Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning

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trine of the Trinity is the highest and most mysterious doctrine of the Christian church. It declares that there are three persons in the Godhead or divine nature—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—and that "these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory, although distinguished by their personal propensities." The most celebrated statement of the doctrine is to be found in the Athanasian creed,[368:1] which asserts that:

"The Catholic[368:2] faith is this: That we worship One God as Trinity, and Trinity in Unity—neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance—for there is One person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal."

As M. Reville remarks:

"The dogma of the Trinity displayed its contradictions with true bravery. The Deity divided into three divine persons, and yet these three persons forming only One God; of these three the first only being self-existent, the two others deriving their existence from the first, and yet these three persons being considered as perfectly equal; each having his special, distinct character, his individual qualities, wanting in the other two, and yet each one of the three being supposed to possess the fullness of perfection—here, it must be confessed, we have the deification of the contradictory."[368:3]

We shall now see that this very peculiar doctrine of three in one, and one in three, is of heathen origin, and that it must fall with all the other dogmas of the Christian religion.

[Pg 369]

The number three is sacred in all theories derived from oriental sources. Deity is always a trinity of some kind, or the successive emanations proceeded in threes.[369:1]

If we turn to India we shall find that one of the most prominent features in the Indian theology is the doctrine of a divine triad, governing all things. This triad is called Tri-murti—from the Sanscrit word tri (three) and murti (form)—and consists of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. It is an inseparable unity, though three in form.[369:2]

"When the universal and infinite being Brahma—the only really existing entity, wholly without form, and unbound and unaffected by the three Gunas or by qualities of any kind—wished to create for his own entertainment the phenomena of the universe, he assumed the quality of activity and became a male person, as Brahma the creator. Next, in the progress of still further self-evolution, he willed to invest himself with the second quality of goodness, as Vishnu the preserver, and with the third quality of darkness, as Siva the destroyer. This development of the doctrine of triple manifestation (tri-murti), which appears first in the Brahmanized version of the Indian Epics, had already been adumbrated in the Veda in the triple form of fire, and in the triad of gods, Agni, Sūrya, and Indra; and in other ways."[369:3]

This divine Tri-murti—says the Brahmans and the sacred books—is indivisible in essence, and indivisible in action; mystery profound! which is explained in the following manner:

Brahma represents the creative principle, the unreflected or unevolved protogoneus state of divinity—the Father.

Vishnu represents the protecting and preserving principle, the evolved or reflected state of divinity—the Son.[369:4]

Siva is the principle that presides at destruction and re-construction—the Holy Spirit.[369:5]

[Pg 370]

The third person was the Destroyer, or, in his good capacity, the Regenerator. The dove was the emblem of the Regenerator. As the spiritus was the passive cause (brooding on the face of the waters) by which all things sprang into life, the dove became the emblem of the Spirit, or Holy Ghost, the third person.

These three gods are the first and the highest manifestations of the Eternal Essence, and are typified by the three letters composing the mystic syllable OM or AUM. They constitute the well known Trimurti or Triad of divine forms which characterizes Hindooism. It is usual to describe these three gods as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, but this gives a very inadequate idea of their complex characters. Nor does the conception of their relationship to each other become clearer when it is ascertained that their functions are constantly interchangeable, and that each may take the place of the other, according to the sentiment expressed by the greatest of Indian poets, Kalidasa (Kumara-sambhava, Griffith, vii. 44):

"In those three persons the One God was shown—
Each first in place, each last—not one alone;
Of Siva, Vishnu, Brahmā, each may be
First, second, third, among the blessed three."

A devout person called Attencin, becoming convinced that he should worship but one deity, thus addressed Brahma, Vishnu and Siva:

"O you three Lords; know that I recognize only One God; inform me therefore, which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my vows and adorations."

The three gods became manifest to him, and replied:

"Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us; what to you appears such is only by semblance; the Single Being appears under three forms, but he is One."[370:1]

Sir William Jones says:

"Very respectable natives have assured me, that one or two missionaries have been absurd enough in their zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles, to urge that the Hindoos were even now almost Christians; because their Brahmā, Vishnou, and Mahesa (Siva), were no other than the Christian Trinity."[370:2]

Thomas Maurice, in his "Indian Antiquities," describes a magnificent piece of Indian sculpture, of exquisite workmanship, and of stupendous antiquity, namely:

"A bust composed of three heads, united to one body, adorned with the oldest symbols of the Indian theology, and thus expressly fabricated according to the [Pg 371]unanimous confession of the sacred sacerdotal tribe of India, to indicate the Creator, the Preserver, and the Regenerator, of mankind; which establishes the solemn fact, that from the remotest eras, the Indian nations had adored a triune deity."[371:1]

Fig. No. 34 is a representation of an Indian sculpture, intended to represent the Triune God,[371:2] evidently similar to the one described above by Mr. Maurice. It is taken from "a very ancient granite" in the museum at the "Indian House," and was dug from the ruins of a temple in the island of Bombay.

Indian sculpture representing triune god

The Buddhists, as well as the Brahmans, have had their Trinity from a very early period.

Mr. Faber, in his "Origin of Heathen Idolatry," says:

"Among the Hindoos, we have the Triad of Brahmā, Vishnu, and Siva; so, among the votaries of Buddha, we find the self-triplicated Buddha declared to be the same as the Hindoo Trimurti. Among the Buddhist sect of the Jainists, we have the triple Jiva, in whom the Trimurti is similarly declared to be incarnate."