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
In India the Sun, Moon, Stars and the powers of Nature were worshiped and personified, and each quality, mental and physical, had its emblem, which the Brahmans taught the ignorant to regard as realities, till the Pantheon became crowded.
"Our Aryan ancestors learned to look up to the sky, the Sun, and the dawn, and there to see the presence of a living power, half-revealed, and half-hidden from their senses, those senses which were always postulating something beyond what they could grasp. They went further still. In the bright sky they perceived an Illuminator, in the all-encircling firmament an Embracer, in the roar of the thunder or in the voice of the storm they felt the presence of a Shouter and of furious Strikers, and out of the rain they created an Indra, or giver of rain."[545:2]
Prof. Monier Williams, speaking of "the hymns of the Veda," says:
"To what deities, it will be asked, were the prayers and hymns of these collections addressed? The answer is: They worshiped those physical forces before which all nations, if guided solely by the light of nature, have in the early period of their life, instinctively bowed down, and before which even the most civilized and enlightened have always been compelled to bend in awe and reverence, if not in adoration."[545:3]
The following sublime description of Night is an extract from the Vedas, made by Sir William Jones:
"Night approaches, illumined with stars and planets, and, looking on all sides with numberless eyes, overpowers all meaner lights. The immortal goddess pervades the firmament, covering the low valleys and shrubs, the lofty mountains and trees, but soon she disturbs the gloom with celestial effulgence. Advancing with brightness, at length she recalls her sister Morning; and the nightly shade gradually melts away. May she at this time be propitious! She, in whose early watch we may calmly recline in our mansions, as birds repose upon the trees. Mankind now sleep in their towns; now herds and flocks peacefully slumber, and the winged creatures, swift falcons, and vultures. O Night! [Pg 546]avert from us the she-wolf and the wolf; and, oh! suffer us to pass thee in soothing rest! Oh, morn! remove in due time this black, yet visible overwhelming darkness, which at present enfolds me, as thou enablest me to remove the cloud of their dells. Daughter of Heaven, I approach thee with praise, as the cow approaches her milker; accept, O Night! not the hymn only, but the oblation of thy suppliant, who prays that his foes may be subdued."
Some of the principal gods of the Hindoo Pantheon are, Dyaus (the Sky), Indra (the Rain-giver), Sûrya (the Sun), the Maruts (Winds), Aditi, (the Dawn), Parvati (the Earth),[546:1] and Siva, her consort. The worship of the Sun is expressed in a variety of ways, and by a multitude of fanciful names. One of the principal of these is Crishna. The following is a prayer addressed to him:
"Be auspicious to my lay, O Chrishna, thou only God of the seven heavens, who swayest the universe through the immensity of space and matter. O universal and resplendent Sun! Thou mighty governor of the heavens; thou sovereign regulator of the connected whole; thou sole and universal deity of mankind; thou gracious and Supreme Spirit; my noblest and most happy inspiration is thy praise and glory. Thy power I will praise, for thou art my sovereign Lord, whose bright image continually forces itself on my attention, eager imagination. Thou art the Being to whom heroes pray in perils of war; nor are their supplications vain, when thus they pray; whether it be when thou illuminest the eastern region with thy orient light, when in thy meridian splendor, or when thou majestically descendest in the West."
Crishna is made to say:
"I am the light in the Sun and Moon, far, far beyond the darkness. I am the brilliancy in flame, the radiance in all that's radiant, and the light of lights."[546:2]
In the Maha-bharata, Crishna, who having become the son of Aditi (the Dawn), is called Vishnu, another name for the Sun.[546:3] The demon Putana assaults the child Crishna, which identifies him with Hercules, the Sun-god of the Greeks.[546:4] In his Solar character he must again be the slayer of the Dragon or Black-snake Kulnika, the "Old Serpent" with the thousand heads.[546:5] Crishna's amours with the maidens makes him like Indra, Phoibus, Hercules, Samson, Alpheios, Paris and other Sun-gods. This is the hot and fiery Sun greeting the moon and the dew, or the Sun with his brides the Stars.[546:6]
Moore, in his Hindu Pantheon, observes:
"Although all the Hindu deities partake more or less remotely of the nature and character of Surya, or the Sun, and all more or less directly radiate from, or merge in, him, yet no one is, I think, so intimately identified with him as Vishnu; whether considered in his own person, or in the character of his most glorious Avatara of Crishna."
The ancient religion of Egypt, like that of Hindostan, was founded on astronomy, and eminently metaphysical in its character. The Egyptian priests were far advanced in the science of astronomy. They made astronomy their peculiar study. They knew the figure of the earth, and how to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. From very ancient time, they had observed the order and movement of the stars, and recorded them with the utmost care. Ramses the Great, generally called Sesostris, is supposed to have reigned one thousand five hundred years before the Christian era, about coeval with Moses, or a century later. In the tomb of this monarch was found a large massive circle of wrought gold, divided into three hundred and sixty-five degrees, and each division marked the rising and setting of the stars for each day.[547:1] This fact proves how early they were advanced in astronomy. In their great theories of mutual dependence between all things in the universe was included a belief in some mysterious relation between the Spirits of the Stars and human souls, so that the destiny of mortals was regulated by the motions of the heavenly bodies. This was the origin of the famous system of Astrology. From the conjunction of planets at the hour of birth, they prophesied what would be the temperament of an infant, what life he would live, and what death he would die. Diodorus, who wrote in the century preceding Christ Jesus, says:
"They frequently foretell with the greatest accuracy what is about to happen to mankind; showing the failure or abundance of crops, and the epidemic diseases about to befall men or cattle. Earthquakes, deluges, rising of comets, and all those phenomena, the knowledge of which appears impossible to common comprehensions, they foresee by means of their long continued observation."
P. Le Page Renouf, who is probably the best authority on the religion of ancient Egypt which can be produced, says, in his Hibbert Lectures:[547:2]
"The Lectures on the Science of Language, delivered nearly twenty years ago by Prof. Max Müller, have, I trust, made us fully understand how, among the Indo-European races, the names of the Sun, of Sunrise and Sunset, and of other such phenomena, come to be talked of and considered as personages, of whom wondrous legends have been told. Egyptian mythology not merely admits, but imperatively demands, the same explanation. And this becomes the more evident when we consider the question how these mythical personages came to be invested with the attributes of divinity by men who, like the Egyptians, had so lively a sense of the divine."
Kenrick, in his "History of Egypt," says:
"We have abundant evidence that the Egyptian theology had its origin in the personification of the powers of nature, under male and female attributes, and that this conception took a sensible form, such as the mental state of the people required, by the identification of these powers with the elements and the heavenly bodies, fire, earth, water, the sun and moon, and the Nile. Such appears everywhere to be the origin of the objective form of polytheism; and it is equally evident among the nations most closely allied to the Egyptians by position and general character—the Phenicians, the Babylonians, and in remote connection, the Indians on the one side and the Greeks on the other."