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
Page: 322finds its way through this channel into Christianity. The idea thus introduced was that of the struggle between Satan and Michael, which ended in the overthrow of the former, and the casting forth of all his hosts out of heaven, but it coincides too nearly with a myth spread in countries held by all the Aryan nations to avoid further modification. Local tradition substituted St. George or St. Theodore for Jupiter, Apollo, Hercules, or Perseus. It is under this disguise that the Vedic myth has come down to our own times, and has still its festivals and its monuments. Art has consecrated it in a thousand ways. St. Michael, lance in hand, treading on the dragon, is an image as familiar now as, thirty centuries ago, that of Indra treading under foot the demon Vritra could possibly have been to the Hindoo.[561:1]
The very ancient doctrine of a Trinity, three gods in one, can be explained, rationally, by allegory only. We have seen that the Sun, in early times, was believed to be the Creator, and became the first object of adoration. After some time it would be observed that this powerful and beneficent agent, the solar fire, was the most potent Destroyer, and hence would arise the first idea of a Creator and Destroyer united in the same person. But much time would not elapse before it must have been observed, that the destruction caused by this powerful being was destruction only in appearance, that destruction was only reproduction in another form—regeneration; that if he appeared sometimes to destroy, he constantly repaired the injury which he seemed to occasion—and that, without his light and heat, everything would dwindle away into a cold, inert, unprolific mass. Thus, at once, in the same being, became concentrated, the creating, the preserving, and the destroying powers—the latter of the three being at the same time both the Destroyer and Regenerator. Hence, by a very natural and obvious train of reasoning, arose the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer—in India Brahmā, Vishnu, and Siva; in Persia Oromasdes, Mithra, and Arimanius; in Egypt Osiris, Horus, and Typhon: in each case Three Persons and one God. And thus undoubtedly arose the Trimurti, or the celebrated Trinity.
Traces of a similar refinement may be found in the Greek mythology, in the Orphic Phanes, Ericapeus and Metis, who were all identified with the Sun, and yet embraced in the first person, Phanes, or Protogones, the Creator and Generator.[562:1] The invocation to the Sun, in the Mysteries, according to Macrobius, was as follows: "O all-ruling Sun! Spirit of the world! Power of the world! Light of the world!"[562:2]
We have seen in Chap. XXXV, that the Peruvian Triad was represented by three statues, called, respectively, "Apuinti, Churiinti, and Intihoaoque," which is, "Lord and Father Sun; Son Sun; and Air or Spirit, Brother Sun."[562:3]
Mr. Faber, in his "Origin of Pagan Idolatry," says:
"The peculiar mode in which the Hindoos identify their three great gods with the solar orb, is a curious specimen of the physical refinements of ancient mythology. At night, in the west, the Sun is Vishnu; he is Brahmā in the east and in the morning; and from noon to evening he is Siva."[562:4]
Mr. Moor, in his "Hindu Pantheon," says:
"Most, if not all, of the gods of the Hindoo Pantheon will, on close investigation, resolve themselves into the three powers (Brahmā, Vishnu, and Siva), and those powers into one Deity, Brahm, typified by the Sun."[562:5]
Mr. Squire, in his "Serpent Symbol," observes:
"It is highly probable that the triple divinity of the Hindoos was originally no more than a personification of the Sun, whom they called Three-bodied, in the triple capacity of producing forms by his general heat, preserving them by his light, or destroying them by the counteracting force of his igneous matter. Brahmá, the Creator, was indicated by the heat of the Sun; Vishnu, the Preserver, by the light of the Sun, and Siva, the Reproducer, by the orb of the Sun. In the morning the Sun was Brahmā, at noon Vishnu, at evening Siva."[562:6]
"He is at once," says Mr. Cox, in speaking of the Sun, "the 'Comforter' and 'Healer,' the 'Saviour' and 'Destroyer,' who can slay and make alive at will, and from whose piercing glance no secret can be kept hid."[562:7]
Sir William Jones was also of the opinion that the whole Triad of the Hindoos were identical with the Sun, expressed under the mythical term O. M.
The idea of a Tri-murti, or triple personification, was developed gradually, and as it grew, received numerous accretions. It was first dimly shadowed forth and vaguely expressed in the Rig-Veda, where a triad of principal gods, Agni, Indra, and Surya is recognized. And these three gods are One, the Sun.[562:8]
We see then that the religious myths of antiquity and the fireside legends of ancient and modern times, have a common root in the mental habits of primeval humanity, and that they are the earliest recorded utterances of men concerning the visible phenomena of the world into which they were born. At first, thoroughly understood, the meaning in time became unknown. How stories originally told of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, &c., became believed in as facts, is plainly illustrated in the following story told by Mrs. Jameson in her "History of Our Lord in Art:" "I once tried to explain," says she, "to a good old woman, the meaning of the word parable, and that the story of the Prodigal Son was not a fact; she was scandalized—she was quite sure that Jesus would never have told anything to his disciples that was not true. Thus she settled the matter in her own mind, and I thought it best to leave it there undisturbed."
Prof. Max Müller, in speaking of "the comparison of the different forms of Aryan religion and mythology in India, Persia, Greece, Italy and Germany," clearly illustrates how such legends are transformed from intelligible into unintelligible myths. He says:
"In each of these nations there was a tendency to change the original conception of divine powers, to misunderstand the many names given to these powers, and to misinterpret the praises addressed to them. In this manner some of the divine names were changed into half-divine, half-human heroes, and at last the myths which were true and intelligible as told originally of the Sun, or the Dawn, or the Storms, were turned into legends or fables too marvelous to be believed of common mortals. This process can be watched in India, in Greece, and in Germany. The same story, or nearly the same, is told of gods, of heroes, and of men. The divine myth became an heroic legend, and the heroic legend fades away into a nursery tale. Our nursery tales have well been called the modern patois of the ancient mythology of the Aryan race."[563:1]
In the words of this learned author, "we never lose, we always gain, when we discover the most ancient intention of sacred traditions, instead of being satisfied with their later aspect, and their modern misinterpretations."