often recognize their superiority. A merchant in Canton had a European ship built, but at the command of the Governor it was immediately destroyed. The Europeans are treated as beggars, because they are compelled to leave their home, and seek for support elsewhere than in their own country. Besides, the Europeans, just because of their intelligence, have not yet been able to imitate the superficial and perfectly natural cleverness of the Chinese. Their preparation of varnishes – their working of metals, and especially their art of casting them extremely thin – their porcelain manufacture and many other things, have not yet been completely mastered by Europeans.
This is the character of the Chinese people in its various aspects. Its distinguishing feature is, that everything which belongs to Spirit – unconstrained morality, in practice and theory, Heart, inward Religion, Science and Art properly socalled – is alien to it. The Emperor always speaks with majesty and paternal kindness and tenderness to the people; who, however, cherish the meanest opinion of themselves, and believe that they are born only to drag the car of Imperial Power. The burden which presses them to the ground, seems to them to be their inevitable destiny; and it appears nothing terrible to them to sell themselves as slaves, and to eat the bitter bread of slavery. Suicide, the result of revenge, and the exposure of children, as a common, even daily occurrence, show the little respect in which they hold themselves individually, and humanity in general. And though there is no distinction conferred by birth, and everyone can attain the highest dignity, this very equality testifies to no triumphant assertion of the worth of the inner man, but a servile consciousness – one which has not yet matured itself so far as to recognize distinctions.
India, like China, is a phenomenon antique as well as modern; one which has remained stationary and fixed, and has received a most perfect home-sprung development. It has always been the land of imaginative aspiration, and appears to us still as a Fairy region, an enchanted World. In contrast with the Chinese State, which presents only the most prosaic Understanding, India is the region of phantasy and sensibility. The point of advance in principle which it exhibits to us may be generally stated as follows: – In China the patriarchal principle rules a people in a condition of nonage, the part of whose moral resolution is occupied by the regulating law, and the moral oversight of the Emperor. Now it is the interest of Spirit that external conditions should become internal ones; that the natural and the spiritual world should be recognized in the subjective aspect belonging to intelligence; by which process the unity of subjectivity and [positive] Being generally – or the Idealism of Existence – is established. This Idealism, then, is found in India, but only as an Idealism of imagination, without distinct conceptions; – one which does indeed free existence from Beginning and Matter [liberates it from temporal limitations and gross materiality], but changes everything into the merely Imaginative; for although the latter appears interwoven with definite conceptions and Thought presents itself as an occasional concomitant, this happens only through accidental combination. Since, however, it is the abstract and absolute Thought itself that enters into these dreams as their material, we may say that Absolute Being is presented here as in the ecstatic state of a dreaming condition. For we have not the dreaming of an actual Individual, possessing distinct personality, and simply unfettering the latter from limitation, but we have the dreaming of the unlimited absolute Spirit.
There is a beauty of a peculiar kind in women, in which their countenance presents a transparency of skin, a light and lovely roseate hue, which is unlike the complexion of mere health and vital vigor – a more refined bloom, breathed, as it were, by the soul within – and in which the features, the light of the eye, the position of the mouth, appear soft, yielding, and relaxed. This almost unearthly beauty is perceived in women in those days which immediately succeed child-birth; when freedom from the burden of pregnancy and the pains of travail is added to the joy of soul that welcomes the gift of a beloved infant. A similar tone of beauty is seen also in women during the magical somnambulic sleep, connecting them with a world of superterrestrial beauty. A great artist (Schoreel) has moreover given this tone to the dying Mary, whose spirit is already rising to the regions of the blessed, but once more, as it were, lights up her dying countenance for a farewell kiss. Such a beauty we find also in its loveliest form in the Indian World; a beauty of enervation in which all that is rough, rigid, and contradictory is dissolved, and we have only the soul in a state of emotion – a soul, however, in which the death of free self-reliant Spirit is perceptible. For should we approach the charm of this Flower-life – a charm rich in imagination and genius – in which its whole environment and all its relations are permeated by the rose-breath of the Soul, and the World is transformed into a Garden of Love – should we look at it more closely, and examine it in the light of Human Dignity and Freedom – the more attractive the first sight of it had been, so much the more unworthy shall we ultimately find it in every respect.
The character of Spirit in a state of Dream, as the generic principle of the Hindoo Nature, must be further defined. In a dream, the individual ceases to be conscious of self or such, in contradistinction from objective existences. When awake, I exist for myself, and the rest of creation is an external, fixed objectivity, as I myself am for it. As external, the rest of existence expands itself to a rationally connected whole; a system of relations, in which my individual being is itself a member – an individual being united with that totality. This is the sphere of Understanding. In the state of dreaming, on the contrary, this separation is suspended. Spirit has ceased to exist for itself in contrast with alien existence, and thus the separation of the external and individual dissolves before its universality – its essence. The dreaming Indian is therefore all that we call finite and individual; and, at the same time – as infinitely universal and unlimited – a something intrinsically divine. The Indian view of things is a Universal Pantheism, a Pantheism, however, of Imagination, not of Thought. One substance pervades the Whole of things, and all individualizations are directly vitalized and animated into particular Powers. The sensuous matter and content are in each case simply and in the rough taken up, and carried over into the sphere of the Universal and Immeasurable. It is not liberated by the free power of Spirit into a beautiful form, and idealized in the Spirit, so that the sensuous might be a merely subservient and compliant expression of the spiritual; but [the sensuous object itself] is expanded into the immeasurable and undefined, and the Divine is thereby made bizarre, confused, and ridiculous. These dreams are not mere fables – a play of the imagination, in which the soul only revelled in fantastic gambols: it is lost in them; hurried to and fro by these reveries, as by something that exists really and seriously for it. It is delivered over to these limited objects as to its Lords and Gods. Everything, therefore – Sun, Moon, Stars, the Ganges, the Indus, Beasts, Flowers – everything is a God to it. And while, in this deification, the finite loses its consistency and substantiality, intelligent conception of it is impossible. Conversely the Divine, regarded as essentially changeable and unfixed, is also by the base form which it assumes, defiled and made absurd. In this universal deification of all finite existence, and consequent degradation of the Divine, the idea of Theanthropy, the incarnation of God, is not a particularly important conception. The parrot, the cow, the ape, etc., are likewise incarnations of God, yet are not therefore elevated above their nature. The Divine is not individualized to a subject, to concrete Spirit, but degraded to vulgarity and senselessness. This gives us a general idea of the Indian view of the Universe. Things are as much stripped of rationality, of finite consistent stability of cause and effect, as man is of the steadfastness of free individuality, of personality, and freedom. Externally, India sustains manifold relations to the History of the World. In recent times the discovery has been made, that the Sanscrit lies at the foundation of all those further developments which form the languages of Europe; e.g., the Greek, Latin, German. India, moreover, was the centre of emigration for all the western world; but this external historical relation is to be regarded rather as a merely physical diffusion of peoples from this point. Although in India the elements of further developments might be discovered, and although we could find traces of their being transmitted to the West, this transmission has been nevertheless so abstract [so superficial], that that which among later peoples attracts our interest, is not anything derived from India, but rather something concrete, which they themselves have formed, and in regard to which they have done their best to forget Indian elements of culture. The spread of Indian culture is prehistorical, for History is limited to that which makes an essential epoch in the development of Spirit. On the whole, the diffusion of Indian culture is only a dumb, deedless expansion; that is, it presents no political action. The people of India have achieved no foreign conquests, but have been on every occasion vanquished themselves. And as in this silent way, Northern India has been a centre of emigration, productive of merely physical diffusion, India as a Land of Desire forms an essential element in General History. From the most ancient times downwards, all nations have directed their wishes and longings to gaining access to the treasures of this land of marvels, the most costly which the Earth presents; treasures of Nature – pearls, diamonds, perfumes, rose-essences, elephants, lions, etc. – as also treasures of wisdom. The way by which these treasures have passed to the West, has at all times been a matter of World- historical importance, bound up with the fate of nations. Those wishes have been realized; this Land of Desire has been attained ; there is scarcely any great nation of the East, nor of the Modern European West, that has not gained for itself a smaller or larger portion of it. In the old world, Alexander the Great was the first to penetrate by land to India, but even he only just touched it. The Europeans of the modern world have been able to enter into direct connection with this land of marvels only circuitously from the other side; and by way of the sea, which, as has been said, is the general uniter of countries. The English, or rather the East India Company, are the lords of the land; for it is the necessary fate of Asiatic Empires to be subjected to Europeans; and China will, some day or other, be obliged to submit to this fate. The number of inhabitants is near 200,000,000, of whom from 100,000,000 to 112,000,000 are directly subject to the English. The Princes who are not immediately subject to them have English Agents at their Courts, and English troops in their pay. Since the country of the Mahrattas was conquered by the English, no part of India has asserted its independence of their sway. They have already gained a footing in the Burman Empire, and passed the Brahmaputra, which bounds India on the east.
India Proper is the country which the English divide into two large sections: the Deccan – the great peninsula which has the Bay of Bengal on the east, and the Indian Sea on the west – and Hindostan, formed by the valley of the Ganges, and extending in the direction of Persia. To the northeast, Hindostan is bordered by the Himalaya, which has been ascertained by Europeans to be the highest mountain range in the world, for its summits are about 26,000 feet above the level of the sea. On the other side of the mountains the level again declines; the dominion of the Chinese extends to that point, and when the English wished to go to Lassa to the Dalai-Lama, they were prevented by the Chinese. Towards the west of India flows the Indus, in which the five rivers are united, which are called the Pentj‚b (Punjab), into which Alexander the Great penetrated. The dominion of the English does not extend to the Indus; the sect of the Sikhs inhabits that district, whose constitution is thoroughly democratic, and who have broken off from the Indian as well as from the Mohammedan religion, and occupy an intermediate ground – acknowledging only one Supreme Being. They are a powerful nation, and have reduced to subjection Cabul and Cashmere. Besides these there dwell along the Indus genuine Indian tribes of the Warrior-Caste. Between the Indus and its twin-brother, the Ganges, are great plains. The Ganges, on the other hand, forms large Kingdoms around it, in which the sciences have been so highly developed, that the countries around the Ganges enjoy a still greater reputation than those around the Indus. The Kingdom of Bengal is especially flourishing. The Nerbuddah forms the boundary between the Deccan and Hindostan. The peninsula of the Deccan presents a far greater variety than Hindostan, and its rivers possess almost as great a sanctity as the Indus and the Ganges – which latter has become a general name for all the rivers in India, as the River kat exochn. We call the inhabitants of the great country which we have now to consider Indians, from the river Indus (the English call them Hindoos). They themselves have never given a name to the whole, for it has never become one Empire, and yet we consider it as such.
With regard to the political life of the Indians, we must first consider the advance it presents in contrast with China. In China there prevailed an equality among all the individuals composing the empire; consequently all government was absorbed in its centre, the Emperor, so that individual members could not attain to independence and subjective freedom. The next degree in advance of this Unity is Difference, maintaining its independence against the all-subduing power of Unity. An organic life requires in the first place One Soul, and in the second place, a divergence into differences, which become organic members, and in their several offices develop themselves to a complete system; in such a way, however, that their activity reconstitutes that one soul. This freedom of separation is wanting in China. The deficiency is that diversities cannot attain to independent existence. In this respect, the essential advance is made in India, viz.: that independent members ramify from the unity of despotic power. Yet the distinctions which these imply are referred to Nature. Instead of stimulating the activity of a soul as their centre of union, and spontaneously realizing that soul – as is the case in organic life – they petrify and become rigid, and by their stereotyped character condemn the Indian people to the most degrading spiritual serfdom. The distinctions in question are the Castes. In every rational State there are distinctions which must manifest themselves. Individuals must arrive at subjective freedom, and in doing so, give an objective form to these diversities. But Indian culture has not attained to a recognition of freedom and inward morality; the distinctions which prevail are only those of occupations, and civil conditions. In a free state also, such diversities give rise to particular classes, so combined, however, that their members can maintain their individuality. In India we have only a division in masses – a division, however, that influences the whole political life and the religious consciousness. The distinctions of class, like that [rigid] Unity in China, remain consequently on the same original grade of substantiality, i.e., they are not the result of the free subjectivity of individuals. Examining the idea of a State and its various functions, we recognize the first essential function as that whose scope is the absolutely Universal; of which man becomes conscious first in Religion, then in Science. God, the Divine [tw qeion] is the absolutely Universal. The highest class therefore will be the one by which the Divine is presented and brought to bear on the community – the class of Brahmins. The second element or class, will represent subjective power and valor. Such power must assert itself, in order that the whole may stand its ground, and retain its integrity against other such totalities or states. This class is that of the Warriors and Governors – the Cshatriyas; although Brahmins often become governors. The third order of occupation recognized is that which is concerned with the specialities of life – the satisfying of its necessities – and comprehends agriculture, crafts and trade; the class of the Vaisyas. Lastly, the fourth element is the class of service, the mere instrument for the comfort of others, whose business it is to work for others for wages affording a scanty subsistence – the caste of Sudras. This servile class – properly speaking – constitutes no special organic class in the state, because its members only serve individuals: their occupations are therefore dispersed among them and are consequently attached to that of the previously mentioned castes. – Against the existence of “classes” generally, an objection has been brought – especially in modern times – drawn from the consideration of the State in its “aspect” of abstract equity. But equality in civil life is something absolutely impossible; for individual distinctions of sex and age will always assert themselves; and even if an equal share in the government is accorded to all citizens, women and children are immediately passed by, and remain excluded. The distinction between poverty and riches, the influence of skill and talent, can be as little ignored – utterly refuting those abstract assertions. But while this principle leads us to put up with variety of occupations, and distinction of the classes to which they are intrusted, we are met here in India by the peculiar circumstance that the individual belongs to such a class essentially by birth, and is bound to it for life. All the concrete vitality that makes its appearance sinks back into death. A chain binds down the life that was just upon the point of breaking forth. The promise of freedom which these distinctions hold out is therewith completely nullified. What birth has separated mere arbitrary choice has no right to join together again: therefore, the castes preserving distinctness from their very origin, are presumed not to be mixed or united by marriage. Yet even Arrian (Ind. 11) reckoned seven castes, and in later times more than thirty have been made out; which, notwithstanding all obstacles, have arisen from the union of the various classes. Polygamy necessarily tends to this. A Brahmin, e.g., is allowed three wives from the three other castes, provided he has first taken one from his own. The offspring of such mixtures originally belonged to no caste, but one of the kings invented a method of classifying these casteless persons, which involved also the commencement of arts and manufactures. The children in question were assigned to particular employments; one section became weavers, another wrought in iron, and thus different classes arose from these different occupations. The highest of these mixed castes consists of those who are born from the marriage of a Brahmin with a wife of the Warrior caste; the lowest is that of the Chand‚las, who have to remove corpses, to execute criminals, and to perform impure offices generally. The members of this caste are excommunicated and detested; and are obliged to live separate and far from association with others. The Chand‚las are obliged to move out of the way for their superiors, and a Brahmin may knock down any that neglect to do so. If a Chand‚la drinks out of a pond it is defiled, and requires to be consecrated afresh. We must next consider the relative position of these castes. Their origin is referred to a myth, which tells us that the Brahmin caste proceeded from Brahma’s mouth; the Warrior caste from his arms; the industrial classes from his loins; the servile caste from his foot. Many historians have set up the hypothesis that the Brahmins originally formed a separate sacerdotal nation, and this fable is especially countenanced by the Brahmins themselves. A people consisting of priests alone is, assuredly, the greatest absurdity, for we know a priori, that a distinction of classes can exist only within a people; in every nation the various occupations of life must present themselves, for they belong to the objectivity of Spirit. One class necessarily supposes another, and the rise of castes generally, is only a result of the united life of a nation. A nation of priests cannot exist without agriculturists and soldiers. Classes cannot be brought together from without; they are developed only from within. They come forth from the interior of national life, and not conversely. But that these distinctions are here attributed to Nature, is a necessary result of the Idea which the East embodies. For while the individual ought properly to be empowered to choose his occupation, in the East, on the contrary, internal subjectivity is not yet recognized as independent; and if distinction obtrude themselves, their recognition is accompanied by the belief that the individual does not choose his particular position for himself, but receives it from Nature. In China the people are dependent – without distinction of classes – on the laws and moral decision of the Emperor; consequently on a human will. Plato, in his Republic, assigns the arrangement in different classes with a view to various occupations, to the choice of the governing body. Here, therefore, a moral, a spiritual power is the arbiter. In India, Nature is this governing power. But this natural destiny need not have led to that degree of degradation which we observe here, if the distinctions had been limited to occupation with what is earthly – to forms of objective Spirit. In the feudalism of mediaeval times, individuals were also confined to a certain station in life; but for all there was a Higher Being, superior to the most exalted earthly dignity, and admission to holy orders was open to all. This is the grand distinction, that here Religion holds the same position towards all; that, although the son of a mechanic becomes a mechanic, the son of a peasant a peasant, and free choice is often limited by many restrictive circumstances, the religious element stands in the same relation to all, and all are invested with an absolute value by religion. In India the direct contrary is the case. Another distinction between the classes of society as they exist in the Christian world and those in Hindostan is the moral dignity which exists among us in every class, constituting that which man must possess in and through himself. In this respect the higher classes are equal to the lower; and while religion is the higher sphere in which all sun themselves, equality before the law – rights of person and of property – are gained for every class. But by the fact that in India, as already observed, differences extend not only to the objectivity of Spirit, but also to its absolute subjectivity, and thus exhaust all its relations – neither morality, nor justice, nor religiosity is to be found.
Every caste has its especial duties and rights. Duties and rights, therefore, are not recognized as pertaining to mankind generally, but as those of a particular caste. While we say, “Bravery is a virtue,” the Hindoos say, on the contrary, “Bravery is the virtue of the Cshatryas.” Humanity generally, human duty and human feeling do not manifest themselves; we find only duties assigned to the several castes. Everything is petrified into these distinctions, and over this petrifaction a capricious destiny holds sway. Morality and human dignity are unknown; evil passions have their full swing; the Spirit wanders into the Dream-World, and the highest state is Annihilation.
To gain a more accurate idea of what the Brahmins are, and in what the Brahminical dignity consists, we must investigate the Hindoo religion and the conceptions it involves, to which we shall have to return further on; for the respective rights of castes have their basis in a religious relation. Brahma (neuter) is the Supreme in Religion, but there are besides chief divinities Brahm‚ (masc.) Vishnu or Krishna – incarnate in infinitely diverse forms – and Siva. These form a connected Trinity. Brahma is the highest; but Vishnu or Krishna, Siva, the Sun moreover, the Air, etc., are also Brahm, i.e., Substantial Unity. To Brahm itself no sacrifices are offered; it is not honored; but prayers are presented to all other idols. Brahm itself is the Substantial Unity of All. The highest religious position of man, therefore is, being exalted to Brahm. If a Brahmin is asked what Brahm is, he answers: When I fall back within myself, and close all external senses, and say dm to myself, that is Brahm. Abstract unity with God is realized in this abstraction from humanity. An abstraction of this kind may in some cases leave everything else unchanged, as does devotional feeling, momentarily excited. But among the Hindoos it holds a negative position towards all that is concrete; and the highest state is supposed to be this exaltation, by which the Hindoo raises himself to deity. The Brahmins, in virtue of their birth, are already in possession of the Divine. The distinction of castes involves, therefore, a distinction between present deities and mere limited mortals. The other castes may likewise become partakers in a Regeneration; but they must subject themselves to immense self-denial, torture and penance. Contempt of life, and of living humanity, is the chief feature in this ascesis. A large number of the non-Brahminical population strive to attain Regeneration. They are called Yogis. An Englishman who, on a journey to Thibet to visit the Dalai-Lama, met such a Yogi, gives the following account: The Yogi was already on the second grade in his ascent to Brahminical dignity. He had passed the first grade by remaining for twelve years on his legs, without ever sitting or lying down. At first he had bound himself fast to a tree with a rope, until he had accustomed himself to sleep standing. The second grade required him to keep his hands clasped together over his head for twelve years in succession. Already his nails had almost grown into his hands. The third grade is not always passed through in the same way; generally the Yogi has to spend a day between five fires, that is, between four fires occupying the four quarters of heaven, and the Sun. He must then swing backwards and forwards over the fire, a ceremony occupying three hours and three-quarters.
Englishmen present at an act of this kind, say that in half an hour the blood streamed forth from every part of the devotee’s body; he was taken down and presently died. If this trial is also surmounted, the aspirant is finally buried alive, that is put into the ground in an upright position and quite covered over with soil; after three hours and three-quarters he is drawn out, and if he lives, he is supposed to have at last attained the spiritual power of a Brahmin. Thus only by such negation of his existence does anyone attain Brahminical power. In its highest degree this negation consists in a sort of hazy consciousness of having attained perfect mental immobility – the annihilation of all emotion and all volition; – a condition which is regarded as the highest among the Buddhists also. However pusillanimous and effeminate the Hindoos may be in other respects, it is evident how little they hesitate to sacrifice themselves to the Highest – to Annihilation. Another instance of the same is the fact of wives burning themselves after the death of their husbands. Should a woman contravene this traditional usage, she would be severed from society, and perish in solitude. An Englishman states that he also saw a woman burn herself because she had lost her child. He did all that he could to divert her away from her purpose; at last he applied to her husband who was standing by, but he showed himself perfectly indifferent, as he had more wives at home. Sometimes twenty women are seen throwing themselves at once into the Ganges, and on the Himalaya range an English traveller found three women seeking the source of the Ganges, in order to put an end to their life in this holy river. At a religious festival in the celebrated temple of Juggernaut in Orissa, on the Bay of Bengal, where millions of Hindoos assemble, the image of the god Vishnu is drawn in procession on a car: about five hundred men set it in motion, and many fling themselves down before its wheels to be crushed to pieces. The whole seashore is already strewed with the bodies of persons who have thus immolated themselves. Infanticide is also very common in India. Mothers throw their children into the Ganges, or let them pine away under the rays of the sun. The morality which is involved in respect for human life is not found among the Hindoos. There are besides those already mentioned, infinite modifications of the same principle of conduct, all pointing to annihilation. This, e.g., is the leading principle of the Gymnosophists, as the Greeks called them. Naked Fakirs wander about without any occupation, like the mendicant friars of the Catholic church; live on the alms of others, and make it their aim to reach the highest degree of abstraction – the perfect deadening of consciousness; a point from which the transition to physical death is no great step. This elevation which others can only attain by toilsome labor is, as already stated, the birthright of the Brahmins. The Hindoo of another caste, must, therefore, reverence the Brahmin as a divinity; fall down before him, and say to him: “Thou art God.” And this elevation cannot have anything to do with moral conduct, but – inasmuch as all internal morality is absent – is rather dependent on a farrago of observances relating to the merest externalities and trivialities of existence. Human life, it is said, ought to be a perpetual Worship of God. It is evident how hollow such general aphorisms are, when we consider the concrete forms which they may assume. They require another, a further qualification, if they are to have a meaning. The Brahmins are a present deity, but their spirituality has not yet been reflected inwards in contrast with Nature; and thus that which is purely indifferent is treated as of absolute importance. The employment of the Brahmins consists principally in the reading of the VÍdas: they only have a right to read them. Were a Sudra to read the VÍdas, or to hear them read, he would be severely punished, and burning oil must be poured into his ears. The external observances binding on the Brahmins are prodigiously numerous, and the Laws of Manu treat of them as the most essential part of duty. The Brahmin must rest on one particular foot in rising, then wash in a river; his hair and nails must be cut in neat curves, his whole body purified, his garments white; in his hand must be a staff of a specified kind; in his ears a golden earring. If the Brahmin meets a man of an inferior caste, he must turn back and purify himself. He has also to read in the VÍdas, in various ways: each word separately, or doubling them alternately, or backwards. He may not look to the sun when rising or setting, or when overcast by clouds or reflected in the water. He is forbidden to step over a rope to which a calf is fastened, or to go out when it rains. He may not look at his wife when she eats, sneezes, gapes, or is quietly seated. At the midday meal he may only have one garment on, in bathing never be quite naked. How minute these directions are may be especially judged of from the observances binding on the Brahmins in regard to satisfying the calls of nature. This is forbidden to them in a great thoroughfare, on ashes, on ploughed land, on a hill, a nest of white ants, on wood destined for fuel, in a ditch, walking or standing, on the bank of a river, etc. At such a time they may not look at the sun, at water, or at animals. By day they should keep their face generally directed to the north, but by night to the south; only in the shade are they allowed to turn to which quarter they like. It is forbidden to everyone who desires a long life to step on potsherds, cotton seeds, ashes, or sheaves of corn, or his urine. In the episode Nala, in the poem of Mahabharata, we have a story of a virgin who in her 21st year – the age in which the maidens themselves have a right to choose a husband – makes a selection from among her wooers. There are five of them; but the maiden remarks that four of them do not stand firmly on their feet, and thence infers correctly that they are Gods. She therefore chooses the fifth, who is a veritable man. But besides the four despised divinities there are two malevolent ones, whom her choice had not favored, and who on that account wish for revenge. They therefore keep a strict watch on the husband of their beloved in every step and act of life, with the design of inflicting injury upon him if he commits a misdemeanor. The persecuted husband does nothing that can be brought against him, until at last he is so incautious as to step on his urine. The Genius has now an advantage over him; he afflicts him with a passion for gambling, and so plunges him into the abyss.
While, on the one hand, the Brahmins are subject to these strict limitations and rules, on the other hand their life is sacred; it cannot answer for crimes of any kind; and their property is equally secure from being attacked. The severest penalty which the ruler can inflict upon them amounts to nothing more than banishment. The English wished to introduce trial by jury into India – the jury to consist half of Europeans, half of Hindoos – and submitted to the natives, whose wishes on the subject were consulted, the powers with which the panel would be intrusted. The Hindoos were for making a number of exceptions and limitations. They said, among other things, that they could not consent that a Brahmin should be condemned to death; not to mention other objections, e.g., that looking at and examining a corpse was out of the question. Although in the case of a Warrior the rate of interest may be as high as three per cent, in that of a Vaisya four per cent, a Brahmin is never required to pay more than two per cent. The Brahmin possesses such a power, that Heaven’s lightning would strike the King who ventured to lay hands on him or his property. For the meanest Brahmin is so far exalted above the King, that he would be polluted by conversing with him, and would be dishonored by his daughters choosing a prince in marriage. In Manu’s Code it is said: “If anyone presumes to teach a Brahmin his duty, the King must order that hot oil be poured into the ears and mouth of such an instructor. If one who is only once-born, loads one who is twice-born with reproaches, a red hot iron bar ten inches long shall be thrust into his mouth.” On the other hand a Sudra is condemned to have a red hot iron thrust into him from behind if he rest himself in the chair of a Brahmin, and to have his foot or his hand hewed off if he pushes against a Brahmin with hands or feet. It is even permitted to give false testimony, and to lie before a Court of Justice, if a Brahmin can be thereby freed from condemnation. As the Brahmins enjoy advantages over the other Castes, the latter in their turn have privileges according to precedence, over their inferiors. If a Sudra is defiled by contact with a Pariah, he has the right to knock him down on the spot. Humanity on the part of a higher Caste towards an inferior one is entirely forbidden, and a Brahmin would never think of assisting a member of another Caste, even when in danger. The other Castes deem it a great honor when a Brahmin takes their daughters as his wives – a thing however, which is permitted him, as already stated, only when he has already taken one from his own Caste. Thence arises the freedom the Brahmins enjoy in getting wives. At the great religious festivals they go among the people and choose those that please them best; but they also repudiate them at pleasure.
If a Brahmin or a member of any other Caste transgresses the above cited laws and precepts, he is himself excluded from his caste, and in order to be received back again, he must have a hook bored through the hips, and be swung repeatedly backwards and forwards in the air. There are also other forms of restoration. A Rajah who thought himself injured by an English Governor sent two Brahmins to England to detail his grievances. But the Hindoos are forbidden to cross the sea, and these envoys on their return were declared excommunicated from their caste, and in order to be restored to it, they had to be born again from a golden cow. The imposition was so far lightened, that only those parts of the cow out of which they had to creep were obliged to be golden; the rest might consist of wood. These various usages and religious observances to which every Caste is subject have occasioned great perplexity to the English, especially in enlisting soldiers. At first these were taken from the Sudra-Caste, which is not bound to observe so many ceremonies; but nothing could be done with them, they therefore betook themselves to the Cshatriya class. These however have an immense number of regulations to observe – they may not eat meat, touch a dead body, drink out of a pool in which cattle or Europeans have drunk, not eat what others have cooked, etc. Each Hindoo assumes one definite occupation, and that only, so that one must have an infinity of servants; – a Lieutenant has thirty, a Major sixty. Thus every Caste has its own duties; the lower the Caste, the less it has to observe; and as each individual has his position assigned by birth, beyond this fixed arrangement everything is governed by caprice and force. In the Code of Manu punishments increase in proportion to the inferiority of Castes, and there is a distinction in other respects. If a man of a higher Caste brings an accusation against an inferior without proof, the former is not punished; if the converse occurs, the punishment is very severe. Cases of theft are exceptional; in this case the higher the Caste the heavier is the penalty.
In respect to property the Brahmins have a great advantage, for they pay no taxes. The prince receives half the income from the lands of others; the remainder has to suffice for the cost of cultivation and the support of the laborers. It is an extremely important question, whether the cultivated land in India is recognized as belonging to the cultivator, or belongs to a so-called manorial proprietor. The English themselves have had great difficulty in establishing a clear understanding about it. For when they conquered Bengal, it was of great importance to them, to determine the mode in which taxes were to be raised on property, and they had to ascertain whether these should be imposed on the tenant cultivators or the lord of the soil. They imposed the tribute on the latter; but the result was that the proprietors acted in the most arbitrary manner: drove away the tenant cultivators, and declaring that such or such an amount of land was not under cultivation, gained an abatement of tribute. They then took back the expelled cultivators as day-laborers, at a low rate of wages, and had the land cultivated on their own behalf. The whole income belonging to every village is, as already stated, divided into two parts, of which one belongs to the Rajah, the other to the cultivators; but proportionate shares are also received by the Provost of the place, the Judge, the Water-Surveyor, the Brahmin who superintends religious worship, the Astrologer (who is also a Brahmin, and announces the days of good and ill omen), the Smith, the Carpenter, the Potter, the Washerman, the Barber, the Physician, the Dancing Girls, the Musician, the Poet. This arrangement is fixed and immutable, and subject to no one’s will. All political revolutions, therefore, are matters of indifference to the common Hindoo, for his lot is unchanged.
The view given of the relation of castes leads directly to the subject of Religion. For the claims of caste are, as already remarked, not merely secular, but essentially religious, and the Brahmins in their exalted dignity are the very gods bodily present. In the laws of Manu it is said: “Let the King, even in extreme necessity, beware of exciting the Brahmins against him; for they can destroy him with their power – they who create Fire, Sun, Moon, etc.” They are servants neither of God nor of his People, but are God himself to the other Castes – a position of things which constitutes the perverted character of the Hindoo mind. The dreaming Unity of Spirit and nature, which involves a monstrous bewilderment in regard to all phenomena and relations, we have already recognized as the principle of the Hindoo Spirit. The Hindoo Mythology is therefore only a wild extravagance of Fancy, in which nothing has a settled form; which takes us abruptly from the Meanest to the Highest, from the most sublime to the most disgusting and trivial. Thus it is also difficult to discover what the Hindoos understand by Brahm. We are apt to take our conception of Supreme Divinity – the One – the Creator of Heaven and Earth – and apply it to the Indian Brahm. Brahma is distinct from Brahm – the former constituting one personality in contrasted relation to Vishnu and Siva. Many therefore call the Supreme Existence who is over the first mentioned deity, Para-brahma. The English have taken a good deal of trouble to find out what Brahm properly is. Wilford has asserted that Hindoo conceptions recognize two Heavens: the first, the earthly paradise, the second, Heaven in a spiritual sense. To attain them, two different modes of worship are supposed to be required. The one involves external ceremonies, Idol- Worship; the other requires that the Supreme Being should be honored in spirit. Sacrifices, purifications, pilgrimages are not needed in the latter. This authority states moreover that there are few Hindoos ready to pursue the second way, because they cannot understand in what the pleasure of the second heaven consists, and that if one asks a Hindoo whether he worships Idols, every one says “Yes!” but to the question, “Do you worship the Supreme Being? “ every one answers “No.” If the further question is put, “ What is the meaning of that practice of yours, that silent meditation which some of your learned men speak of?” they respond, “When I pray to the honor of one of the Gods, I sit down – the foot of either leg on the thigh of the other – look towards Heaven, and calmly elevate my thoughts with my hands folded in silence; then I say, I am Brahm the Supreme Being. We are not conscious to ourselves of being Brahm, by reason of Maya (the delusion occasioned by the outward world). It is forbidden to pray to him, and to offer sacrifices to him in his own nature; for this would be to adore ourselves. In every case therefore, it is only emanations of Brahm that we address.” Translating these ideas then into our own process of thought, we should call Brahm the pure unity of thought in itself – God in the incomplexity of his existence. No temples are consecrated to him, and he receives no worship. Similarly, in the Catholic religion, the churches are not dedicated to God, but to the saints. Other Englishmen, who have devoted themselves to investigating the conception of Brahm, have thought Brahm to be an unmeaning epithet, applied to all gods: so that Vishnu says, “I am Brahm”; and the Sun, the Air, the Seas are called Brahm. Brahm would on this supposition be substance in its simplicity, which by its very nature expands itself into the limitless variety of phenomenal diversities. For this abstraction, this pure unity, is that which lies at the foundation of All – the root of all definite existence. In the intellection of this unity, all objectivity falls away; for the purely Abstract is intellection itself in its greatest vacuity. To attain this Death of Life during life itself – to constitute this abstraction – requires the disappearance of all moral activity and volition, and of all intellection too, as in the Religion of Fo; and this is the object of the penances already spoken of.
The complement to the abstraction Brahm must then be looked for in the concrete complex of things; for the principle of the Hindoo religion is the Manifestation of Diversity (in “Avatars”). These then, fall outside that abstract Unity of Thought, and as that which deviates from it, constitute the variety found in the world of sense, the variety of intellectual conceptions in an unreflected sensuous form. In this way the concrete complex of material things is isolated from Spirit, and presented in wild distraction, except as re-absorbed in the pure ideality of Brahm. The other deities are therefore things of sense: Mountains, Streams, Beasts, the Sun, the Moon, the Ganges. The next stage is the concentration of this wild variety into substantial distinctions, and the comprehension of them as a series of divine persons. Vishnu, Siva, Mah‚deva are thus distinguished from Brahma. In the embodiment Vishnu are presented those incarnations in which God has appeared as man, and which are always historical personages, who effected important changes and new epochs. The power of procreation is likewise a substantial embodiment; and in the excavations, grottos and pagodas of the Hindoos, the Lingam is always found as symbolizing the male, and the Lotus the female vis procreandi. With this Duality – abstract unity on the one side and the abstract isolation of the world of sense on the other side – exactly corresponds the double form of Worship, in the relation of the human subjectivity to God. The one side of this duality of worship consists in the abstraction of pure self-elevation – the abrogation of real self-consiousness; a negativity which is consequently manifested, on the one hand, in the attainment of torpid unconsciousness – on the other hand in suicide and the extinction of all that is worth calling life, by self-inflicted tortures. The other side of worship consists in a wild tumult of excess; when all sense of individuality has vanished from consciousness by immersion in the merely natural; with which individuality thus makes itself identical – destroying its consciousness of distinction from Nature. In all the pagodas, therefore, prostitutes and dancing girls are kept, whom the Brahmins instruct most carefully in dancing, in beautiful postures and attractive gestures, and who have to comply with the wishes of all comers at a fixed price. Theological doctrine – relation of religion to morality – is here altogether out of the question. On the one hand Love – Heaven – in short everything spiritual – is conceived by the fancy of the Hindoo; but on the other hand his conceptions have an actual sensuous embodiment, and he immerses himself by a voluptuous intoxication in the merely natural. Objects of religious worship are thus either disgusting forms produced by art, or those presented by Nature. Every bird, every monkey, is a present god, an absolutely universal existence. The Hindoo is incapable of holding fast an object in his mind by means of rational predicates assigned to it, for this requires reflection. While a universal essence is wrongly transmuted into sensuous objectivity, the latter is also driven from its definite character into universality – a process whereby it loses its footing and is expanded to indefiniteness.
If we proceed to ask how far their religion exhibits the Morality of the Hindoos, the answer must be that the former is as distinct from the latter, as Brahm from the concrete existence of which he is the essence. To us, religion is the knowledge of that Being who is emphatically our Being, and therefore the substance of our knowledge and volition; the proper office of which latter is to be the mirror of this fundamental substance. But that requires this (Highest) Being to be in se a personality, pursuing divine aims, such as can become the purport of human action. Such an idea of a relation of the Being of God as constituting the universal basis or substance of human action – such a morality cannot be found among the Hindoos; for they have not the Spiritual as the import of their consciousness. On the one hand their virtue consists in the abstraction from all activity – the condition they call “Brahm.” On the other hand every action with them is a prescribed external usage; not free activity, the result of inward personality. Thus the moral condition of the Hindoos (as already observed) shows itself most abandoned. In this all Englishmen agree. Our judgment of the morality of the Hindoos is apt to be warped by representations of their mildness, tenderness, beautiful and sentimental fancy. But we must reflect that in nations utterly corrupt, there are sides of character which may be called tender and noble. We have Chinese poems in which the tenderest relations of love are depicted; in which delineations of deep emotion, humility, modesty, propriety are to be found; and which may be compared with the best that European literature contains. The same characteristics meet us in many Hindoo poems ; but rectitude, morality, freedom of soul, consciousness of individual right are quite another thing. The annihilating of spiritual and physical existence has nothing concrete in it; and absorption in the abstractly Universal has no connection with the real. Deceit and cunning are the fundamental characteristics of the Hindoo. Cheating, stealing, robbing, murdering are with him habitual. Humbly crouching and abject before a victor and lord, he is recklessly barbarous to the vanquished and subject.
Characteristic of the Hindoo’s humanity is the fact that he kills no brute animal, founds and supports rich hospitals for brutes, especially for old cows and monkeys – but that through the whole land, no single institution can be found for human beings who are diseased or infirm from age. The Hindoos will not tread upon ants, but they are perfectly indifferent when poor wanderers pine away with hunger. The Brahmins are especially immoral. According to English reports, they do nothing but eat and sleep. In what is not forbidden them by the rules of their order they follow natural impulses entirely. When they take any part in public life they show themselves avaricious, deceitful, voluptuous. With those whom they have reason to fear, they are humble enough; for which they avenge themselves on their dependents. “I do not know an honest man among them,” says an English authority. Children have no respect for their parents: sons maltreat their mothers.
It would lead us too far to give a detailed notice of Hindoo Art and Science. But we may make the general remark, that a more accurate acquaintance with its real value has not a little diminished the widely bruited fame of Indian Wisdom. According to the Hindoo principle of pure self-renouncing Ideality, and that (phenomenal) variety which goes to the opposite extreme of sensuousness, it is evident that nothing but abstract thought and imagination can be developed. Thus, e.g., their grammar has advanced to a high degree of consistent regularity ; but when substantial matter in sciences and works of art is in question, it is useless to look for it here. When the English had become masters of the country, the work of restoring to light the records of Indian culture was commenced, and William Jones first disinterred the poems of the Golden Age. The English exhibited plays at Calcutta: this led to a representation of dramas on the part of the Brahmins, e.g., the Sacontala of Calidasa, etc. In the enthusiasm of discovery the Hindoo culture was very highly rated; and as, when new beauties are discovered, the old ones are commonly looked down upon with contempt, Hindoo poetry and philosophy were extolled as far superior to the Greek. For our purpose the most important documents are the ancient and canonical books of the Hindoos, especially the Vedas. They comprise many divisions, of which the fourth is of more recent origin. They consist partly of religious prayers, partly of precepts to be observed. Some manuscripts of these Vedas have come to Europe, though in a complete form they are exceedingly rare. The writing is on palm leaves, scratched in with a needle. The Vedas are very difficult to understand, since they date from the most remote antiquity, and the language is a much older Sanscrit. Colebrooke has indeed translated a part, but this itself is perhaps taken from a commentary, of which there are very many. Two great epic poems, Ramayana and Mahabharata, have also reached Europe. Three quarto volumes of the former have been printed, the second volume is extremely rare. Besides these works, the Puranas must be particularly noticed. The Puranas contain the history of a god or of a temple. They are entirely fanciful. Another Hindoo classical book is the Code of Manu. This Hindoo lawgiver has been compared with the Cretan Minos – a name which also occurs among the Egyptians; and certainly this extensive occurrence of the same name is noteworthy and cannot be ascribed to chance. Manu’s code of morals, (published at Calcutta with an English translation by Sir W. Jones) forms the basis of Hindoo legislation. It begins with a Theogony, which is not only entirely different from the mythological conceptions of other peoples (as might be expected), but also deviates essentially from the Hindoo traditions themselves. For in these also there are only some leading features that pervade the whole. In other respects everything is abandoned to chance, caprice and fancy; the result of which is that the most multiform traditions, shapes and names, appear in never ending procession. The time when Manu’s code was composed, is also entirely unknown and undetermined. The traditions reach beyond twenty-three centuries before the birth of Christ: a dynasty of the Children of the Sun is mentioned, on which followed one of the Children of the Moon. Thus much, however, is certain, that the code in question is of high antiquity ; and an acquaintance with it is of the greatest importance to the English, as their knowledge of Hindoo Law is derived from it. After pointing out the Hindoo principle in the distinctions of caste, in religion and literature, we must also mention the mode and form of their political existence – the polity of the Hindoo State. – A State is a realization of Spirit, such that in it the self-conscious being of Spirit – the freedom of the Will – is realized as Law. Such an institution then, necessarily presupposes the consciousness of free will. In the Chinese State the moral will of the Emperor is the law: but so that subjective, inward freedom is thereby repressed, and the Law of Freedom governs individuals only as from without. In India the primary aspect of subjectivity – viz., that of the imagination – presents a union of the Natural and Spiritual, in which Nature on the one hand, does not present itself as a world embodying Reason, nor the Spiritual on the other hand, as consciousness in contrast with Nature. Here the antithesis in the (above-stated) principle is wanting. Freedom both as abstract will and as subjective freedom is absent. The proper basis of the State, the principle of freedom is altogether absent: there cannot therefore be any State in the true sense of the term. This is the first point to be observed: if China may be regarded as nothing else but a State, Hindoo political existence presents us with a people, but no State. Secondly, while we found a moral despotism in China, whatever may be called a relic of political life in India, is a despotism without a principle, without any rule of morality and religion: for morality and religion (as far as the latter has a reference to human action) have as their indispensable condition and basis the freedom of the Will. In India, therefore, the most arbitrary, wicked, degrading despotism has its full swing. China, Persia, Turkey – in fact Asia generally, is the scene of despotism, and, in a bad sense, of tyranny; but it is regarded as contrary to the due order of things, and is disapproved by religion and the moral consciousness of individuals. In those countries, tyranny rouses men to resentment; they detest it and groan under it as a burden. To them it is an accident and an irregularity, not a necessity: it ought not to exist. But in India it is normal: for here there is no sense of personal independence with which a state of despotism could be compared, and which would raise revolt in the soul; nothing approaching even a resentful protest against it, is left, except the corporeal smart, and the pain of being deprived of absolute necessaries and of pleasure.
In the case of such a people, therefore, that which we call in its double sense, History, is not to be looked for; and here the distinction between China and India is most clearly and strongly manifest. The Chinese possess a most minute history of their country, and it has been already remarked what arrangements are made in China for having everything accurately noted down in their annals. The contrary is the case in India. Though the recent discoveries of the treasures of Indian Literature have shown us what a reputation the Hindoos have acquired in Geometry, Astronomy, and Algebra – that they have made great advances in Philosophy, and that among them, Grammar has been so far cultivated that no language can be regarded as more fully developed than the Sanscrit – we find the department of History altogether neglected, or rather non-existent. For History requires Understanding – the power of looking at an object in an independent objective light, and comprehending it in its rational connection with other objects. Those peoples therefore are alone capable of History, and of prose generally, who have arrived at that period of development (and can make that their starting point) at which individuals comprehend their own existence as independent, i.e., possess self-consciousness.
The Chinese are to be rated at what they have made of themselves, looking at them in the entirety of their State. While they have thus attained an existence independent of Nature, they can also regard objects as distinct from themselves – as they are actually presented – in a definite form and in their real connection. The Hindoos on the contrary are by birth given over to an unyielding destiny, while at the same time their Spirit is exalted to Ideality; so that their minds exhibit the contradictory processes of a dissolution of fixed rational and definite conceptions in their Ideality, and on the other side, a degradation of this ideality to a multiformity of sensuous objects. This makes them incapable of writing History. All that happens is dissipated in their minds into confused dreams. What we call historical truth and veracity – intelligent, thoughtful comprehension of events, and fidelity in representing them – nothing of this sort can be looked for among the Hindoos. We may explain this deficiency partly from that excitement and debility of the nerves, which prevent them from retaining an object in their minds, and firmly comprehending it, for in their mode of apprehension, a sensitive and imaginative temperament changes it into a feverish dream; – partly from the fact, that veracity is the direct contrary to their nature. They even lie knowingly and designedly where misapprehension is out of the question. As the Hindoo Spirit is a state of dreaming and mental transiency – a self-oblivious dissolution – objects also dissolve for it into unreal images and indefinitude. This feature is absolutely characteristic; and this alone would furnish us with a clear idea of the Spirit of the Hindoos, from which all that has been said might be deduced. But History is always of great importance for a people; since by means of that it becomes conscious of the path of development taken by its own Spirit, which expresses itself in Laws, Manners, Customs, and Deeds. Laws, comprising morals and judicial institutions, are by nature the permanent element in a people’s existence. But History presents a people with their own image in a condition which thereby becomes objective to them. Without History their existence in time is blindly self-involved – the recurring play of arbitrary volition in manifold forms. History fixes and imparts consistency to this fortuitous current – gives it the form of Universality, and by so doing posits a directive and restrictive rule for it. It is an essential instrument in developing and determining the Constitution – that is, a rational political condition; for it is the empirical method of producing the Universal, inasmuch as it sets up a permanent object for the conceptive powers. – It is because the Hindoos have no History in the form of annals (historia) that they have no History in the form of transactions (res gestae); that is, no growth expanding into a veritable political condition. Periods of time are mentioned in the Hindoo Writings, and large numbers which have often an astronomical meaning, but which have still oftener a quite arbitrary origin. Thus it is related of certain Kings that they had reigned 70,000 years, or more. Brahma, the first figure in the Cosmogony, and self-produced, is said to have lived 20,000 years, etc. Innumerable names of Kings are cited – among them the incarnations of Vishnu. It would be ridiculous to regard passages of this kind as anything historical. In their poems Kings are often talked of: these may have been historical personages, but they completely vanish in fable; e.g., they retire from the world, and then appear again, after they have passed ten thousand years in solitude. The numbers in question, therefore, have not the value and rational meaning which we attach to them.
Consequently the oldest and most reliable sources of Indian History are the notices of Greek Authors, after Alexander the Great had opened the way to India. From them we learn that their institutions were the same at that early period as they are now: Santaracottus (Chandragupta) is marked out as a distinguished ruler in the northern part of India, to which the Bactrian kingdom extended. The Mahometan historians supply another source of information; for the Mahometans began their invasions as early as the tenth century. A Turkish slave was the ancestor of the Ghiznian race. His son Mahmoud made an inroad into Hindostan and conquered almost the whole country. He fixed his royal residence west of Cabul, and at his court lived the poet Ferdusi. The Ghiznian dynasty was soon entirely exterminated by the sweeping attacks of the Afghans and Moguls. In later times nearly the whole of India has been subjected to the Europeans. What therefore is known of Indian history, has for the most part been communicated through foreign channels: the native literature gives only indistinct data. Europeans assure us of the impossibility of wading through the morasses of Indian statements. More definite information may be obtained from inscriptions and documents, especially from the deeds of gifts of land to pagodas and divinities ; but this kind of evidence supplies names only. Another source of information is the astronomical literature, which is of high antiquity. Colebrooke thoroughly studied these writings ; though it is very difficult to procure manuscripts, since the Brahmins keep them very close; they are moreover disfigured by the grossest interpolations. It is found that the statements with regard to constellations are often contradictory, and that the Brahmins interpolate these ancient works with events belonging to their own time. The Hindoos do indeed possess lists and enumerations of their Kings, but these also are of the most capricious character; for we often find twenty Kings more in one list than in another; and should these lists even be correct, they could not constitute a history. The Brahmins have no conscience in respect to truth. Captain Wilford had procured manuscripts from all quarters with great trouble and expense; he assembled a considerable number of Brahmins, and commissioned them to make extracts from these works, and to institute inquiries respecting certain remarkable events – about Adam and Eve, the Deluge, etc. The Brahmins, to please their employer, produced statements of the kind required; but there was nothing of the sort in the manuscripts. Wilford wrote many treatises on the subject, till at last he detected the deception, and saw that he had labored in vain. The Hindoos have, it is true, a fixed Era: they reckon from Vicram‚ditya, at whose splendid court lived Calidasa, the author of the Sacontala. The most illustrious poets flourished about the same time. “There were nine pearls at the court of Vicramaditya,” say the Brahmins: but we cannot discover the date of this brilliant epoch. From various statements, the year 1491 B.C. has been contended for; others adopt the year 50 B.C., and this is the commonly received opinion. Bentley’s researches at length placed Vicramaditya in the twelfth century B.C. But still more recently it has been discovered that there were five, or even eight or nine kings of that name in India; so that on this point also we are thrown back into utter uncertainty.
When the Europeans became acquainted with India, they found a multitude of petty Kingdoms, at whose head were Mahometan and Indian princes. There was an order of things very nearly approaching feudal organization; and the Kingdoms in question were divided into districts, having as governors Mahometans, or people of the Warrior Caste of Hindoos. The business of these governors consisted in collecting taxes and carrying on wars; and they thus formed a kind of aristocracy, the Prince’s Council of State. But only as far as their princes are feared and excite fear, have they any power; and no obedience is rendered to them but by force. As long as the prince does not want money, he has troops; and neighboring princes, if they are inferior to him in force, are often obliged to pay taxes, but which are yielded only on compulsion. The whole state of things, therefore, is not that of repose, but of continual struggle; while moreover nothing is developed or furthered. It is the struggle of an energetic will on the part of this or that prince against a feebler one; the history of reigning dynasties, but not of peoples; a series of perpetually varying intrigues and revolts – not indeed of subjects against their rulers, but of a prince’s son, for instance, against his father; of brothers, uncles and nephews in contest with each other; and of functionaries against their master. It might be believed that, though the Europeans found such a state of things, this was the result of the dissolution of earlier superior organizations. It might, for instance, be supposed that the period of the Mogul supremacy was of one of prosperity and splendor, and of a political condition in which India was not distracted religiously and politically by foreign conquerors. But the historical traces and lineaments that accidentally present themselves in poetical descriptions and legends, bearing upon the period in question, always point to the same divided condition – the result of war and of the instability of political relations; while contrary representations may be easily recognized as a dream, a mere fancy. This state of things is the natural result of that conception of Hindoo life which has been exhibited, and the conditions which it necessitates. The wars of the sects of the Brahmins and Buddhists, of the devotees of Vishnu and of Siva, also contributed their quota to this confusion. – There is indeed, a common character pervading the whole of India; but its several states present at the same time the greatest variety; so that in one Indian State we meet with the greatest effeminacy – in another, on the contrary, we find prodigious vigor and savage barbarity. If then, in conclusion, we once more take a general view of the comparative condition of India and China, we shall see that China was characterized by a thoroughly unimaginative Understanding; a prosaic life amid firm and definite reality: while in the Indian world there is, so to speak, no object that can be regarded as real, and firmly defined – none that was not at its first apprehension perverted by the imagination to the very opposite of what it presents to an intelligent consciousness. In China it is the Moral which constitutes the substance of the laws, and which is embodied in external strictly determinate relations; while over all hovers the patriarchal providence of the Emperor, who like a Father, cares impartially for the interest of his subjects. Among the Hindoos, on the contrary – instead of this Unity – Diversity is the fundamental characteristic. Religion, War, Handicraft, Trade, yes, even the most trivial occupations are parcelled out with rigid separation – constituting as they do the import of the one will which they involve, and whose various requirements they exhaust. With this is bound up a monstrous, irrational imagination, which attaches the moral value and character of men to an infinity of outward actions as empty in point of intellect as of feeling; sets aside all respect for the welfare of man, and even makes a duty of the cruellest and severest contravention of it. Those distinctions being rigidly maintained, nothing remains for the one universal will of the State but pure caprice, against whose omnipotence only the fixed caste-distinctions avail for protection. The Chinese in their prosaic rationality, reverence as the Highest, only the abstract supreme lord; and they exhibit a contemptibly superstitious respect for the fixed and definite
Among the Hindoos there is no such superstition so far as it presents an antithesis to Understanding; rather their whole life and ideas are one unbroken superstition, because among them all is revery and consequent enslavement. Annihilation – the abandonment of all reason, morality and subjectivity – can only come to a positive feeling and consciousness of itself, by extravagating in a boundlessly wild imagination; in which, like a desolate spirit, it finds no rest, no settled composure, though it can content itself in no other way; as a man who is quite reduced in body and spirit finds his existence altogether stupid and intolerable, and is driven to the creation of a dream-world and a delirious bliss in Opium.
It is time to quit the Dream-State characterizing the Hindoo Spirit revelling in the most extravagant maze through all natural and spiritual forms; comprising at the same time the coarsest sensuality and anticipations of the profoundest thought, and on that very account – as far as free and rational reality is concerned – sunk in the most self-abandoned, helpless slavery; – a slavery, in which the abstract forms into which concrete human life is divided, have become stereotyped, and human rights and culture have been made absolutely dependent upon these distinctions. In contrast with this inebriate Dream-life, which in the sphere of reality is bound fast in chains, we have the unconstrained Dream-life; which on the one hand is ruder than the former – as not having advanced so far as to make this distinction of modes of life – but for the same reason, has not sunk into the slavery which this entails. It keeps itself more free, more independently firm in itself: its world of ideas is consequently compressed into simpler conceptions. The Spirit of the Phase just indicated, is involved in the same fundamental principle as that assigned to Hindoo conceptions: but it is more concentrated in itself; its religion is simpler, and the accompanying political condition more calm and settled. This phase comprehends peoples and countries of the most varied complexion. We regard it as embracing Ceylon, Farther India with the Burman Empire, Siam, Anam – north of that Thibet, and further on the Chinese Upland with its various populations of Mongols and Tartars. We shall not examine the special individualities of these peoples, but merely characterize their Religion, which constitutes the most interesting side of their existence. The Religion of these peoples is Buddhism, which is the most widely extended religion on our globe. In China Buddha is reverenced as Fo; in Ceylon as Gautama; in Thibet and among the Mongols this religion has assumed the phase of Lamaism. In China – where the religion of Fo early received a great extension, and introduced a monastic life – it occupies the position of an integrant element of the Chinese principle. As the Substantial form of Spirit which characterizes China, develops itself only to a unity of secular national life, which degrades individuals to a position of constant dependence, religion also remains in a state of dependence. The element of freedom is wanting to it; for its object is the principle of Nature in general – Heaven – Universal Matter. But the (compensating) truth of this alienated form of Spirit (Nature occupying the place of the Absolute Spirit) is ideal Unity; the elevation above the limitation of Nature and of existence at large; – the return of consciousness into the soul. This element, which is contained in Buddhism, has made its way in China, to that extent to which the Chinese have become aware of the unspirituality of their condition, and the limitation that hampers their consciousness. – In this religion – which may be generally described as the religion of self-involvement (undeveloped Unity) – the elevation of that unspiritual condition to subjectivity, takes place in two ways; one of which is of a negative, the other of an affirmative kind.
The negative form of this elevation is the concentration of Spirit to the Infinite, and must first present itself under theological conditions. It is contained in the fundamental dogma, that Nothingness is the principle of all things – that all proceeded from and returns to Nothingness. The various forms found in the World are only modifications of procession [thence]. If an analysis of these various forms were attempted, they would lose their quality; for in themselves all things are one and the same inseparable essence, and this essence is Nothingness. The connection of this with the Metempsychosis can be thus explained: All (that we see) is but a change of Form. The inherent infinity of Spirit – infinite concrete self-dependence – is entirely separate from this Universe of phenomena. Abstract Nothingness is properly that which lies beyond Finite Existence – what we may call the Supreme Being. This real principle of the Universe is, it is said, in eternal repose, and in itself unchangeable. Its essence consists in the absence of activity and volition. For Nothingness is abstract Unity with itself. To obtain happiness, therefore, man must seek to assimilate himself to this principle by continual victories over himself; and for the sake of this, do nothing, wish nothing, desire nothing. In this condition of happiness, therefore, Vice or Virtue is out of the question; for the true blessedness is Union with Nothingness. The more man frees himself from all speciality of existence, the nearer does he approach perfection; and in the annihilation of all activity – in pure passivity – he attains complete resemblance to Fo. The abstract Unity in question is not a mere Futurity – a Spiritual sphere existing beyond our own; it has to do with the present; it is truth for man [as he is], and ought to be realized in him. In Ceylon and the Burman Empire – where this Buddhistic Faith has its roots – there prevails an idea, that man can attain by meditation, to exemption from sickness, old age and death.
But while this is the negative form of the elevation of Spirit from immersion in the Objective to a subjective realization of itself, this Religion also advances to the consciousness of an affirmative form. Spirit is the Absolute. Yet in comprehending Spirit it is a point of essential importance in what determinate form Spirit is conceived. When we speak of Spirit as universal, we know that for us it exists only in an inward conception ; but to attain this point of view – to appreciate Spirit in the pure subjectivity of Thought and conception – is the result of a longer process of culture. At that point in history at which we have now arrived, the form of Spirit is not advanced beyond Immediateness (the idea of it is not yet refined by reflection and abstraction). God is conceived in an immediate, unreflected form; not in the form of Thought – objectively. But this immediate Form is that of humanity. The Sun, the Stars do not come up to the idea of Spirit; but Man seems to realize it; and he, as Buddha, Gautama, Fo – in the form of a departed teacher, and in the living form of the Grand Lama – receives divine worship. The Abstract Understanding generally objects to this idea of a Godman; alleging as a defect that the form here assigned to Spirit is an immediate [unreflected, unrefined] one – that in fact it is none other than Man in the concrete. Here the character of a whole people is bound up with the theological view just indicated. The Mongols – a race extending through the whole of central Asia as far as Siberia, where they are subject to the Russians – worship the Lama; and with this form of worship a simple political condition, a patriarchal life is closely united; for they are properly a Nomad people, and only occasionally are commotions excited among them, when they seem to be beside themselves, and eruptions and inundations of vast hordes are occasioned. Of the Lamas there are three: the best known is the Dalai-Lama, who has his seat at Lassa in the kingdom of Thibet. A second is the Teshoo-Lama, who under the title of Bantshen Rinbot-shee resides at Teshoo-Lomboo; there is also a third in Southern Siberia. The first two Lamas preside over two distinct sects, of which the priests of one wear yellow caps, those of the other, red. The wearers of the yellow caps – at whose head is the Dalai-Lama, and among whose adherents is the Emperor of China – have introduced celibacy among the priests, while the red sect allow their marriage. The English have become considerably acquainted with the Teshoo-Lama and have given us descriptions of him.
The general form which the spirit of the Lamaistic development of Buddhism assumes, is that of a living human being; while in the original Buddhism it is a deceased person. The two hold in common the relationship to a man. The idea of a man being worshipped as God – especially a living man – has in it something paradoxical and revolting; but the following considerations must be examined before we pronounce judgment respecting it. The conception of Spirit involves its being regarded as inherently, intrinsically, universal. This condition must be particularly observed, and it must be discovered how in the systems adopted by various peoples this universality is kept in view. It is not the individuality of the subject that is revered, but that which is universal in him; and which among the Thibetans, Hindoos, and Asiatics generally, is regarded as the essence pervading all things. This substantial Unity of Spirit is realized in the Lama, who is nothing but the form in which Spirit manifests itself; and who does not hold this Spiritual Essence as his peculiar property, but is regarded as partaking in it only in order to exhibit it to others, that they may attain a conception of Spirituality and be led to piety and blessedness. The Lama’s personality as such – his particular individuality – is therefore subordinate to that substantial essence which it embodies. The second point which constitutes an essential feature in the conception of the Lama is the disconnection from Nature. The Imperial dignity of China involved [as we saw] a supremacy over the powers of Nature; while here spiritual power is directly separated from the vis Natures. The idea never crosses the minds of the Lama-worshippers to desire of the Lama to show himself Lord of Nature – to exercise magical and miraculous power; for from the being they call God, they look only for spiritual activity and the bestowal of spiritual benefits. Buddha has moreover the express names “Saviour of Souls” – “Sea of Virtue” – “ the Great Teacher.” Those who have become acquainted with the Teshoo-Lama depict him as a most excellent person, of the calmest temper and most devoted to meditation. Thus also do the Lama-worshippers regard him. They see in him a man constantly occupied with religion, and who when he directs his attention to what is human, does so only to impart consolation and encouragement by his blessing, and by the exercise of mercy and the bestowal of forgiveness. These Lamas lead a thoroughly isolated life and have a feminine rather than masculine training. Early torn from the arms of his parents the Lama is generally a well- formed and beautiful child. He is brought up amid perfect quiet and solitude, in a kind of prison: he is well catered for, and remains without exercise or childish play, so that it is not surprising that a feminine susceptible tendency prevails in his character. The Grand Lamas have under them inferior Lamas as presidents of the great fraternities. In Thibet every father who has four sons is obliged to dedicate one to a conventual life. The Mongols, who are especially devoted to Lamaism – this modification of Buddhism – have great respect for all that possesses life. They live chiefly on vegetables, and revolt from killing any animal, even a louse. This worship of the Lamas has supplanted Shamanism, that is, the religion of Sorcery. The Shamans – priests of this religion – intoxicate themselves with strong drinks and dancing, and while in this state perform their incantations, fall exhausted on the ground, and utter words which pass for oracular. Since Buddhism and Lamaism have taken the place of the Shaman Religion, the life of the Mongols has been simple, prescriptive and patriarchal. Where they take any part in History, we find them occasioning impulses that have only been the groundwork of historical development. Thera is therefore little to be said about the political administration of the Lamas. A Vizier has charge of the secular dominion and reports everything to the Lama: the government is simple and lenient; and the veneration which the Mongols pay to the Lama, expresses itself chiefly in their asking counsel of him in political affairs.
Asia separates itself into two parts – Hither and Farther Asia; which are essentially different from each other. While the Chinese and Hindoos – the two great nations of Farther Asia, already considered – belong to the strictly Asiatic, namely the Mongolian Race, and consequently possess a quite peculiar character, discrepant from ours; the nations of Hither Asia belong to the Caucasian, i.e. the European Stock. They are related to the West, while the Farther- Asiatic peoples are perfectly isolated. The European who goes from Persia to India, observes, therefore, a prodigious contrast. Whereas in the former country he finds himself still somewhat at home, and meets with European dispositions, human virtues and human passions – as soon as he crosses the Indus (i.e., in the latter region), he encounters the most repellent characteristics, pervading every single feature of society.
With the Persian Empire we first enter on continuous History. The Persians are the first Historical People; Persia was the first Empire that passed away. While China and India remain stationary, and perpetuate a natural vegetative existence even to the present time, this land has been subject to those developments and revolutions, which alone manifest a historical condition. The Chinese and the Indian Empire assert a place in the historical series only on their own account and for us (not for neighbors and successors). But here in Persia first arises that light which shines itself, and illuminates what is around; for Zoroaster’s “Light” belongs to the World of Consciousness – to Spirit as a relation to something distinct from itself. We see in the Persian World a pure exalted Unity, as the essence which leaves the special existences that inhere in it, free; – as the Light, which only manifests what bodies are in themselves; – a Unity which governs individuals only to excite them to become powerful for themselves – to develop and assert their individuality. Light makes no distinctions: the Sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous, on high and low, and confers on all the same benefit and prosperity. Light is vitalizing only in so far as it is brought to bear on something distinct from itself, operating upon and developing that. It holds a position of antithesis to Darkness, and this antithetical relation opens out to us the principle of activity and life. The principle of development begins with the history of Persia. This therefore constitutes strictly the beginning of World-History; for the grand interest of Spirit in History, is to attain an unlimited immanence of subjectivity – by an absolute antithesis to attain complete harmony.
Thus the transition which we have to make, is only in the sphere of the Idea, not in the external historical connection. The principle of this transition is that the Universal Essence, which we recognized in Brahm, now becomes perceptible to consciousness – becomes an object and acquires a positive import for man. Brahm is not worshipped by the Hindoos: he is nothing more than a condition of the Individual, a religious feeling, a non-objective existence – a relation, which for concrete vitality is that of annihilation. But in becoming objective, this Universal Essence acquires a positive nature: man becomes free, and thus occupies a position face to face as it were with the Highest Being, the latter being made objective for him. This form of Universality we see exhibited in Persia, involving a separation of man from the Universal essence; while at the same time the individual recognizes himself as identical with [a partaker in], that essence. In the Chinese and Indian principle, this distinction was not made. We found only a unit of the Spiritual and the Natural. But Spirit still involved in Nature has to solve the problem of freeing itself from the latter. Rights and Duties in India are intimately connected with special classes, and are therefore only peculiarities attaching to man by the arrangement of Nature. In China this unity presents itself under the conditions of paternal government. Man is not free there; he possesses no moral element, since he is identical with the external command [obedience is purely natural, as in the filial relation – not the result of reflection and principle]. In the Persian principle, Unity first elevates itself to the distinction from the merely natural; we have the negation of that unreflecting relation which allowed no exercise of mind to intervene between the mandate and its adoption by the will. In the Persian principle this unity is manifested as Light, which in this case is not simply light as such, the most universal physical element, but at the same time also spiritual purity – the Good. Speciality – the involvement with limited Nature – is consequently abolished. Light, in a physical and spiritual sense, imports, therefore, elevation – freedom from the merely natural. Man sustains a relation to Light – to the Abstract Good – as to something objective, which is acknowledged, reverenced, and evoked to activity by his Will. If we look back once more – and we cannot do so too frequently – on the phases which we have traversed in arriving at this point, we perceive in China the totality of a moral Whole, but excluding subjectivity; – this totality divided into members, but without independence in its various portions. We found only an external arrangement of this political Unity. In India, on the contrary, distinctions made themselves prominent; but the principle of separation was unspiritual. We found incipient subjectivity, but hampered with the condition, that the separation in question is insurmountable; and that Spirit remains involved in the limitations of Nature, and is therefore a self-contradiction. Above this purity of Castes is that purity of Light which we observe in Persia; that Abstract Good, to which all are equally able to approach, and in which all equally may be hallowed. The Unity recognized therefore, now first becomes a principle, not an external bond of soulless order. The fact that everyone has a share in that principle, secures to him personal dignity.
First as to Geographical position, we see China and India, exhibiting as it were the dull half- conscious brooding of Spirit, in fruitful plains – distinct from which is the lofty girdle of mountains with the wandering hordes that occupy them. The inhabitants of the heights, in their conquest, did not change the spirit of the plains, but imbibed it themselves. But in Persia the two principles – retaining their diversity – became united, and the mountain peoples with their principle became the predominant element. The two chief divisions which we have to mention are: – the Persian Upland itself, and the Valley Plains, which are reduced under the dominion of the inhabitants of the Uplands. That elevated territory is bounded on the east by the Soliman mountains, which are continued in a northerly direction by the Hindoo Koosh and Belur Tag. The latter separate the anterior region – Bactriana and Sogdiana, occupying the plains of the Oxus – from the Chinese Upland, which extends as far as Cashgar. That plain of the Oxus itself lies to the north of the Persian Upland, which declines on the south towards the Persian Gulf. This is the geographical position of Iran. On its western declivity lies Persia (Farsistan); higher to the north, Kourdistan – beyond this Armenia. Thence extend in a southwesterly direction the river districts of the Tigris and the Euphrates. – The elements of the Persian Empire are the Zend race – the old Parsees; next the Assyrian, Median and Babylonian Empire in the region mentioned; but the Persian Empire also includes Asia Minor, Egypt, and Syria, with its line of coast; and thus combines the Upland, the Valley Plains and the Coast region.
The Zend People derived their name from the language in which the Zend Books are written, i.e., the canonical books on which the religion of the ancient Parsees is founded. Of this religion of the Parsees or Fire-worshippers, there are still traces extant. There is a colony of them in Bombay; and on the Caspian Sea there are some scattered families that have retained this form of worship. Their national existence was put an end to by the Mahometans. The great Zerdusht – called Zoroaster by the Greeks – wrote his religious books in the Zend language. Until nearly the last third of the eighteenth century, this language and all the writings composed in it, were entirely unknown to Europeans; when at length the celebrated Frenchman, Anquetil- Duperron, disclosed to us these rich treasures. Filled with an enthusiasm for the Oriental World, which his poverty did not allow him to gratify, he enlisted in a French corps that was about to sail for India. He thus reached Bombay, where he met with the Parsees, and entered on the study of their religious ideas. With indescribable difficulty he succeeded in obtaining their religious books; making his way into their literature, and thus opening an entirely new and wide field of research, but which, owing to his imperfect acquaintance with the language, still awaits thorough investigation.
Where the Zend people, mentioned in the religious books of Zoroaster, lived, is difficult to determine. In Media and Persia the religion of Zoroaster prevailed, and Xenophon relates that Cyrus adopted it: but none of these countries was the proper habitat of the Zend people. Zoroaster himself calls it the pure Aryan: we find a similar name in Herodotus, for he says that the Medes were formerly called Arii – a name with which the designation Iran is connected. South of the Oxus runs a mountain chain in the ancient Bactriana – with which the elevated plains commence, that were inhabited by the Medes, the Parthians, and the Hyrcanians. In the district watered by the Oxus at the commencement of its course, Bactra – probably the modern Balk – is said to have been situated; from which Cabul and Cashmere are distant only about eight days’ journey. Here in Bactriana appears to have been the seat of the Zend people. In the time of Cyrus we find the pure and original faith, and the ancient political and social relations such as they are described in the Zend books, no longer perfect. Thus much appears certain, that the Zend language, which is connected with the Sanscrit, was the language of the Persians, Medes, and Bactrians. The laws and institutions of the people bear an evident stamp of great simplicity. Four classes are mentioned : Priests, Warriors, Agriculturists, and Craftsmen. Trade only is not noticed; from which it would appear that the people still remained in an isolated condition. Governors of Districts, Towns, and Roads, are mentioned; so that all points to the social phase of society – the political not being yet developed; and nothing indicates a connection with other states. It is essential to note, that we find here no Castes, but only Classes, and that there are no restrictions on marriage between these different Classes; though the Zend writings announce civil laws and penalties, together with religious enactments.
The chief point – that which especially concerns us here – is the doctrine of Zoroaster. In contrast with the wretched hebetude of Spirit which we find among the Hindoos, a pure ether – an exhalation of Spirit – meets us in the Persian conception. In it, Spirit emerges from that substantial Unity of Nature, that substantial destitution of import, in which a separation has not yet taken place – in which Spirit has not yet an independent existence in contraposition to its object. This people, namely, attained to the consciousness, that absolute Truth must have the form of Universality – of Unity. This Universal, Eternal, Infinite Essence is not recognized at first, as conditioned in any way; it is Unlimited Identity. This is properly (and we have already frequently repeated it) also the character of Brahm. But this Universal Being became objective, and their Spirit became the consciousness of this its Essence; while on the contrary among the Hindoos this objectivity is only the natural one of the Brahmins, and is recognized as pure Universality only in the destruction of consciousness. Among the Persians this negative assertion has become a positive one; and man has a relation to Universal Being of such a kind that he remains positive in sustaining it. This One, Universal Being, is indeed not yet recognized as the free Unity of Thought; not yet “worshipped in Spirit and in Truth”; but is still clothed with a form – that of Light. But Light is not a Lama, a Brahmin, a Mountain, a brute – this or that particular existence – but sensuous Universality itself; simple manifestation. The Persian Religion is therefore no idol-worship ; it does not adore individual natural objects, but the Universal itself. Light admits, moreover, the signification of the Spiritual; it is the form of the Good and True – the substantiality of knowledge and volition as well as of all natural things. Light puts man in a position to be able to exercise choice; and he can only choose when he has emerged from that which had absorbed him. But Light directly involves an Opposite, namely, Darkness; just as Evil is the antithesis of Good. As man could not appreciate Good, if Evil were not; and as he can be really good only when he has become acquainted with the contrary, so the Light does not exist without Darkness. Among the Persians, Ormuzd and Ahriman present the antithesis in question. Ormuzd is the Lord of the kingdom of Light – of Good; Ahriman that of Darkness – of Evil. But there is a still higher being from whom both proceeded – a Universal Being not affected by this antithesis, called Zeruane-Akerene – the Unlimited All. The All, i.e., is something abstract; it does not exist for itself, and Ormuzd and Ahriman have arisen from it. This Dualism is commonly brought as a reproach against Oriental thought; and, as far as the contradiction is regarded as absolute, that is certainly an irreligious understanding which remains satisfied with it. But the very nature of Spirit demands antithesis; the principle of Dualism belongs therefore to the idea of Spirit, which, in its concrete form, essentially involves distinction. Among the Persians, Purity and Impurity have both become subjects of consciousness; and Spirit, in order to comprehend itself, must of necessity place the Special and Negative existence in contrast with the Universal and Positive. Only by overcoming this antithesis is Spirit twice-born – regenerated. The deficiency in the Persian principle is only that the Unity of the antithesis is not completely recognized; for in that indefinite conception of the Uncreated All, whence Ormuzd and Ahriman proceeded, the Unity is only the absolutely Primal existence, and does not reduce the contradictory elements to harmony in itself. Ormuzd creates of his own free will; but also according to the decree of Zeruane-Akerene (the representation wavers) ; and the harmonizing of the contradiction is only to be found in the contest which Ormuzd carries on with Ahriman, and in which he will at last conquer. Ormuzd is the Lord of Light, and he creates all that is beautiful and noble in the World, which is a Kingdom of the Sun. He is the excellent, the good, the positive in all natural and spiritual existence. Light is the body of Ormusd; thence the worship of Fire, because Ormuzd is present in all Light; but he is not the Sun or Moon itself. In these the Persians venerate only the Light, which is Ormuzd. Zoroaster asks Ormuzd who he is? He answers: “My Name is the ground and centre of all existence – Highest Wisdom and Science – Destroyer of the Ills of the World, and maintainer of the Universe – Fulness of Blessedness – Pure Will,” etc. That which comes from Ormuzd is living, independent, and lasting. Language testifies to his power; prayers are his productions. Darkness is on the contrary the body of Ahriman; but a perpetual fire banishes him from the temples. The chief end of every man’s existence is to keep himself pure, and to spread this purity around him. The precepts that have this in view are very diffuse; the moral requirements are however characterized by mildness. It is said: if a man loads you with revilings, and insults, but subsequently humbles himself, call him your friend. We read in the Vendidad, that sacrifices consist chiefly of the flesh of clean animals, flowers and fruits, milk and perfumes. It is said there, “As man was created pure and worthy of Heaven, he becomes pure again through the law of the servants of Ormuzd, which is purity itself; if he purifies himself by sanctity of thought, word, and deed. What is ‘Pure Thought’? That which ascends to the beginning of things. What is ‘ Pure Word ‘? The Word of Ormuzd (the Word is thus personified and imports the living Spirit of the whole revelation of Ormuzd). What is ‘Pure Deed’? The humble adoration of the Heavenly Hosts, created at the beginning of things.” It is implied in this that man should be virtuous: his own will, his subjective freedom is presupposed. Ormuzd is not limited to particular forms of existence. Sun, Moon, and five other stars, which seem to indicate the planets – those illuminating and illuminated bodies – are the primary symbols of Ormuzd; the Ainshaspand, his first sons. Among these, Mitra is also named: but we are at a loss to fix upon the star which this name denotes, as we are also in reference to the others. The Mitra is placed in the Zend Books among the other stars; yet in the penal code moral transgressions are called “Mitrasins” – e.g., breach of promise, entailing 300 lashes; to which in the case of theft, 300 years of punishment in Hell are to be added. Mitra appears here as the presiding genius of man’s inward higher life. Later on, great importance is assigned to Mitra as the mediator between Ormuzd and men. Even Herodotus mentions the adoration of Mitra. In Rome, at a later date, it became very prevalent as a secret worship; and we find traces of it even far into the middle ages. Besides those noticed there are other protecting genii, which rank under the Amshaspand, their superiors; and are the governors and preservers of the world. The council of the seven great men whom the Persian Monarch had about him was likewise instituted in imitation of the court of Ormuzd. The Fervers – a kind of Spirit-World – are distinguished from the creatures of the mundane sphere. The Fervers are not Spirits according to our idea, for they exist in every natural object, whether fire, water, or earth. Their existence is coeval with the origin of things; they are in all places, in highroads, towns, etc., and are prepared to give help to supplicants. Their abode is in Gorodman, the dwelling of the “Blessed,” above the solid vault of heaven. As Son of Ormuzd we find the name Dshemshid: apparently the same as he whom the Greeks call Achsemenes, whose descendants are called Pishdadians – a race to which Cyrus was reported to belong. Even at a later period the Persians seem to have had the designation Achaemenians among the Romans. (Horace, Odes III. i. 44.) Dshemshid, it is said, pierced the earth with a golden dagger; which means nothing more than that he introduced agriculture. He is said then to have traversed the various countries, originated springs and rivers, and thereby fertilized certain tracts of land, and made the valleys teem with living beings, etc. In the Zendavesta, the name Gustasp is also frequently mentioned, which many recent investigators have been inclined to connect with Darius Hystaspes; an idea however that cannot be entertained for a moment, for this Gustasp doubtless belongs to the ancient Zend Race – to a period therefore antecedent to Cyrus. Mention is made in the Zend books of the Turanians also, i.e., the Nomade tribes of the north; though nothing historical can be thence deduced.
The ritual observances of the religion of Ormuzd import that men should conduct themselves in harmony with the Kingdom of Light. The great general commandment is therefore, as already said, spiritual and corporeal purity, consisting in many prayers to Ormuzd. It was made specially obligatory upon the Persians, to maintain living existences – to plant trees – to dig wells – to fertilize deserts; in order that Life, the Positive, the Pure might be furthered, and the dominion of Ormuzd be universally extended. External purity is contravened by touching a dead animal, and there are many directions for being purified from such pollution. Herodotus relates of Cyrus, that when he went against Babylon, and the river Gyndes engulfed one of the horses of the Chariot of the Sun, he was occupied for a year in punishing it, by diverting its stream into small canals, to deprive it of its power. Thus Xerxes, when the sea broke in pieces his bridges, had chains laid upon it as the wicked and pernicious being – Ahriman.
As the Zend Race was the higher spiritual element of the Persian Empire, so in Assyria and Babylonia we have the element of external wealth, luxury and commerce. Traditions respecting them ascend to the remotest periods of History; but in themselves they are obscure, and partly contradictory; and this contradiction is the less easy to be cleared up, as they have no canonical books or indigenous works. The Greek historian Ctesias is said to have had direct access to the archives of the Persian Kings; yet we have only a few fragments remaining. Herodotus gives us much information; the accounts in the Bible are also valuable and remarkable in the highest degree, for the Hebrews were immediately connected with the Babylonians. In regard to the Persians, special mention must be made of the Epic, “Shah-nameh,” by Ferdusi – a heroic poem in 60,000 strophes, from which Gorres has given a copious extract. Ferdusi lived at the beginning of the eleventh century A.D. at the court of Mahmoud the Great, at Ghasna, east of Cabul and Candahar. The celebrated Epic just mentioned has the old heroic traditions of Iran (that is of West Persia proper) for its subject; but it has not the value of a historical authority, since its contents are poetical and its author a Mahometan. The contest of Iran and Turan is described in this heroic poem. Iran is Persia Proper – the Mountain Land on the south of the Oxus; Turan denotes the plains of the Oxus and those lying between it and the ancient Jaxartes. A hero, Rustan, plays the principal part in the poem; but its narrations are either altogether fabulous, or quite distorted. Mention is made of Alexander, and he is called Ishkander or Skander of Roum. Roum means the Turkish Empire (even now one of its provinces is called Roumelia), but it denotes also the Roman; and in the poem Alexander’s Empire has equally the appellation Roum. Confusions of this kind are quite of a piece with the Mahometan views. It is related in the poem, that the King of Iran made war on Philip, and that this latter was beaten. The King then demanded Philip’s daughter as a wife; but after he had lived a long time with her, he sent her away because her breath was disagreeable. On returning to her father, she gave birth to a son – Skander, who hastened to Iran to take possession of the throne after the death of his father. Add to the above that in the whole of the poem no personage or narrative occurs that can be connected with Cyrus, and we have sufficient data for estimating its historical value. It has a value for us, however, so far as Ferdusi therein exhibits the spirit of his time, and the character and interest of Modern Persian views.
As regards Assyria, we must observe, that it is a rather indeterminate designation. Assyria Proper is a part of Mesopotamia, to the north of Babylon. As chief towns of this Empire are mentioned, Atur or Assur on the Tigris, and of later origin Nineveh, said to have been founded and built by Ninus, the Founder of the Assyrian Empire. In those times one City constituted the whole Empire – Nineveh for example: so also Ecbatana in Media, which is said to have had seven walls, between whose inclosures agriculture was carried on; and within whose innermost wall was the palace of the ruler. Thus too, Nineveh, according to Diodorus, was 480 Stadia (about 12 German miles – 55 English) in circumference. On the walls, which were 100 feet high, were fifteen hundred towers, within which a vast mass of people resided. Babylon included an equally immense population. These cities arose in consequence of a twofold necessity – on the one hand that of giving up the nomad life and pursuing agriculture, handicrafts and trade in a fixed abode; and on the other hand of gaining protection against the roving mountain peoples, and the predatory Arabs. Older traditions indicate that this entire valley district was traversed by Nomads, and that this mode of life gave way before that of the cities. Thus Abraham wandered forth with his family from Mesopotamia westwards, into mountainous Palestine. Even at this day the country round Bagdad is thus infested by roving Nomads. Nineveh is said to have been built 2050 years before Christ; consequently the founding of the Assyrian Kingdom is of no later date. Ninus reduced under his sway also Babylonia, Media and Bactriana; the conquest of which latter country is particularly extolled as having displayed the greatest energy; for Ctesias reckons the number of troops that accompanied Ninus, at 1,700,000 infantry and a proportionate number of cavalry. Bactra was besieged for a very considerable time, and its conquest is ascribed to Semiramis; who with a valiant host is said to have ascended the steep acclivity of a mountain. The personality of Semiramis wavers between mythological and historical representations. To her is ascribed the building of the Tower of Babel, respecting which we have in the Bible one of the oldest of traditions. – Babylon lay to the south, on the Euphrates, in a plain of great fertility and well adapted for agriculture. On the Euphrates and the Tigris there was considerable navigation. Vessels came partly from Armenia, partly from the South, to Babylon, and conveyed thither an immense amount of material wealth. The land round Babylon was intersected by innumerable canals; more for purposes of agriculture – to irrigate the soil and to obviate inundations – than for navigation. The magnificent buildings of Semiramis in Babylon itself are celebrated; though how much of the city is to be ascribed to the more ancient period, is undetermined and uncertain. It is said that Babylon formed a square, bisected by the Euphrates. On one side of the stream was the temple of Bel, on the other the great palaces of the monarchs. The city is reputed to have had a hundred brazen (i.e. copper) gates, its walls being a hundred feet high, and thick in proportion, defended by two hundred and fifty towers. The thoroughfares in the city which led towards the river were closed every night by brazen doors. Ker Porter, an Englishman, about twelve years ago (his whole tour occupied from 1817 to 1820) traversed the countries where ancient Babylon lay: on an elevation he thought he could discover remains still existing of the old tower of Babel; and supposed that he had found traces of the numerous roads that wound around the tower, and in whose loftiest story the image of Bel was set up. There are besides many hills with remains of ancient structures. The bricks correspond with the description in the Biblical record of the building of the tower. A vast plain is covered by an innumerable multitude of such bricks, although for many thousand years the practice of removing them has been continued ; and the entire town of Hila, which lies in the vicinity of the ancient Babylon, has been built with them. Herodotus relates some remarkable facts in the customs of the Babylonians, which appear to show that they were people living peaceably and neighborly with each other. When anyone in Babylon fell ill, he was brought to some open place, that every passerby might have the opportunity of giving him his advice. Marriageable daughters were disposed of by auction, and the high price offered for a belle was allotted as a dowry for her plainer neighbor. Such an arrangement was not deemed inconsistent with the obligation under which every woman lay of prostituting herself once in her life in the temple of Mylitta. It is difficult to discover what connection this had with their religious ideas. This excepted, according to Herodotus’s account, immorality invaded Babylon only at a later period, when the people became poorer. The fact that the fairer portion of the sex furnished dowries for their less attractive sisters, seems to confirm his testimony so far as it shows a provident care for all; while that bringing of the sick into the public places indicates a certain neighborly feeling. We must here mention the Medes also. They were, like the Persians, a mountain-people, whose habitations were south and southwest of the Caspian Sea and stretched as far as Armenia. Among these Medes the Magi are also noticed as one of the six tribes that formed the Median people, whose chief characteristics were fierceness, barbarism, and warlike courage. The capital Ecbatana was built by Dejoces, not earlier. He is said to have united under his kingly rule the tribes of the Medes; after they had made themselves free a second time from Assyrian supremacy, and to have induced them to build and to fortify for him a palace befitting his dignity. As to the religion of the Medes, the Greeks call all the oriental Priests, Magi, which is therefore a perfectly indefinite name. But all the data point to the fact that among the Magi we may look for a comparatively close connection with the Zend religion; but that, although the Magi preserved and extended it, it experienced great modifications in transmission to the various peoples who adopted it. Xenophon says, that Cyrus was the first that sacrificed to God according to the fashion of the Magi. The Medes therefore acted as a medium for propagating the Zend Religion.
The Assyrian-Babylonian Empire, which held so many peoples in subjection, is said to have existed for one thousand or fifteen hundred years. The last ruler was Sardanapaltis – a great voluptuary, according to the descriptions we have of him. Arbaces, the Satrap of Media, excited the other satraps against him; and in combination with them, led the troops which assembled every year at Nineveh to pay the tribute, against Sardanapalus. The latter, although he had gained many victories, was at last compelled to yield before overwhelming force, and to shut himself up in Nineveh; and, when he could not longer offer resistance, to burn himself there with all his treasure. According to some chronologists, this took place 888 years B.C. ; according to others, at the end of the seventh century. After this catastrophe the empire was entirely broken up: it was divided into an Assyrian, a Median, and a Babylonian Empire, to which also belonged the Chaldeans – a mountain people from the north which had united with the Babylonians. These several Empires had in their turn various fortunes; though here we meet with a confusion in the accounts which has never been cleared up. Within this period of their existence begins their connection with the Jews and Egyptians. The Jewish people succumbed to superior force; the Jews were carried captive to Babylon, and from them we have accurate information respecting the condition of this Empire. According to Daniel’s statements there existed in Babylon a carefully appointed organization for government business. He speaks of Magians – from whom the expounders of sacred writings, the soothsayers, astrologers, Wise Men and Chaldeans who interpreted dreams, are distinguished. The Prophets generally say much of the great commerce of Babylon; but they also draw a terrible picture of the prevailing depravity of manners.
The real culmination of the Persian Empire is to be looked for in connection with the Persian people properly so called, which, embracing in its rule all Anterior Asia, came into contact with the Greeks. The Persians are found in extremely close and early connection with the Medes; and the transmission of the sovereignty to the Persians makes no essential difference ; for Cyrus was himself a relation of the Median King, and the names of Persia and Media melt into one. At the head of the Persians and Medes, Cyrus made war upon Lydia and its king Croesus. Herodotus relates that there had been wars before that time between Lydia and Media, but which had been settled by the intervention of the King of Babylon. We recognize here a system of States, consisting of Lydia, Media, and Babylon. The latter had become predominant and had extended its dominion to the Mediterranean Sea. Lydia stretched eastward as far as the Halys; and the border of the western coast of Asia Minor, the fair Greek colonies, were subject to it; a high degree of culture was thus already present in the Lydian Empire. Art and poetry were blooming there as cultivated by the Greeks. These colonies also were subjected to Persia. Wise men, such as Bias, and still earlier, Thales, advised them to unite themselves in a firm league, or to quit their cities and possessions, and to seek out for themselves other habitations; (Bias meant Sardinia). But such a union could not be realized among cities which were animated by the bitterest jealousy of each other, and who lived in continual quarrel: while in the intoxication of affluence they were not capable of forming the heroic resolve to leave their homes for the sake of freedom. Only when they were on the very point of being subjugated by the Persians, did some cities give up certain for prospective possessions, in their aspiration after the highest good – Liberty. Herodotus says of the war against the Lydians, that it made the Persians who were previously poor and barbarous, acquainted for the first time with the luxuries of life and civilization. After the Lydian conquest Cyrus subjugated Babylon. With it he came into possession of Syria and Palestine; freed the Jews from captivity, and allowed them to rebuild their temple. Lastly, he led an expedition against the Massagetae; engaged with them in the steppes between the Oxus and the Jaxartes, but sustained a defeat, and died the death of a warrior and conqueror. The death of heroes who have formed an epoch in the History of the World, is stamped with the character of their mission. Cyrus thus died in his mission, which was the union of Anterior Asia into one sovereignty without an ulterior object.
The Persian Empire is an Empire in the modern sense – like that which existed in Germany, and the great imperial realm under the sway of Napoleon; for we find it consisting of a number of states, which are indeed dependent, but which have retained their own individuality, their manners, and laws. The general enactments, binding upon all, did not infringe upon their political and social idiosyncrasies, but even protected and maintained them; so that each of the nations that constitute the whole, had its own form of Constitution. As Light illuminates everything – imparting to each object a peculiar vitality – so the Persian Empire extends over a multitude of nations, and leaves to each one its particular character. Some have even kings of their own; each one its distinct language, arms, way of life, and customs. All this diversity coexists harmoniously under the impartial dominion of Light. The Persian Empire comprehends all the three geographical elements, which we classified as distinct. First, the Uplands of Persia and Media; next, the Valley-plains of the Euphrates and Tigris, whose inhabitants are found united in a developed form of civilization, with Egypt – the Valley-plain of the Nile – where agriculture, industrial arts and sciences flourished; and lastly a third element, viz. the nations who encounter the perils of the sea – the Syrians, the Phoenicians, the inhabitants of the Greek colonies and Greek Maritime States in Asia Minor. Persia thus united in itself the three natural principles, while China and India remained foreign to the sea. We find here neither that consolidated totality which China presents, nor that Hindoo life, in which an anarchy of caprice is prevalent everywhere. In Persia, the government, though joining all in a central unity, is but a combination of peoples – leaving each of them free. Thereby a stop is put to that barbarism and ferocity with which the nations had been wont to carry on their destructive feuds, and which the Book of Kings and the Book of Samuel sufficiently attest. The lamentations of the Prophets and their imprecations upon the state of things before the conquest, show the misery, wickedness and disorder that prevailed among them, and the happiness which Cyrus diffused over the region of Anterior Asia. It was not given to the Asiatics to unite self-dependence, freedom and substantial vigor of mind, with culture, i.e., an interest for diverse pursuits and an acquaintance with the conveniences of life. Military valor among them is consistent only with barbarity of manners. It is not the calm courage of order; and when their mind opens to a sympathy with various interests, it immediately passes into effeminacy; allows its energies to sink, and makes men the slaves of an enervated sensuality.
The Persians – a free mountain and nomad people – though ruling over richer, more civilized and fertile lands – retained on the whole the fundamental characteristics of their ancient mode of life. They stood with one foot on their ancestral territory, with the other on their foreign conquests. In his ancestral land the King was a friend among friends, and as if surrounded by equals. Outside of it, he was the lord to whom all were subject, and bound to acknowledge their dependence by the payment of tribute. Faithful to the Zend religion, the Persians give themselves to the pursuit of piety and the pure worship of Ormuzd. The tombs of the Kings were in Persia Proper; and there the King sometimes visited his countrymen, with whom he lived in relations of the greatest simplicity. He brought with him presents for them, while all other nations were obliged to make presents to him. At the court of the monarch there was a division of Persian cavalry which constituted the elite of the whole army, ate at a common table, and were subject to a most perfect discipline in every respect. They made themselves illustrious by their bravery, and even the Greeks awarded a tribute of respect to their valor in the Median wars. When the entire Persian host, to which this division belonged, was to engage in an expedition, a summons was first issued to all the Asiatic populations. When the warriors were assembled, the expedition was undertaken with that character of restlessness, that nomadic disposition which formed the idiosyncrasy of the Persians. Thus they invaded Egypt, Scythia, Thrace, and at last Greece; where their vast power was destined to be shattered. A march of this kind looked almost like an emigration: their families accompanied them.
Each people exhibited its national features and warlike accoutrements, and poured forth en masse. Each had its own order of march and mode of warfare. Herodotus sketches for us a brilliant picture of this variety of aspect as it presented itself in the vast march of nations under Xerxes (two millions of human beings are said to have accompanied him). Yet, as these peoples were so unequally disciplined – so diverse in strength and bravery – it is easy to understand how the small but well-trained armies of the Greeks, animated by the same spirit, and under matchless leadership, could withstand those innumerable but disorderly hosts of the Persians. The provinces had to provide for the support of the Persian cavalry, which were quartered in the centre of the kingdom. Babylon had to contribute the third part of the supplies in question, and consequently appears to have been by far the richest district. As regards other branches of revenue, each people was obliged to supply the choicest of the peculiar produce which the district afforded. Thus Arabia gave frankincense, Syria purple, etc.
The education of the princes – but especially that of the heir to the throne – was conducted with extreme care. Till their seventh year the sons of the King remained among the women, and did not come into the royal presence. From their seventh year forward they were instructed in hunting, riding, shooting with the bow, and also in speaking the truth. There is one statement to the effect that the prince received instruction in the Magian lore of Zoroaster. Four of the noblest Persians conducted the prince’s education. The magnates of the land, at large, constituted a kind of Diet. Among them Magi were also found. They are depicted as free men, animated by a noble fidelity and patriotism. Of such character seem the seven nobles – the counterpart of the Amshaspand who stand around Ormuzd – when after the unmasking of the false Smerdis, who on the death of King Cambyses gave himself out as his brother, they assembled to deliberate on the most desirable form of government. Quite free from passion, and without exhibiting any ambition, they agree that monarchy is the only form of government adapted to the Persian Empire. The Sun, and the horse which first salutes them with a neigh, decide the succession in favor of Darius. The magnitude of the Persian dominion occasioned the government of the provinces by viceroys – Satraps; and these often acted very arbitrarily to the provinces subjected to their rule, and displayed hatred and envy towards each other; a source of much evil. These satraps were only superior presidents of the provinces, and generally left the subject kings of the countries in possession of regal privileges. All the land and all the water belonged to the Great King of the Persians. “Land and Water” were the demands of Darius Hystaspes and Xerxes from the Greeks. But the King was only the abstract sovereign: the enjoyment of the country remained to the nations themselves; whose obligations were comprised in the maintenance of the court and the satraps, and the contribution of the choicest part of their property. Uniform taxes first make their appearance under the government of Darius Hystaspes. On the occasion of a royal progress the districts of the empire visited had to give presents to the King; and from the amount of these gifts we may infer the wealth of the unexhausted provinces. Thus the dominion of the Persians was by no means oppressive, either in secular or religious respects. The Persians, according to Herodotus, had no idols – in fact ridiculed anthropomorphic representations of the gods; but they tolerated every religion, although there may be found expressions of wrath against idolatry. Greek temples were destroyed, and the images of the gods broken in pieces.
One element – the coast territory – which also belonged to the Persian Empire, is especially represented by Syria. It was peculiarly important to the Persian Empire; for when Continental Persia set out on one of its great expeditions, it was accompanied by Phoenician as well as by Greek navies. The Phoenician coast is but a very narrow border – often only two leagues broad – which has the high mountains of Lebanon on the East. On the seacoast lay a series of noble and rich cities, as Tyre, Sidon, Byblus, Berytus, carrying on great trade and commerce; which last, however, was too isolated and confined to that particular country, to allow it to affect the whole Persian state. Their commerce lay chiefly in the direction of the Mediterranean sea, and it reached thence far into the West. Through its intercourse with so many nations, Syria soon attained a high degree of culture. There the most beautiful fabrications in metals and precious stones were prepared, and there the most important discoveries, e.g., of Glass and of Purple, were made. Written language there received its first development, for in their intercourse with various nations the need of it was soon felt. (So, to quote another example, Lord Macartney observes that in Canton itself, the Chinese had felt and expressed the need of a more pliable written language.) The Phoenicians discovered and first navigated the Atlantic Ocean. They had settlements in Cyprus and Crete. In the remote island of Thasos, they worked gold mines. In the south and southwest of Spain they opened silver mines. In Africa they founded the colonies of Utica and Carthage. From Gades they sailed far down the African coast, and according to some, even circumnavigated Africa. From Britain they brought tin, and from the Baltic, Prussian amber. This opens to us an entirely new principle. Inactivity ceases, as also mere rude valor; in their place appears the activity of Industry, and that considerate courage which, while it dares the perils of the deep, rationally bethinks itself of the means of safety. Here everything depends on Man’s activity, his courage, his intelligence; while the objects aimed at are also pursued in the interest of Man. Human will and activity here occupy the foreground, not Nature and its bounty. Babylonia had its determinate share of territory, and human subsistence was there dependent on the course of the sun and the process of Nature generally. But the sailor relies upon himself amid the fluctuations of the waves, and eye and heart must be always open. In like manner the principle of Industry involves the very opposite of what is received from Nature; for natural objects are worked up for use and ornament. In Industry Man is an object to himself, and treats Nature as something subject to him, on which he impresses the seal of his activity. Intelligence is the valor needed here, and ingenuity is better than mere natural courage. At this point we see the nations freed from the fear of Nature and its slavish bondage.
If we compare their religious ideas with the above, we shall see in Babylon, in the Syrian tribes, and in Phrygia, first a rude, vulgar, sensual idolatry – a description of which in its principal features is given in the Prophets. Nothing indeed more specific than idolatry is mentioned; and this is an indefinite term. The Chinese, the Hindoos, the Greeks, practise idolatry; the Catholics, too, adore the images of saints; but in the sphere of thought with which we are at present occupied, it is the powers of Nature and of production generally that constitute the object of veneration; and the worship is luxury and pleasure. The Prophets give the most terrible pictures of this – though their repulsive character must be partly laid to the account of the hatred of Jews against neighboring peoples. Such representations are particularly ample in the Book of Wisdom. Not only was there a worship of natural objects, but also of the Universal Power of Nature – Astarte, Cybele, Diana of Ephesus. The worship paid was a sensuous intoxication, excess, and revelry: sensuality and cruelty are its two characteristic traits. “When they keep their holy days they act as if mad,” ["they are mad when they be merry” – English Version] says the Book of Wisdom (xiv. 28). With a merely sensuous life – this being a form of consciousness which does not attain to general conceptions – cruelty is connected; because Nature itself is the Highest, so that Man has no value, or only the most trifling. Moreover, the genius of such a polytheism involves the destruction of its consciousness on the part of Spirit in striving to identify itself with Nature, and the annihilation of the Spiritual generally. Thus we see children sacrificed – priests of Cybele subjecting themselves to mutilation – men making themselves eunuchs – women prostituting themselves in the temple. As a feature of the court of Babylon it deserves to be remarked, that when Daniel was brought up there, it was not required of him to take part in the religious observances; and moreover that food ceremonially pure was allowed him; that he was in requisition especially for interpreting the dreams of the King, because he had “the spirit of the holy gods.” The King proposes to elevate himself above sensuous life by dreams, as indications from a superior power. It is thus generally evident, that the bond of religion was lax, and that here no unity is to be found. For we observe also adorations offered to images of kings; the power of Nature and the King as a spiritual Power, are the Highest; so that in this form of idolatry there is manifested a perfect contrast to the Persian purity.
We find on the other hand something quite different among the Phoenicians, that bold seafaring people. Herodotus tells us, that at Tyre Hercules was worshipped. If the divinity in question is not absolutely identical with the Greek demigod, there must be understood by that name one whose attributes nearly agree with his. This worship is particularly indicative of the character of the people; for it is Hercules of whom the Greeks say, that he raised himself to Olympus by dint of human courage and daring. The idea of the Sun perhaps originated that of Hercules as engaged in his twelve labors; but this basis does not give us the chief feature of the myth, which is, that Hercules is that scion of the gods who, by his virtue and exertion, made himself a god by human spirit and valor; and who, instead of passing his life in idleness, spends it in hardship and toil. A second religious element is the worship of Adonis, which takes place in the towns of the coast (it was celebrated in Egypt also by the Ptolemies) ; and respecting which we find a notable passage in the Book of Wisdom (xiv. 13, etc.), where it is said: “The idols were not from the beginning – but were invented through the vain ambition of men, because the latter are short- lived. For a father afflicted with untimely mourning, when he had made an image of his child (Adonis) early taken away, honored him as a god, who was a dead man, and delivered to those that were under him ceremonies and sacrifices” (E. V. nearly). The feast of Adonis was very similar to the worship of Osiris – the commemoration of his death – a funeral festival, at which the women broke out into the most extravagant lamentations over the departed god. In India lamentation is suppressed in the heroism of insensibility; uncomplaining, the women there plunge into the river, and the men, ingenious in inventing penances, impose upon themselves the direst tortures ; for they give themselves up to the loss of vitality, in order to destroy consciousness in empty abstract contemplation. Here, on the contrary, human pain becomes an element of worship; in pain man realizes his subjectivity: it is expected of him – he may here indulge self-consciousness and the feeling of actual existence. Life here regains its value. A universality of pain is established: for death becomes immanent in the Divine, and the deity dies. Among the Persians we saw Light and Darkness struggling with each other, but here both principles are united in one – the Absolute. The Negative is here, too, the merely Natural; but as the death of a god, it is not a limitation attaching to an individual object, but is pure Negativity itself. And this point is important, because the generic conception that has to be formed of Deity is Spirit; which involves its being concrete, and having in it the element of negativity. The qualities of wisdom and power are also concrete qualities, but only as predicates; so that God remains abstract substantial unity, in which differences themselves vanish, and do not become organic elements (Momente) of this unity. But here the Negative itself is a phase of Deity – the Natural – Death; – the worship appropriate to which is grief. It is in the celebration of the death of Adonis, and of his resurrection, that the concrete is made conscious. Adonis is a youth, who is torn from his parents by a too early death. In China, in the worship of ancestors, these latter enjoy divine honor. But parents in their decease only pay the debt of Nature. When a youth is snatched away by death, the occurrence is regarded as contrary to the proper order of things: and while affliction at the death of parents is no just affliction, in the case of youth death is a paradox. And this is the deeper element in the conception – that in the Divinity, Negativity – Antithesis – is manifested; and that the worship rendered to him involves both elements – the pain felt for the divinity snatched away, and the joy occasioned by his being found again.
The next people belonging to the Persian empire, in that wide circle of nationalities which it comprises, is the Jewish. We find here, too, a canonical book – the Old Testament; in which the views of this people – whose principle is the exact opposite of the one just described – are exhibited. While among the Phoenician people the Spiritual was still limited by Nature, in the case of the Jews we find it entirely purified; – the pure product of Thought. Self-conception appears in the field of consciousness, and the Spiritual develops itself in sharp contrast to Nature and to union with it. It is true that we observed at an earlier stage the pure conception “Brahm”; but only as the universal being of Nature; and with this limitation, that Brahm is not himself an object of consciousness. Among the Persians we saw this abstract being become an object for consciousness, but it was that of sensuous intuition – as Light. But the idea of Light has at this stage advanced to that of “Jehovah” – the purely One. This forms the point of separation between the East and the West; Spirit descends into the depths of its own being, and recognizes the abstract fundamental principle as the Spiritual. Nature – which in the East is the primary and fundamental existence – is now depressed to the condition of a mere creature; and Spirit now occupies the first place. God is known as the creator of all men, as he is of all nature, and as absolute causality generally. But this great principle, as further conditioned, is exclusive Unity. This religion must necessarily possess the element of exclusiveness, which consists essentially in this – that only the One People which adopts it, recognizes the One God, and is acknowledged by him. The God of the Jewish People is the God only of Abraham and of his seed: National individuality and a special local worship are involved in such a conception of deity. Before him all other gods are false: moreover the distinction between “true” and “false” is quite abstract; for as regards the false gods, not a ray of the Divine is supposed to shine into them. But every form of spiritual force, and ŗ fortiori every religion is of such a nature, that whatever be its peculiar character, an affirmative element is necessarily contained in it. However erroneous a religion may be, it possesses truth, although in a mutilated phase. In every religion there is a divine presence, a divine relation; and a philosophy of History has to seek out the spiritual element even in the most imperfect forms. But it does not follow that because it is a religion, it is therefore good. We must not fall into the lax conception, that the content is of no importance, but only the form. This latitudinarian tolerance the Jewish religion does not admit, being absolutely exclusive.
The Spiritual speaks itself here absolutely free of the Sensuous, and Nature is reduced to something merely external and undivine. This is the true and proper estimate of Nature at this stage; for only at a more advanced phase can the Idea attain a reconciliation [recognize itself] in this its alien form. Its first utterances will be in opposition to Nature; for Spirit, which had been hitherto dishonored, now first attains its due dignity, while Nature resumes its proper position. Nature is conceived as having the ground of its existence in another – as something posited, created; and this idea, that God is the lord and creator of Nature, leads men to regard God as the Exalted One, while the whole of Nature is only his robe of glory, and is expended in his service. In contrast with this kind of exaltation, that which the Hindoo religion presents is only that of indefinitude. In virtue of the prevailing spirituality the Sensuous and Immoral are no longer privileged, but disparaged as ungodliness. Only the One – Spirit – the Non-sensuous is the Truth; Thought exists free for itself, and true morality and righteousness can now make their appearance; for God is honored by righteousness, and rightdoing is “walking in the way of the Lord.” With this is conjoined happiness, life and temporal prosperity as its reward; for it is said: “that thou mayest live long in the land.” – Here too also we have the possibility of a historical view; for the understanding has become prosaic; putting the limited and circumscribed in its proper place, and comprehending it as the form proper to finite existence: Men are regarded as individuals, not as incarnations of God; Sun as Sun, Mountains as Mountains – not as possessing Spirit and Will.
We observe among this people a severe religious ceremonial, expressing a relation to pure Thought. The individual as concrete does not become free, because the Absolute itself is not comprehended as concrete Spirit; since Spirit still appears posited as non-spiritual – destitute of its proper characteristics. It is true that subjective feeling is manifest – the pure heart, repentance, devotion; but the particular concrete individuality has not become objective to itself in the Absolute. It therefore remains closely bound to the observance of ceremonies and of the Law, the basis of which latter is pure freedom in its abstract form. The Jews possess that which makes them what they are, through the One: consequently the individual has no freedom for itself. Spinoza regards the code of Moses as having been given by God to the Jews for a punishment – a rod of correction. The individual never comes to the consciousness of independence; on that account we do not find among the Jews any belief in the immortality of the soul; for individuality does not exist in and for itself. But though in Judaism the Individual is not respected, the Family has inherent value; for the worship of Jehovah is attached to the Family, and it is consequently viewed as a substantial existence. But the State is an institution not consonant with the Judaistic principle, and it is alien to the legislation of Moses. In the idea of the Jews, Jehovah is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob; who commanded them to depart out of Egypt, and gave them the land of Canaan. The accounts of the Patriarchs attract our interest. We seen in this history the transition from the patriarchal nomad condition to agriculture. On the whole the Jewish history exhibits grand features of character; but it is disfigured by an exclusive bearing (sanctioned in its religion), towards the genius of other nations (the destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan being even commanded) – by want of culture generally, and by the superstition arising from the idea of the high value of their peculiar nationality. Miracles, too, form a disturbing feature in this history – as history; for as far as concrete consciousness is not free, concrete perception is also not free; Nature is undeified, but not yet understood.
The Family became a great nation; through the conquest of Canaan, it took a whole country into possession ; and erected a Temple for the entire people, in Jerusalem. But properly speaking no political union existed. In case of national danger heroes arose, who placed themselves at the head of the armies; though the nation during this period was for the most part in subjection. Later on, kings were chosen, and it was they who first rendered the Jews independent. David even made conquests. Originally the legislation is adapted to a family only; yet in the books of Moses the wish for a king is anticipated. The priests are to choose him: he is not to be a foreigner – not to have horsemen in large numbers – and he is to have few wives. After a short period of glory the kingdom suffered internal disruption and was divided. As there was only one tribe of Levites and one Temple – i.e., in Jerusalem – idolatry was immediately introduced. The One God could not be honored in different Temples, and there could not be two kingdoms attached to one religion. However spiritual may be the conception of God as objective, the subjective side – the honor rendered to him – is still very limited and unspiritual in character. The two kingdoms, equally infelicitous in foreign and domestic warfare, were at last subjected to the Assyrians and Babylonians ; through Cyrus the Israelites obtained permission to return home and live according to their own laws.
The Persian Empire is one that has passed away, and we have nothing but melancholy relics of its glory. Its fairest and richest towns – such as Babylon, Susa, Persepolis – are razed to the ground; and only a few ruins mark their ancient site. Even in the more modern great cities of Persia – Ispahan and Shiraz – half of them has become a ruin; and they have not – as is the case with ancient Rome – developed a new life, but have lost their place almost entirely in the remembrance of the surrounding nations. Besides the other lands already enumerated as belonging to the Persian Empire, Egypt claims notice – characteristically the Land of Ruins; a land which from hoar antiquity has been regarded with wonder, and which in recent times also has attracted the greatest interest. Its ruins, the final result of immense labor, surpass in the gigantic and monstrous, all that antiquity has left us.
In Egypt we see united the elements which in the Persian monarchy appeared singly. We found among the Persians the adoration of Light – regarded as the Essence of universal Nature. This principle then develops itself in phases which hold a position of indifference towards each other. The one is the immersion in the sensuous – among the Babylonians and Syrians ; the other is the Spiritual phase, which is twofold: first as the incipient consciousness of the concrete Spirit in the worship of Adonis, and then as pure and abstract thought among the Jews. In the former the concrete is deficient in unity; in the latter the concrete is altogether wanting. The next problem is then, to harmonize these contradictory elements; and this problem presents itself in Egypt. Of the representations which Egyptian Antiquity presents us with, one figure must be especially noticed, viz. the Sphinx – in itself a riddle – an ambiguous form, half brute, half human. The Sphinx may be regarded as a symbol of the Egyptian Spirit. The human head looking out from the brute body, exhibits Spirit as it begins to emerge from the merely Natural – to tear itself loose therefrom and already to look more freely around it; without, however, entirely freeing itself from the fetters Nature had imposed. The innumerable edifices of the Egyptians are half below the ground, and half rise above it into the air. The whole land is divided into a kingdom of life and a kingdom of death. The colossal statue of Memnon resounds at the first glance of the young morning Sun; though it is not yet the free light of Spirit with which it vibrates. Written language is still a hieroglyphic; and its basis is only the sensuous image, not the letter itself.
Thus the memorials of Egypt themselves give us a multitude of forms and images that express its character; we recognize a Spirit in them which feels itself compressed; which utters itself, but only in a sensuous mode.
Egypt was always the Land of Marvels, and has remained so to the present day. It is from the Greeks especially that we get information respecting it, and chiefly from Herodotus. This intelligent historiographer himself visited the country of which he wished to give an account, and at its chief towns made acquaintance with the Egyptian priests. Of all that he saw and heard, he gives an accurate record; but the deeper symbolism of the Egyptian mythology he has refrained from unfolding. This he regards as something sacred, and respecting which he cannot so freely speak as of merely external objects. Besides him Diodorus Siculus is an authority of great importance; and among the Jewish historians, Josephus.
In their architecture and hieroglyphics, the thoughts and conceptions of the Egyptians are expressed. A national work in the department of language is wanting: and that not only to us, but to the Egyptians themselves; they could not have any, because they had not advanced to an understanding of themselves. Nor was there any Egyptian history, until at last Ptolemy Philadelphus – he who had the sacred books of the Jews translated into Greek – prompted the High-Priest Manetho to write an Egyptian history. Of this we have only extracts – list of Kings; which however have occasioned the greatest perplexities and contradictory views. To become acquainted with Egypt, we must for the most part have recourse to the notices of the ancients, and the immense monuments that are left us. We find a number of granite walls on which hieroglyphics are graved, and the ancients have given us explanations of some of them, but which are quite insufficient. In recent times attention has especially been recalled to them, and after many efforts something at least of the hieroglyphic writing has been deciphered. The celebrated Englishman, Thomas Young, first suggested a method of discovery, and called attention to the fact, that there are small surfaces separated from the other hieroglyphics, and in which a Greek translation is perceptible. By comparison Young made out three names – Berenice, Cleopatra, and Ptolemy – and this was the first step in deciphering them. It was found at a later date, that a great part of the hieroglyphics are phonetic, that is, express sounds. Thus the figure of an eye denotes first the eye itself, but secondly the first letter of the Egyptian word that means “eye” (as in Hebrew the figure of a house, ב, denotes the letter b, with which the word תןש, House, begins). The celebrated Champollion (the younger), first called attention to the fact that the phonetic hieroglyphs are intermingled with those which mark conceptions; and thus classified the hieroglyphs and established settled principles for deciphering them.
The History of Egypt, as we have it, is full of the greatest contradictions. The Mythical is blended with the Historical, and the statements are as diverse as can be imagined. European literati have eagerly investigated the lists given by Manetho and have relied upon them, and several names of kings have been confirmed by the recent discoveries. Herodotus says that according to the statements of the priests, gods had formerly reigned over Egypt, and that from the first human king down to the King Setho 341 generations, or 11,340 years, had passed away; but that the first human ruler was Menes (the resemblance of the name to the Greek Minos and the Hindoo Manu is striking). With the exception of the Thebaid – its most southern part – Egypt was said by them to have formed a lake; the Delta presents reliable evidence of having been produced by the silt of the Nile. As the Dutch have gained their territory from the sea, and have found means to sustain themselves upon it; so the Egyptians first acquired their country, and maintained its fertility by canals and lakes. An important feature in the history of Egypt is its descent from Upper to Lower Egypt – from the South to the North. With this is connected the consideration that Egypt probably received its culture from Ethiopia; principally from the island Meroe, which, according to recent hypotheses, was occupied by a sacerdotal people. Thebes in Upper Egypt was the most ancient residence of the Egyptian kings. Even in Herodotus’s time it was in a state of dilapidation. The ruins of this city present the most enormous specimens of Egyptian architecture that we are acquainted with. Considering their antiquity they are remarkably well preserved: which is partly owing to the perpetually cloudless sky. The centre of the kingdom was then transferred to Memphis, not far from the modern Cairo; and lastly to Sais, in the Delta itself. The structures that occur in the locality of this city are of very late date and imperfectly preserved. Herodotus tells us that Memphis was referred to so remote a founder as Menes. Among the later kings must be especially noticed Sesostris, who, according to Champollion, is Rameses the Great. To him in particular are referred a number of monuments and pictures in which are depicted his triumphal processions, and the captives taken in battle. Herodotus speaks of his conquests in Syria, extending even to Colchis; and illustrates his statement by the great similarity between the manners of the Colchians and those of the Egyptians; these two nations and the Ethiopians were the only ones that had always practised circumcision. Herodotus says, moreover, that Sesostris had vast canals dug through the whole of Egypt, which served to convey the water of the Nile to every part. It may be generally remarked that the more provident the government in Egypt was, so much the more regard did it pay to the maintenance of the canals, while under negligent governments the desert got the upper hand; for Egypt was engaged in a constant struggle with the fierceness of the heat and with the water of the Nile. It appears from Herodotus, that the country had become impassable for cavalry in consequence of the canals; while, on the contrary, we see from the books of Moses, how celebrated Egypt once was in this respect. Moses says that if the Jews desired a king, he must not marry too many wives, nor send for horses from Egypt.
Next to Sesostris the Kings Cheops and Chephren deserve special mention. They are said to have built enormous pyramids and closed the temples of the priests. A son of Cheops – Mycerinus – is said to have reopened them; after him the Ethiopians invaded the country, and their king, Sabaco, made himself sovereign of Egypt. But Anysis, the successor of Mycerinus, fled into the marshes – to the mouth of the Nile; only after the departure of the Ethiopians did he make his appearance again. He was succeeded by Setho, who had been a priest of Phtha (supposed to be the same as Hephaestus): under his government, Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, invaded the country. Setho had always treated the warrior-caste with great disrespect, and even robbed them of their lands; and when he invoked their assistance, they refused it. He was obliged therefore to issue a general summons to the Egyptians, and assembled a host composed of hucksters, artisans, and market people. In the Bible we are told that the enemies fled, and that it was the angels who routed them; but Herodotus relates that field mice came in the night and gnawed the quivers and bows of the enemy, so that the latter, deprived of their weapons, were compelled to flee. After the death of Setho, the Egyptians (Herodotus tells us) regarded themselves as free, and chose themselves twelve kings, who formed a federal union – as a symbol of which they built the Labyrinth, consisting of an immense number of rooms and halls above and below ground. In the year 650 B.C. one of these kings, Psammitichus, with the help of the Ionians and Carians (to whom he promised land in Lower Egypt), expelled the eleven other kings. Till that time Egypt had remained secluded from the rest of the world; and at sea it had established no connection with other nations. Psammitichus commenced such a connection, and thereby led the way to the ruin of Egypt. From this point the history becomes clearer, because it is based on Greek accounts. Psammitichus was followed by Necho, who began to dig a canal, which was to unite the Nile with the Red Sea, but which was not completed until the reign of Darius Nothus. The plan of uniting the Mediterranean Sea with the Arabian Gulf, and the wide ocean, is not so advantageous as might be supposed; since in the Red Sea – which on other accounts is very difficult to navigate – there prevails for about nine months in the year a constant north wind, so that it is only during three months that the passage from south to north is feasible. Necho was followed by Psammis, and the latter by Apries, who led an army against Sidon, and engaged with the Tyrians by sea: against Cyrene also he sent an army, which was almost annihilated by the Cyrenians. The Egyptians rebelled against him, accusing him of wishing to lead them to destruction; but this revolt was probably caused by the favor shown by him to the Carians and Ionians. Amasis placed himself at the head of the rebels, conquered the king, and possessed himself of the throne. By Herodotus he is depicted as a humorous monarch, who, however, did not always maintain the dignity of the throne. From a very humble station he had raised himself to royalty by ability, astuteness, and intelligence, and he exhibited in all other relations the same keen understanding. In the morning he held his court of judicature, and listened to the complaints of the people; but in the afternoon, feasted and surrendered himself to pleasure. To his friends, who blamed him on this account, and told him that he ought to give the whole day to business, he made answer: “If the bow is constantly on the stretch, it becomes useless or breaks.” As the Egyptians thought less of him on account of his mean descent, he had a golden basin – used for washing the feet – made into the image of a god in high honor among the Egyptians; this he meant as a symbol of his own elevation. Herodotus relates, moreover, that he indulged in excesses as a private man, dissipated the whole of his property, and then betook himself to stealing. This contrast of a vulgar soul and a keen intellect is characteristic in an Egyptian king.
Amasis drew down upon him the ill-will of King Cambyses. Cyrus desired an oculist from the Egyptians; for at that time the Egyptian oculists were very famous, their skill having been called out by the numerous eye-diseases prevalent in Egypt. This oculist, to revenge himself for having been sent out of the country, advised Cambyses to ask for the daughter of Amasis in marriage; knowing well that Amasis would either be rendered unhappy by giving her to him, or on the other hand, incur the wrath of Cambyses by refusing. Amasis would not give his daughter to Cambyses. because the latter desired her as an inferior wife (for his lawful spouse must be a Persian) ; but sent him, under the name of his own daughter, that of Apries, who afterwards discovered her real name to Cambyses. The latter was so incensed at the deception, that he led an expedition against Egypt, conquered that country, and united it with the Persian Empire.
As to the Egyptian Spirit, it deserves mention here, that the Elians in Herodotus’s narrative call the Egyptians the wisest of mankind. It also surprises us to find among them, in the vicinity of African stupidity, reflective intelligence, a thoroughly rational organization characterizing all institutions, and most astonishing works of art. The Egyptians were, like the Hindoos, divided into castes, and the children always continued the trade and business of their parents. On this account, also, the Mechanical and Technical in the arts was so much developed here; while the hereditary transmission of occupations did not produce the same disadvantageous results in the character of the Egyptians as in India. Herodotus mentions the seven following castes: the priests, the warriors, the neatherds, the swineherds, the merchants (or trading population generally), the interpreters – who seem only at a later date to have constituted a separate class – and, lastly, the seafaring class. Agriculturists are not named here, probably because agriculture was the occupation of several castes, as, e.g., the warriors, to whom a portion of the land was given. Diodorus and Strabo give a different account of these caste-divisions. Only priests, warriors, herdsmen, agriculturists, and artificers are mentioned, to which latter, perhaps, tradesmen also belong. Herodotus says of the priests, that they in particular received arable land, and had it cultivated for rent; for the land generally was in the possession of the priests, warriors, and kings. Joseph was a minister of the king, according to Holy Scripture, and contrived to make him master of all landed property. But the several occupations did not remain so stereotyped as among the Hindoos; for we find the Israelites, who were originally herdsmen, employed also as manual laborers: and there was a king – as stated above – who formed an army of manual laborers alone. The castes are not rigidly fixed, but struggle with and come into contact with one another: we often find cases of their being broken up and in a state of rebellion. The warrior- caste, at one time discontented on account of their not being released from their abodes in the direction of Nubia, and desperate at not being able to make use of their lands, betake themselves to MeroŽ, and foreign mercenaries are introduced into the country.
Of the mode of life among the Egyptians, Herodotus supplies a very detailed account, giving prominence to everything which appears to him to deviate from Greek manners. Thus the Egyptians had physicians specially devoted to particular diseases; the women were engaged in outdoor occupations, while the men remained at home to weave. In one part of Egypt polygamy prevailed; in another, monogamy; the women had but one garment, the men two; they wash and bathe much, and undergo purification every month. All this points to a condition of settled peace. As to arrangements of police, the law required that every Egyptian should present himself, at a time appointed, before the superintendent under whom he lived, and state from what resources he obtained his livelihood. If he could not refer to any, he was punished with death. This law, however, was of no earlier date than Amasis. The greatest care, moreover, was observed in the division of the arable land, as also in planning canals and dikes; under Sabaco, the Ethiopian king, says Herodotus, many cities were elevated by dikes.
The business of courts of justice was administered with very great care. They consisted of thirty judges nominated by the district, and who chose their own president. Pleadings were conducted in writing, and proceeded as far as the “rejoinder.” Diodorus thinks this plan very effectual, in obviating the perverting influence of forensic oratory, and of the sympathy of the judges. The latter pronounced sentence silently, and in a hieroglyphical manner. Herodotus says, that they had a symbol of truth on their breasts, and turned it towards that side in whose favor the cause was decided, or adorned the victorious party with it. The king himself had to take part in judicial business every day. Theft, we are told, was forbidden; but the law commanded that thieves should inform against themselves. If they did so, they were not punished, but, on the contrary, were allowed to keep a fourth part of what they had stolen. This perhaps was designed to excite and keep in exercise that cunning for which the Egyptians were so celebrated.
The intelligence displayed in their legislative economy, appears characteristic of the Egyptians. This intelligence, which manifests itself in the practical, we also recognize in the productions of art and science. The Egyptians are reported to have divided the year into twelve months, and each month into thirty days. At the end of the year they intercalated five additional days, and Herodotus says that their arrangement was better than that of the Greeks. The intelligence of the Egyptians especially strikes us in the department of mechanics. Their vast edifices – such as no other nation has to exhibit, and which excel all others in solidity and size – sufficiently prove their artistic skill; to whose cultivation they could largely devote themselves, because the inferior castes did not trouble themselves with political matters. Diodorus Siculus says, that Egypt was the only country in which the citizens did not trouble themselves about the state, but gave their whole attention to their private business. Greeks and Romans must have been especially astonished at such a state of things.
On account of its judicious economy, Egypt was regarded by the ancients as the pattern of a morally regulated condition of things – as an ideal such as Pythagoras realized in a limited select society, and Plato sketched on a larger scale. But in such ideals no account is taken of passion. A plan of society that is to be adopted and acted upon, as an absolutely complete one – in which everything has been considered, and especially the education and habituation to it, necessary to its becoming a second nature – is altogether opposed to the nature of Spirit, which makes contemporary life the object on which it acts; itself being the infinite impulse of activity to alter its forms. This impulse also expressed itself in Egypt in a peculiar way. It would appear at first as if a condition of things so regular, so determinate in every particular, contained nothing that had a peculiarity entirely its own. The introduction of a religious element would seem to be an affair of no critical moment, provided the higher necessities of men were satisfied; we should in fact rather expect that it would be introduced in a peaceful way and in accordance with the moral arrangement of things already mentioned. But in contemplating the Religion of the Egyptians, we are surprised by the strangest and most wonderful phenomena, and perceive that this calm order of things, bound fast by legislative enactment, is not like that of the Chinese, but that we have here to do with a Spirit entirely different – one full of stirring and urgent impulses. We have here the African element, in combination with Oriental massiveness, transplanted to the Mediterranean Sea, that grand locale of the display of nationalities; but in such a manner, that here there is no connection with foreign nations – this mode of stimulating intellect appearing superfluous; for we have here a prodigious urgent striving within the nationality itself, and which within its own circle shoots out into an objective realization of itself in the most monstrous productions. It is that African imprisonment of ideas combined with the infinite impulse of the spirit to realize itself objectively, which we find here. But Spirit has still, as it were, an iron band around its forehead; so that it cannot attain to the free consciousness of its existence, but produces this only as the problem, the enigma of its being.
The fundamental conception of that which the Egyptians regard as the essence of being, rests on the determinate character of the natural world, in which they live; and more particularly on the determinate physical circle which the Nile and the Sun mark out. These two are strictly connected – the position of the Sun and that of the Nile; and to the Egyptian this is all in all. The Nile is that which essentially determines the boundaries of the country; beyond the Nile- valley begins the desert; on the north, Egypt is shut in by the sea, and on the south by torrid heat. The first Arab leader that conquered Egypt, writes to the Caliph Omar: “Egypt is first a vast sea of dust; then a sea of fresh water; lastly, it is a great sea of flowers. It never rains there; towards the end of July dew falls, and then the Nile begins to overflow its banks, and Egypt resembles a sea of islands.” (Herodotus compares Egypt, during this period, with the islands in the ∆gean.) The Nile leaves behind it prodigious multitudes of living creatures: then appear moving and creeping things innumerable; soon after, man begins to sow the ground, and the harvest is very abundant. Thus the existence of the Egyptian does not depend on the brightness of the sun, or the quantity of rain. For him, on the contrary, there exist only those perfectly simple conditions, which form the basis of his mode of life and its occupations. There is a definite physical cycle, which the Nile pursues, and which is connected with the course of the Sun; the latter advances, reaches its culmination, and then retrogrades. So also does the Nile.
This basis of the life of the Egyptians determines moreover the particular tenor of their religious views. A controversy has long been waged respecting the sense of meaning of the Egyptian religion. As early as the reign of Tiberius, the Stoic Chaeremon, who had been in Egypt, explains it in a purely materialistic sense. The New Platonists take a directly opposite view, regarding all as symbols of a spiritual meaning, and thus making this religion a pure Idealism. Each of these representations is one-sided. Natural and spiritual powers are regarded as most intimately united – (the free spiritual import, however, has not been developed at this stage of thought) – but in such a way, that the extremes of the antithesis were united in the harshest contrast. We have spoken of the Nile, of the Sun, and of the vegetation depending upon them. This limited view of Nature gives the principle of the religion, and its subject-matter is primarily a history. The Nile and the Sun constitute the divinities, conceived under human forms; and the course of nature and the mythological history is the same. In the winter solstice the power of the sun has reached its minimum, and must be born anew. Thus also Osiris appears as born; but he is killed by Typhon – his brother and enemy – the burning wind of the desert. Isis, the Earth – from whom the aid of the Sun and of the Nile has been withdrawn – yearns after him: she gathers the scattered bones of Osiris, and raises her lamentation for him, and all Egypt bewails with her the death of Osiris, in a song which Herodotus calls Maneros. Maneros he reports to have been the only son of the first king of the Egyptians, and to have died prematurely; this song being also the Linus- Song of the Greeks, and the only song which the Egyptians have. Here again pain is regarded as something divine, and the same honor is assigned to it here as among the Phoenicians. Hermes then embalms Osiris; and his grave is shown in various places. Osiris is now judge of the dead, and lord of the kingdom of the Shades. These are the leading ideas. Osiris, the Sun, the Nile; this triplicity of being is united in one knot. The Sun is the symbol, in which Osiris and the history of that god are recognized, and the Nile is likewise such a symbol. The concrete Egyptian imagination also ascribes to Osiris and Isis the introduction of agriculture, the invention of the plough, the hoe, etc.; for Osiris gives not only the useful itself – the fertility of the earth – but, moreover, the means of making use of it. He also gives men laws, a civil order and a religious ritual; he thus places in men’s hands the means of labor, and secures its result. Osiris is also the symbol of the seed which is placed in the earth, and then springs up – as also of the course of life. Thus we find this heterogeneous duality – the phenomena of Nature and the Spiritual – woven together into one knot.
The parallelism of the course of human life with the Nile, the Sun and Osiris, is not to be regarded as a mere allegory – as if the principle of birth, of increase in strength, of the culmination of vigor and fertility, of decline and weakness, exhibited itself in these different phenomena, in an equal or similar way; but in this variety imagination conceived only one subject, one vitality. This unity is, however, quite abstract: the heterogeneous element shows itself therein as pressing and urging, and in a confusion which sharply contrasts with Greek perspicuity. Osiris represents the Nile and the Sun: Sun and Nile are, on the other hand, symbols of human life – each one is signification and symbol at the same time; the symbol is changed into signification, and this latter becomes symbol of that symbol, which itself then becomes signification. None of these phases of existence is a Type without being at the same time a Signification; each is both; the one is explained by the other. Thus there arises one pregnant conception, composed of many conceptions, in which each fundamental nodus retains its individuality, so that they are not resolved into a general idea. The general idea – the thought itself, which forms the bond of analogy – does not present itself to the consciousness purely and freely as such, but remains concealed as an internal connection. We have a consolidated individuality, combining various phenomenal aspects; and which on the one hand is fanciful, on account of the combination of apparently disparate material, but on the other hand internally and essentially connected, because these various appearances are a particular prosaic matter of fact.
Besides this fundamental conception, we observe several special divinities, of whom Herodotus reckons three classes. Of the first he mentions eight gods; of the second twelve; of the third an indefinite number, who occupy the position towards the unity of Osiris of specific manifestations. In the first class, Fire and its use appears as Phtha, also as Knef, who is besides represented as the Good Genius; but the Nile itself is held to be that Genius, and thus abstractions are changed into concrete conceptions. Amman is regarded as a great divinity, with whom is associated the determination of the equinox: it is he, moreover, who gives oracles. But Osiris is similarly represented as the founder of oracular manifestations. So the Procreative Power, banished by Osiris, is represented as a particular divinity. But Osiris is himself this Procreative Power. Isis is the Earth, the Moon, the receptive fertility of Nature. As an important element in the conception Osiris, Anubis (Thoth) – the Egyptian Hermes – must be specially noticed. In human activity and invention, and in the economy of legislation, the Spiritual, as such, is embodied; and becomes in this form – which is itself determinate and limited – an object of consciousness. Here we have the Spiritual, not as one infinite, independent sovereignty over nature, but as a particular existence, side by side with the powers of Nature – characterized also by intrinsic particularity. And thus the Egyptians had also specific divinities, conceived as spiritual activities and forces; but partly intrinsically limited – partly [so, as] contemplated under natural symbols.
The Egyptian Hermes is celebrated as exhibiting the spiritual side of their theism. According to Jamblichus, the Egyptian priests immemorially prefixed to all their inventions the name Hermes: Eratosthenes, therefore, called his book, which treated of the entire science of Egypt – “Hermes.” Anubis is called the friend and companion of Osiris. To him is ascribed the invention of writing, and of science generally – of , grammar, astronomy, mensuration, music, and medicine. It was he who first divided the day into twelve hours: he was moreover the first lawgiver, the first instructor in religious observances and objects, and in gymnastics and orchestics; and it was he who discovered the olive. But, notwithstanding all these spiritual attributes, this divinity is something quite other than the God of Thought. Only particular human arts and inventions are associated with him. Not only so; but he entirely falls back into involvement in existence, and is degraded under physical symbols. He is represented with a dog’s head, as an imbruted god; and besides this mask, a particular natural object is bound up with the conception of this divinity; for he is at the same time Sirius, the Dog-Star. He is thus as limited in respect of what he embodies, as sensuous in the positive existence ascribed to him. It may be incidentally remarked, that as Ideas and Nature are not distinguished from each other, in the same way the arts and appliances of human life are not developed and arranged so as to form a rational circle of aims and means. Thus medicine – deliberation respecting corporeal disease – as also the whole range of deliberation and resolve with regard to undertakings in life – was subjected to the most multifarious superstition in the way of reliance on oracles and magic arts. Astronomy was also essentially Astrology, and Medicine an affair of magic, but more particularly of Astrology. All astrological and sympathetic superstition may be traced to Egypt.
Egyptian Worship is chiefly Zoolatry. We have observed the union here presented between the Spiritual and the Natural: the more advanced and elevated side of this conception is the fact that the Egyptians, while they observed the Spiritual as manifested in the Nile, the Sun, and the sowing of seed, took the same view of the life of animals. To us Zoolatry is repulsive. We may reconcile ourselves to the adoration of the material heaven, but the worship of brutes is alien to us; for the abstract natural element seems to us more generic, and therefore more worthy of veneration. Yet it is certain that the nations who worshipped the Sun and the Stars by no means occupy a higher grade than those who adore brutes, but contrariwise ; for in the brute world the Egyptians contemplate a hidden and incomprehensible principle.
We also, when we contemplate the life and action of brutes, are astonished at their instinct – the adaptation of their movements to the object intended – their restlessness, excitability, and liveliness; for they are exceedingly quick and discerning in pursuing the ends of their existence, while they are at the same time silent and shut up within themselves. We cannot make out what it is that “possesses” these creatures, and cannot rely on them. A black tom-cat, with its glowing eyes and its now gliding, now quick and darting movement, has been deemed the presence of a malignant being – a mysterious reserved spectre: the dog, the canary-bird, on the contrary, appear friendly and sympathizing. The lower animals are the truly Incomprehensible. A man cannot by imagination or conception enter into the nature of a dog, whatever resemblance he himself might have to it; it remains something altogether alien to him. It is in two departments that the so-called Incomprehensible meets us – in living Nature and in Spirit. But in very deed it is only in Nature that we have to encounter the Incomprehensible; for the being manifest to itself is the essence [supplies the very definition of], Spirit: Spirit understands and comprehends Spirit. The obtuse self-consciousness of the Egyptians, therefore, to which the thought of human freedom is not yet revealed, worships the soul as still shut up within and dulled by the physical organization, and sympathizes with brute life. We find a veneration of mere vitality among other nations also: sometimes expressly, as among the Hindoos and all the Mongolians; sometimes in mere traces, as among the Jews: “Thou shalt not eat the blood of animals, for in it is the life of the animal.” The Greeks and Romans also regarded birds as specially intelligent, believing that what in the human spirit was not revealed – the Incomprehensible and Higher – was to be found in them. But among the Egyptians this worship of beasts was carried to excess under the forms of a most stupid and non-human superstition. The worship of brutes was among them a matter of particular and detailed arrangement: each district had a brute deity of its own – a cat, an ibis, a crocodile, etc. Great establishments were provided for them; beautiful mates were assigned them; and, like human beings, they were embalmed after death. The bulls were buried, but with their horns protruding above their graves; the bulls embodying Apis had splendid monuments, and some of the pyramids must be looked upon as such. In one of those that have been opened, there was found in the most central apartment a beautiful alabaster coffin; and on closer examination it was found that the bones inclosed were those of the ox. This reverence for brutes was often carried to the most absurd excess of severity. If a man killed one designedly, he was punished with death; but even the undesigned killing of some animals might entail death. It is related, that once when a Roman in Alexandria killed a cat, an insurrection ensued, in which the Egyptians murdered the aggressor. They would let human beings perish by famine, rather than allow the sacred animals to be killed, or the provision made for them trenched upon. Still more than mere vitality, the universal vis vitas of productive nature was venerated in a Phallus-worship; which the Greeks also adopted into the rites paid by them to Dionysus. With this worship the greatest excesses were connected.
The brute form is, on the other hand, turned into a symbol: it is also partly degraded to a mere hieroglyphical sign. I refer here to the innumerable figures on the Egyptian monuments, of sparrow-hawks or falcons, dung-beetles, scarabaei, etc. It is not known what ideas such figures symbolized, and we can scarcely think that a satisfactory view of this very obscure subject is attainable. The dung-beetle is said to be the symbol of generation – of the sun and its course; the Ibis, that of the Nile’s overflowing; birds of the hawk tribe, of prophecy – of the year – of pity. The strangeness of these combinations results from the circumstance that we have not, as in our idea of poetical invention, a general conception embodied in an image; but, conversely, we begin with a concept in the sphere of sense, and imagination conducts us into the same sphere again. But we observe the conception liberating itself from the direct animal form, and the continued contemplation of it; and that which was only surmised and aimed at in that form, advancing to comprehensibility and conceivableness. The hidden meaning – the Spiritual – emerges as a human face from the brute. The multiform sphinxes, with lions’ bodies and virgins’ heads – or as male sphinxes (androsfiggis) with beards – are evidence supporting the view, that the meaning of the Spiritual is the problem which the Egyptians proposed to themselves; as the enigma generally is not the utterance of something unknown, but is the challenge to discover it – implying a wish to be revealed. But conversely, the human form is also disfigured by a brute face, with the view of giving it a specific and definite expression. The refined art of Greece is able to attain a specific expression through the spiritual character given to an image in the form of beauty, and does not need to deform the human face in order to be understood. The Egyptians appended an explanation to the human forms, even of the gods, by means of heads and masks of brutes; Anubis e.g., has a dog’s head, Isis, a lion’s head with bull’s horns, etc. The priests, also, in performing their functions, are masked as falcons, jackals, bulls, etc.; in the same way the surgeon, who has taken out the bowels of the dead (represented as fleeing, for he has laid sacrilegious hands on an object once hallowed by life) ; so also the embalmers and the scribes. The sparrow-hawk, with a human head and outspread wings, denotes the soul flying through material space, in order to animate a new body. The Egyptian imagination also created new forms – combinations of different animals: serpents with bulls’ and rams’ heads, bodies of lions with rams’ heads, etc.
We thus see Egypt intellectually confined by a narrow, involved, close view of Nature, but breaking through this; impelling it to self-contradiction, and proposing to itself the problem which that contradiction implies. The [Egyptian] principle does not remain satisfied with its primary conditions, but points to that other meaning and spirit which lies concealed beneath the surface.
In the view just given, we saw the Egyptian Spirit working itself free from natural forms. This urging, powerful Spirit, however, was not able to rest in the subjective conception of that view of things which we have now been considering, but was impelled to present it to external consciousness and outward vision by means of Art. – For the religion of the Eternal One – the Formless – Art is not only unsatisfying, but – since its object essentially and exclusively occupies the thought – something sinful. But Spirit, occupied with the contemplation of particular natural forms – being at the same time a striving and plastic Spirit – changes the direct, natural view, e.g., of the Nile, the Sun, etc., to images, in which Spirit has a share. It is, as we have seen, symbolizing Spirit; and as such, it endeavors to master these symbolizations, and to present them clearly before the mind. The more enigmatical and obscure it is to itself, so much the more does it feel the impulse to labor to deliver itself from its imprisonment, and to gain a clear objective view of itself.
It is the distinguishing feature of the Egyptian Spirit, that it stands before us as this mighty taskmaster. It is not splendor, amusement, pleasure, or the like that it seeks. The force which urges it is the impulse of self-comprehension; and it has no other material or ground to work on, in order to teach itself what it is – to realize itself for itself – than this working out its thoughts in stone; and what it engraves on the stone are its enigmas – these hieroglyphs. They are of two kinds – hieroglyphs proper, designed rather to express language, and having reference to subjective conception; and a class of hieroglyphs of a different kind, viz., those enormous masses of architecture and sculpture, with which Egypt is covered. While among other nations history consists of a series of events – as, e.g., that of the Romans, who century after century, lived only with a view to conquest, and accomplished the subjugation of the world – the Egyptians raised an empire equally mighty – of achievements in works of art, whose ruins prove their indestructibility, and which are greater and more worthy of astonishment than all other works of ancient or modern time.
Of these works I will mention no others than those devoted to the dead, and which especially attract our attention. These are the enormous excavations in the hills along the Nile at Thebes, whose passages and chambers are entirely filled with mummies – subterranean abodes as large as the largest mining works of our time: next, the great field of the dead in the plain of Sais, with its walls and vaults: thirdly, those Wonders of the World, the Pyramids, whose destination, though stated long ago by Herodotus and Diodorus, has been only recently expressly confirmed – to the effect, viz., that these prodigious crystals, with their geometrical regularity, contain dead bodies: and lastly, that most astonishing work, the Tombs of the Kings, of which one has been opened by Belzoni in modern times. It is of essential moment to observe, what importance this realm of the dead had for the Egyptian: we may thence gather what idea he had of man. For in the Dead, man conceives of man as stripped of all adventitious wrappages – as reduced to his essential nature. But that which a people regards as man in his essential characteristics, that it is itself – such is its character. In the first place, we must here cite the remarkable fact which Herodotus tells us, viz., that the Egyptians were the first to express the thought that the soul of man is immortal. But this proposition that the soul is immortal is intended to mean that it is something other than Nature – that Spirit is inherently independent. The ne plus ultra of blessedness among the Hindoos, was the passing over into abstract unity – into Nothingness. On the other hand, subjectivity, when free, is inherently infinite: the Kingdom of free Spirit is therefore the Kingdom of the Invisible – such as Hades was conceived by the Greeks. This presents itself to men first as the empire of death – to the Egyptians as the Realm of the Dead.
The idea that Spirit is immortal, involves this – that the human individual inherently possesses infinite value. The merely Natural appears limited – absolutely dependent upon something other than itself – and has its existence in that other; but Immortality involves the inherent infinitude of Spirit. This idea is first found among the Egyptians. But it must be added, that the soul was known to the Egyptians previously only as an atom – that is, as something concrete and particular. For with that view is immediately connected the notion of Metempsychosis – the idea that the soul of man may also become the tenant of the body of a brute. Aristotle too speaks of this idea, and despatches it in few words. Every subject, he says, has its particular organs, for its peculiar mode of action: so the smith, the carpenter, each for his own craft. In like manner the human soul has its peculiar organs, and the body of a brute cannot be its domicile. Pythagoras adopted the doctrine of Metempsychosis; but it could not find much support among the Greeks, who held rather to the concrete. The Hindoos have also an indistinct conception of this doctrine, inasmuch as with them the final attainment is absorption in the universal Substance. But with the Egyptians the Soul – the Spirit – is, at any rate, an affirmative being, although only abstractedly affirmative. The period occupied by the soul’s migrations was fixed at three thousand years; they affirmed, however, that a soul which had remained faithful to Osiris, was not subject to such a degradation – for such they deem it.
It is well known that the Egyptians embalmed their dead; and thus imparted such a degree of permanence, that they have been preserved even to the present day, and may continue as they are for many centuries to come. This indeed seems inconsistent with their idea of immortality; for if the soul has an independent existence, the permanence of the body seems a matter of indifference. But on the other hand it may be said, that if the soul is recognized as a permanent existence, honor should be shown to the body, as its former abode. The Parsees lay the bodies of the dead in exposed places to be devoured by birds; but among them the soul is regarded as passing forth into universal existence. Where the soul is supposed to enjoy continued existence, the body must also be considered to have some kind of connection with this continuance. Among us, indeed, the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul assumes the higher form: Spirit is in and for itself eternal; its destiny is eternal blessedness. – The Egyptians made their dead into mummies; and did not occupy themselves further with them; no honor was paid them beyond this. Herodotus relates of the Egyptians, that when any person died, the women went about loudly lamenting; but the idea of Immortality is not regarded in the light of a consolation, as among us.
From what was said above, respecting the works for the Dead, it is evident that the Egyptians, and especially their kings, made it the business of their life to build their sepulchre, and to give their bodies a permanent abode. It is remarkable that what had been needed for the business of life, was buried with the dead. Thus the craftsman had his tools: designs on the coffin show the occupation to which the deceased had devoted himself; so that we are able to become acquainted with him in all the minutia of his condition and employment. Many mummies have been found with a roll of papyrus under their arm, and this was formerly regarded as a remarkable treasure. But these rolls contain only various representations of the pursuits of life – together with writings in the Demotic character. They have been deciphered, and the discovery has been made, that they are all deeds of purchase, relating to pieces of ground and the like; in which everything is most minutely recorded – even the duties that had to be paid to the royal chancery on the occasion. What, therefore, a person bought during his life, is made to accompany him – in the shape of a legal document – in death. In this monumental way we are made acquainted with the private life of the Egyptians, as with that of the Romans through the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
After the death of an Egyptian, judgment was passed upon him. – One of the principal representations on the sarcophagi is this judicial process in the realm of the dead. Osiris – with Isis behind him – appears, holding a balance, while before him stands the soul of the deceased. But judgment was passed on the dead by the living themselves; and that not merely in the case of private persons, but even of kings. The tomb of a certain king has been discovered – very large, and elaborate in its architecture – in whose hieroglyphs the name of the principal person is obliterated, while in the bas-reliefs and pictorial designs the chief figure is erased. This has been explained to import that the honor of being thus immortalized, was refused this king by the sentence of the Court of the Dead.
If Death thus haunted the minds of the Egyptians during life, it might be supposed that their disposition was melancholy. But the thought of death by no means occasioned depression. At banquets they had representations of the dead (as Herodotus relates), with the admonition: “Eat and drink – such a one wilt thou become, when thou art dead.” Death was thus to them rather a call to enjoy Life. Osiris himself dies, and goes down into the realm of death, according to the above-mentioned Egyptian myth. In many places in Egypt, the sacred grave of Osiris was exhibited. But he was also represented as president of the Kingdom of the Invisible Sphere, and as judge of the dead in it; later on, Serapis exercised this function in his place. Of Anubis- Hermes the myth says, that he embalmed the body of Osiris: this Anubis sustained also the office of leader of the souls of the dead; and in the pictorial representations he stands, with a writing tablet in his hand, by the side of Osiris. The reception of the dead into the Kingdom of Osiris had also a profounder import, viz., that the individual was united with Osiris. On the lids of the sarcophagi, therefore, the defunct is represented as having himself become Osiris; and in deciphering the hieroglyphs, the idea has been suggested that the kings are called gods. The human and the divine are thus exhibited as united. If, in conclusion, we combine what has been said here of the peculiarities of the Egyptian Spirit in all its aspects, its pervading principle is found to be, that the two elements of reality – Spirit sunk in Nature, and the impulse to liberate it – are here held together inharmoniously as contending elements. We behold the antithesis of Nature and Spirit – not the primary Immediate Unity [as in the less advanced nations], nor the Concrete Unity, where Nature is posited only as a basis for the manifestation of Spirit [as in the more advanced] ; in contrast with the first and second of these Unities, the Egyptian Unity – combining contradictory elements – occupies a middle place. The two sides of this unity are held in abstract independence of each other, and their veritable union presented only as a problem. We have, therefore, on the one side, prodigious confusion and limitation to the particular; barbarous sensuality with African hardness, Zoolatry, and sensual enjoyment. It is stated that, in a public market-place, sodomy was Committed by a woman with a goat. Juvenal relates that human flesh was eaten and human blood drunk out of revenge. The other side is the struggle of Spirit for liberation – fancy displayed in the forms created by art, together with the abstract understanding shown in the mechanical labors connected with their production. The same intelligence – the power of altering the form of individual existences, and that steadfast thoughtfulness which can rise above mere phenomena – shows itself in their police and the mechanism of the State, in agricultural economy, etc.; and the contrast to this is the severity with which their customs bind them, and the superstition to which humanity among them is inexorably subject. With a clear understanding of the present, is connected the highest degree of impulsiveness, daring and turbulence. These features are combined in the stories which Herodotus relates to us of the Egyptians. They much resemble the tales of the Thousand and One Nights; and although these have Bagdad as the locality of their narration, their origin is no more limited to this luxurious court, than to the Arabian people, but must be partly traced to Egypt – as Von Hammer also thinks. The Arabian world is quite other than the fanciful and enchanted region there described; it has much more simple passions and interests. Love, Martial Daring, the Horse, the Sword, are the darling subjects of the poetry peculiar to the Arabians.
The Egyptian Spirit has shown itself to us as in all respects shut up within the limits of particular conceptions, and, as it were, imbruted in them; but likewise stirring itself within these limits – passing restlessly from one particular form into another. This Spirit never rises to the Universal and Higher, for it seems to be blind to that; nor does it ever withdraw into itself: yet it symbolizes freely and boldly with particular existence, and has already mastered it. All that is now required is to posit that particular existence – which contains the germ of ideality – as ideal, and to comprehend Universality itself, which is already potentially liberated from the particulars involving it. It is the free, joyful Spirit of Greece that accomplishes this, and makes this its starting-point. An Egyptian priest is reported to have said, that the Greeks remain eternally children. We may say, on the contrary, that the Egyptians are vigorous boys, eager for self-comprehension, who require nothing but clear understanding of themselves in an ideal form, in order to become Young Men. In the Oriental Spirit there remains as a basis the massive substantiality of Spirit immersed in Nature. To the Egyptian Spirit it has become impossible – though it is still involved in infinite embarrassment – to remain contented with that. The rugged African nature disintegrated that primitive Unity, and lighted upon the problem whose solution is Free Spirit. That the Spirit of the Egyptians presented itself to their consciousness in the form of a problem, is evident from the celebrated inscription in the sanctuary of the Goddess Neith at Sais: “I am that which is, that which was, and that which will be; no one has lifted my veil.” This inscription indicates the principle of the Egyptian Spirit; though the opinion has often been entertained, that its purport applies to all times. Proclus supplies the addition: “The fruit which I have produced is Helios.” That which is clear to itself is, therefore, the result of, and the solution of, the problem in question. This lucidity is Spirit – the Son of Neith the concealed night-loving divinity. In the Egyptian Neith, Truth is still a problem. The Greek Apollo is its solution; his utterance is: “Man, know thyself.” In this dictum is not intended a self-recognition that regards the specialities of one’s own weaknesses and defects: it is not the individual that is admonished to become acquainted with his idiosyncrasy, but humanity in general is summoned to self-knowledge. This mandate was given for the Greeks, and in the Greek Spirit humanity exhibits itself in its clear and developed condition. Wonderfully, then, must the Greek legend surprise us, which relates, that the Sphinx – the great Egyptian symbol – appeared in Thebes, uttering the words: “What is that which in the morning goes on four legs, at midday on two, and in the evening on three?” OEdipus, giving the solution, Man, precipitated the Sphinx from the rock. The solution and liberation of that Oriental Spirit, which in Egypt had advanced so far as to propose the problem, is certainly this: that the Inner Being [the Essence] of Nature is Thought, which has its existence only in the human consciousness. But that timehonored antique solution given by OEdipus – who thus shows himself possessed of knowledge – is connected with a dire ignorance of the character of his own actions. The rise of spiritual illumination in the old royal house is disparaged by connection with abominations, the result of ignorance; and that primeval royalty must – in order to attain true knowledge and moral clearness – first be brought into shapely form, and be harmonized with the Spirit of the Beautiful, by civil laws and political freedom.
The inward or ideal transition, from Egypt to Greece is as just exhibited. But Egypt became a province of the great Persian kingdom, and the historical transition takes place when the Persian world comes in contact with the Greek. Here, for the first time, an historical transition meets us, viz. in the fall of an empire. China and India, as already mentioned, have remained – Persia has not. The transition to Greece is, indeed, internal; but here it shows itself also externally, as a transmission of sovereignty – an occurrence which from this time forward is ever and anon repeated. For the Greeks surrender the sceptre of dominion and of civilization to the Romans, and the Romans are subdued by the Germans. If we examine this fact of transition more closely, the question suggests itself – for example, in this first case of the kind, viz. Persia – why it sank, while China and India remain. In the first place we must here banish from our minds the prejudice in favor of duration, as if it had any advantage as compared with transience: the imperishable mountains are not superior to the quickly dismantled rose exhaling its life in fragrance. In Persia begins the principle of Free Spirit as contrasted with imprisonment in Nature; mere natural existence, therefore, loses its bloom, and fades away. The principle of separation from Nature is found in the Persian Empire, which, therefore, occupies a higher grade than those worlds immersed in the Natural. The necessity of advance has been thereby proclaimed. Spirit has disclosed its existence, and must complete its development. It is only when dead that the Chinese is held in reverence. The Hindoo kills himself – becomes absorbed in Brahm – undergoes a living death in the condition of perfect unconsciousness – or is a present god in virtue of his birth. Here we have no change; no advance is admissible, for progress is only possible through the recognition of the independence of Spirit. With the “Light” of the Persians begins a spiritual view of things, and here Spirit bids adieu to Nature. It is here, then, that we first find (as occasion called us to notice above) that the objective world remains free – that the nations are not enslaved, but are left in possession of their wealth, their political constitution, and their religion. And, indeed, this is the side on which Persia itself shows weakness as compared with Greece. For we see that the Persians could erect no empire possessing complete organization; that they could not “inform” the conquered lands with their principle, and were unable to make them into a harmonious Whole, but were obliged to be content with an aggregate of the most diverse individualities. Among these nations the Persians secured no inward recognition of the legitimacy of their rule; they could not establish their legal principles of enactments, and in organizing their dominion, they only considered themselves, not the whole extent of their empire. Thus, as Persia did not constitute, politically, one Spirit, it appeared weak in contrast with Greece. It was not the effeminacy of the Persians (although, perhaps, Babylon infused an enervating element) that ruined them, but the unwieldy, unorganized character of their host, as matched against Greek organization; i.e., the superior principle overcame the inferior. The abstract principle of the Persians displayed its defectiveness as an unorganized, incompacted union of disparate contradictories; in which the Persian doctrine of Light stood side by side with Syrian voluptuousness and luxury, with the activity and courage of the sea-braving Phoenicians, the abstraction of pure Thought in the Jewish Religion, and the mental unrest of Egypt; – an aggregate of elements, which awaited their idealization, and could receive it only in free Individuality. The Greeks must be looked upon as the people in whom these elements interpenetrated each other: Spirit became introspective, triumphed over particularity, and thereby emancipated itself.