Of what use is this philosophy of the Upanishadas?
(The script published in the Writings and Speeches, vol. 3 published by Government of Maharashtra did not have any chapter names. It was divided in I to VI parts. For the sake of readership convenience we are providing additional hyperlinks to some paras by way of projecting some questions in the text. )
This script on Philosophy of Hinduism was found as a well-bound copy which we feel is complete by itself. The whole script seems to be a Chapter of one big scheme. This foolscap original typed copy consists of 169 pages.— Editors
Philosophy of Hinduism
What is the philosophy of Hinduism? This is a question which arises in its logical sequence. But apart from its logical sequence its importance is such that it can never be omitted from consideration. Without it no one can understand the aims and ideals of Hinduism.
It is obvious that such a study must be preceded by a certain amount of what may be called clearing of the ground and defining of the terms involved.
At the outset it may be asked what does this proposed title comprehend? Is this title of the Philosophy of Hinduism of the same nature as that of the Philosophy of Religion? I wish I could commit myself one way or the other on this point. Indeed I cannot. I have read a good deal on the subject, but I confess I have not got a clear idea of what is meant by Philosophy of Religion. This is probably due to two facts. In the first place while religion is something definite, there is nothing definite*[f1] as to what is to be included in the term philosophy. In the second place Philosophy and Religion have been adversaries if not actual antagonists as may be seen from the story of the philosopher and the theologian. According to the story, the two were engaged in disputation and the theologian accused the philosopher that he was "like a blind man in a dark room, looking for a black cat which was not there". In reply the philosopher charged the theologian saying that "he was like a blind man in the dark room, looking for a black cat which was not there but he declared to have found there". Perhaps it is the unhappy choice of the title — Philosophy of Religion—which is responsible for causing confusion in the matter of the exact definition of its field. The nearest approach to an intelligible statement as to the exact subject matter of Philosophy of Religion I find in Prof. Pringle-Pattison who observes[f2] :—
"A few words may be useful at the outset as an indication of what we commonly mean by the Philosophy of Religion. Plato described philosophy long ago as the synoptic view of things. That is to say, it is the attempt to see things together-to keep all the main features of the world in view, and to grasp them in their relation to one another as parts of one whole. Only thus can we acquire a sense of proportion and estimate aright the significance of any particular range of facts for our ultimate conclusions about the nature of the world-process and the world-ground. Accordingly, the philosophy of any particular department of experience, the Philosophy of Religion, the Philosophy of Art, the Philosophy of Law, is to be taken as meaning an analysis and interpretation of the experience in question in its bearing upon our view of man and the world in which he lives. And when the facts upon which we concentrate are so universal, and in their nature so remarkable, as those disclosed by the history of religion—the philosophy of man's religious experience—cannot but exercise a determining influence upon our general philosophical conclusions. In fact with many writers the particular discussion tends to merge in the more general."
"The facts with which a philosophy of religion has to deal are supplied by the history of religion, in the most comprehensive sense of that term. As Tiele puts it, "all religions of the civilised and uncivilised world, dead and living", is a `historical and psychological phenomenon' in all its manifestations. These facts, it should be noted, constitute the data of the philosophy of religion; they do not themselves constitute a `philosophy' or, in Tiele's use of the term, a `science' of religion. `If, he says, 1 have minutely described all the religions in existence, their doctrines, myths and customs, the observances they inculcate, and the organisation of their adherents, tracing the different religions from their origin to their bloom and decay, I have merely. Collected the materials with which the science of religion works'. 'The historical record, however complete, is not enough; pure history is not philosophy. To achieve a philosophy of religion we should be able to discover in the varied manifestations a common principle to whose roots in human nature we can point, whose evolution we can trace by intelligible-stages from lower to higher and more adequate forms, as well as its intimate relations with the other main factors in human civilisation".
If this is Philosophy of Religion it appears to me that it is merely a different name for that department of study, which is called comparative religion with the added aim of discovering a common principle in the varied manifestations of religion. Whatever be the scope and value of such a study, I am using the title Philosophy of Religion to denote something quite different from the sense and aim given to it by Prof. Pringle-Pattison. I am using the word Philosophy in its original sense, which was two-fold. It meant teachings as it did when people spoke of the philosophy of Socrates or the philosophy of Plato. In another sense it meant critical reason used in passing judgements upon things and events. Proceeding on this basis Philosophy of Religion is to me not a merely descriptive science. I regard it as being both descriptive as well as normative. In so far as it deals with the teachings of a Religion, Philosophy of Religion becomes a descriptive science. In so far as it involves the use of critical reason for passing judgement on those teachings, the Philosophy of Religion becomes a normative science. From this it will be clear what I shall be concerned with in this study of the Philosophy of Hinduism. To be explicit I shall be putting Hinduism on its trial to assess its worth as a way of life.
Here is one part of the ground cleared. There remains another part to be cleared. That concerns the ascertainment of the factors concerned and the definitions of the terms I shall be using.
A study of the Philosophy of Religion it seems to me involves the determination of three dimensions. I call them dimensions because they are like the unknown quantities contained as factors in a product. One must ascertain and define these dimensions of the Philosophy of Religion if an examination of it is to be fruitful.
Of the three dimensions, Religion is the first. One must therefore define what he understands by religion in order to avoid argument being directed at cross-purposes. This is particularly necessary in the case of Religion for the reason that there is no agreement as to its exact definition. This is no place to enter upon an elaborate consideration of this question. I will therefore content myself by stating the meaning in which I am using the word in the discussion, which follows.
I am using the word Religion to mean Theology. This will perhaps be insufficient for the purposes of definition. For there are different kinds of Theologies and I must particularise which one I mean. Historically there have been two Theologies spoken of from ancient times. Mythical theology and Civil theology. The Greeks who distinguished them gave each a definite content. By Mythical theology they meant the tales of gods and their doings told in or implied by current imaginative literature. Civil theology according to them consisted of the knowledge of the various feasts and fasts of the State Calendar and the ritual appropriate to them. I am not using the word theology in either of these two senses of that word. I mean by theology natural theology[f3]which is-the doctrine of God and the divine, as an integral part of the theory of nature. As traditionally understood there are three thesis which `natural theology' propounds. (1) That God exists and is the author of what we call nature or universe (2) That God controls all the events which make nature and (3) God exercises a government over mankind in accordance with his sovereign moral law.
I am aware there is another class of theology known as Revealed Theology—spontaneous self disclosure of divine reality—which may be distinguished from Natural theology. But this distinction does not really matter. For as has been pointed out[f4] that a revelation may either "leave the results won by Natural theology standing without modifications, merely supplementing them by further knowledge not attainable by unassisted human effort" or it "may transform Natural theology in such a way that all the truths of natural theology would acquire richer and deeper meaning when seen in the light of a true revelation." But the view that a genuine natural theology and a genuine revelation theology might stand in real contradiction may be safely excluded as not being possible.
Taking the three thesis of Theology namely (1) the existence of God, (2) God's providential government of the universe and (3) God's moral government of mankind, I take Religion to mean the propounding of an ideal scheme of divine governance the aim and object of which is to make the social order in which men live a moral order. This is what I understand by Religion and this is the sense in which I shall be using the term Religion in this discussion.
The second dimension is to know the ideal scheme for which a Religion stands. To define what is the fixed, permanent and dominant part in the religion of any society and to separate its essential characteristics from those which are unessential is often very difficult. The reason for this difficulty in all probability lies in the difficulty pointed out by Prof. Robertson Smith[f5] when he says:—
"The traditional usage of religion had grown up gradually in the course of many centuries, and reflected habits of thought, characteristic of very diverse stages of man's intellectual and moral development. No conception of the nature of the gods could possibly afford the clue to all parts of that motley complex of rites and ceremonies which the later paganism had received by inheritance, from a series of ancestors in every state of culture from pure savagery upwards. The record of the religious thought of mankind, as it is embodied in religious institutions, resembles the geological record of the history of the earth's crust; the new and the old are preserved side by side, or rather layer upon layer".
The same thing has happened in India. Speaking about the growth of Religion in India, says Prof. Max Muller :—
"We have seen a religion growing up from stage to stage, from the simplest childish prayers to the highest metaphysical abstractions. In the majority of the hymns of the Veda we might recognise the childhood; in the Brahmanas and their sacrificial, domestic and moral ordinances the busy manhood; in the Upanishads the old age of the Vedic religion. We could have well understood if, with the historical progress of the Indian mind, they had discarded the purely childish prayers as soon as they had arrived at the maturity of the Brahamans; and if, when the vanity of sacrifices and the real character of the old god's had once been recognised, they would have been superseded by the more exalted religion of the Upanishads. But it was not so. Every religious thought that had once found expression in India, that had once been handed down as a sacred heirloom, was preserved, and the thoughts of the three historical periods, the childhood, the manhood, and the old age of the Indian nation, were made to do permanent service in the three stages of the life of every individual. Thus alone can we explain how the same sacred code, the Veda, contains not only the records of different phases of religious thought, but of doctrines which we may call almost diametrically opposed to each other."
But this difficulty is not so great in the case of Religions which are positive religions. The fundamental characteristic of positive Religions, is that they have not grown up like primitive religions, under the action. of unconscious forces operating silently from age to age, but trace their origin to the teaching of great religious innovators, who spoke as the organs of a divine revelation. Being the result of conscious formulations the philosophy of a religion which is positive is easy to find and easy to state. Hinduism like Judaism, Christianity and Islam is in the main a positive religion. One does not have to search for its scheme of divine governance. It is not like an unwritten constitution. On the Hindu scheme of divine governance is enshrined in a written constitution and any one who cares to know it will find it laid bare in that Sacred Book called the Manu Smriti, a divine Code which lays down the rules which govern the religious, ritualistic and social life of the Hindus in minute detail and which must be regarded as the Bible of the Hindus and containing the philosophy of Hinduism.
The third dimension in the philosophy of religion is the criterion[f6] to be adopted for judging the value of the ideal scheme of divine governance for which a given Religion stands. Religion must be put on its trial. By what criterion shall it be judged? That leads to the definition of the norm. Of the three dimensions this third one is the most difficult one to be ascertained and defined.
Unfortunately the question does not appear to have been tackled although much has been written on the philosophy of Religion and certainly no method has been found for satisfactorily dealing with the problem. One is left to one's own method for determining the issue. As for myself I think it is safe to proceed on the view that to know the philosophy of any movement or any institution one must study the revolutions which the movement or the institution has undergone. Revolution is the mother of philosophy and if it is not the mother of philosophy it is a lamp which illuminates philosophy. Religion is no exception to this rule. To me therefore it seems quite evident that the best method to ascertain the criterion by which to judge the philosophy of Religion is to study the Revolutions which religion has undergone. That is the method which I propose to adopt.
Students of History are familiar with one Religious Revolution. That Revolution was concerned with the sphere of Religion and the extent of its authority. There was a time when Religion had covered the whole field of human knowledge and claimed infallibility for what it taught. It covered astronomy and taught a theory of the universe according to which the earth is at rest in the center of the universe, while the sun, moon, planets and system of fixed stars revolve round it each in its own sphere. It included biology and geology and propounded the view that the growth of life on the earth had been created all at once and had contained from the time of creation onwards, all the heavenly bodies that it now contains and all kinds of animals of plants. It claimed medicine to be its province and taught that disease was either a divine visitation as punishment for sin or it was the work of demons and that it could be cured by the intervention of saints, either in person or through their holy relics; or by prayers or
pilgrimages; or (when due to demons) by exorcism and by treatment which the demons (and the patient) found disgusting. It also claimed physiology and psychology to be its domain and taught that the body and soul were two distinct substances.
Bit by bit this vast Empire of Religion was destroyed. The Copernican Revolution freed astronomy from the domination of Religion. The Darwinian Revolution freed biology and geology from the trammels of Religion. The authority of theology in medicine is not yet completely destroyed. Its intervention in medical questions still continues. Opinion on such subjects as birth control, abortion and sterilisation of the defective are still influenced by theological dogmas. Psychology has not completely freed itself from its entanglements. None the less Darwinism was such a severe blow that the authority of theology was shattered all over to such an extent that it never afterwards made any serious effort to remain its lost empire.
It is quite natural that this disruption of the Empire of Religion should be treated as a great Revolution. It is the result of the warfare which science waged against theology for 400 years, in which many pitched battles were fought between the two and the excitement caused by them was so great that nobody could fail to be impressed by the revolution that was blazing on.
There is no doubt that this religious revolution has been a great blessing. It has established freedom of thought. It has enabled society " to assume control of itself, making its own the world it once shared with superstition, facing undaunted the things of its former fears, and so carving out for itself, from the realm of mystery in which it lies, a sphere of unhampered action and a field of independent thought". The process of secularisation is not only welcomed by scientists for making civilisation—as distinguished from culture—possible, even Religious men and women have come to feel that much of what theology taught was unnecessary and a mere hindrance to the religious life and that this chopping of its wild growth was a welcome process.
But for ascertaining the norm for judging the philosophy of Religion we must turn to another and a different kind of Revolution which Religion has undergone. That Revolution touches the nature and content of ruling conceptions of the relations of God to man, of Society to man and of man to man. How great was this revolution can be seen from the differences which divide savage society from civilized society.
Strange as it may seem no systematic study of this Religious Revolution has so far been made. None the less this Revolution is so great and so immense that it has brought about a complete transformation in the nature of Religion as it is taken to be by savage society and by civilised society although very few seem to be aware of it.
To begin with the comparison between savage society and civilised society.
In the religion of the savage one is struck by the presence of two things. First is the performance of rites and ceremonies, the practice of magic or tabu and the worship of fetish or totem. The second thing that is noticeable is that the rites, ceremonies, magic, tabu, totem and fetish are conspicuous by their connection with certain occasions. These occasions are chiefly those, which represent the crises of human life. The events such as birth, the birth of the first born, attaining manhood, reaching puberty, marriage, sickness, death and war are the usual occasions which are marked out for the performance of rites and ceremonies, the use of magic and the worship of the totem.
Students of the origin and history of Religion have sought to explain the origin and substance of religion by reference to either magic, tabu and totem and the rites and ceremonies connected therewith, and have deemed the occasions with which they are connected as of no account. Consequently we have theories explaining religion as having arisen in magic or as having arisen in fetishism. Nothing can be a greater error than this. It is true that savage society practices magic, believes in tabu and worships the totem. But it is wrong to suppose that these constitute the religion or form the source of religion. To take such a view is to elevate what is incidental to the position of the principal. The principal thing in the Religion of the savage are the elemental facts of human existence such as life, death, birth, marriage etc. Magic, tabu, totem are things which are incidental. Magic, tabu, totem, fetish etc., are not the ends. They are only the means. The end is life and the preservation of life. Magic, tabu etc., are resorted to by the savage society not for their own sake but to conserve life and to exercise evil influences from doing harm to life. Thus understood the religion of the savage society was concerned with life and the preservation of life and it is these life processes which constitute the substance and source of the religion of the savage society. So great was the concern of the savage society for life and the preservation of life that it made them the basis of its religion. So central were the life processes in the religion of the savage society that everything, which affected them, became part of its religion. The ceremonies of the savage society were not only concerned with the events of birth, attaining of manhood, puberty, marriage, sickness, death and war they were also concerned with food. Among pastoral peoples the flocks and herds are sacred. Among agricultural peoples seedtime and harvest are marked by ceremonials performed with some reference to the growth and the preservation of the crops. Likewise drought, pestilence, and other strange, irregular phenomena of nature occasion the performance of ceremonials. Why should such occasions as harvest and famine be accompanied by religious ceremonies? Why is magic, tabu, totem be of such importance to the savage. The only answer is that they all affect the preservation of life. The process of life and its preservation form the main purpose. Life and preservation of life is the core and centre of the Religion of the savage society. As pointed out by Prof. Crawley the religion of the savage begins and ends with the affirmation and conservation of life.
In life and preservation of life consists the religion of the savage. What is however true of the religion of the savage is true of all religions wherever they are found for the simple reason that constitutes the essence of religion. It is true that in the present day society with its theological refinements this essence of religion has become hidden from view and is even forgotten. But that life and the preservation of life constitute the essence of religion even in the present day society is beyond question. This is well illustrated by Prof. Crowley. When speaking of the religious life of man in the present day society, he says how—
"a man's religion does not enter into his professional or social hours, his scientific or artistic moments; practically its chief claims are settled on one day in the week from which ordinary worldly concerns are excluded. In fact, his life is in two parts; but the moiety with which religion is concerned is the elemental. Serious thinking on ultimate questions of life and death is, roughly speaking, the essence of his Sabbath; add to this the habit of prayer, giving the thanks at meals, and the subconscious feeling that birth and death, continuation and marriage are rightly solemnised by religion, while business and pleasure may possibly be consecrated, but only metaphorically or by an overflow of religious feeling."
Comparing this description of the religious concerns of the man in the present day society with that of the savage, who can deny that the religion is essentially the same, both in theory and practice whether one speaks of the religion of the savage society or of the civilised society.
It is therefore clear that savage and civilised societies agree in one respect. In both the central interests of religion—namely in the life processes by which individuals are preserved and the race maintained—are the same. In this there is no real difference between the two. But they differ in two other important respects.
In the first place in the religion of the savage society there is no trace of the idea of God. In the second place in the religion of the savage society there is no bond between morality and Religion. In the savage society there is religion without God. In the savage society there is morality but it is independent of Religion.
How and when the idea of God became fused in Religion it is not possible to say. It may be that the idea of God had its origin in the worship of the Great Man in Society, the Hero—giving rise to theism—with its faith in its living God. It may be that the idea of God came into existence as a result of the purely philosophical speculation upon the problem as to who created life—giving rise to Deism—with its belief in God as Architect of the Universe.[f7] In any case the idea of God is not integral to Religion. How it got fused into Religion it is difficult to explain. With regard to the relation between Religion and Morality this much may be safely said. Though the relation between God and Religion is not quite integral, the relation between Religion and morality is. Both religion and morality are connected with the same elemental facts of human existence—namely life, death, birth and marriage. Religion consecrates these life processes while morality furnishes rules for their preservation. Religion in consecrating the elemental facts and processes of life came to consecrate also the rules laid down by Society for their preservation. Looked at from this point it is easily explained why the bond between Religion and Morality took place. It was more intimate and more natural than the bond between Religion and God. But when exactly this fusion between Religion and Morality took place it is not easy to say.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the religion of the Civilised Society differs from that of the Savage Society into two important features. In civilised society God comes in the scheme of Religion. In civilised society morality becomes sanctified by Religion.
This is the first stage in the Religious Revolution I am speaking of. This Religious Revolution must not be supposed to have been ended here with the emergence of these two new features in the development of religion. The two ideas having become part of the constitution of the Religion of the Civilised Society have undergone further changes which have revolutionized their meaning and their moral significance. The second stage of the Religious Revolution marks a very radical change. The contrast is so big that civilized society has become split into two, antique society and modern society, so that instead of speaking of the religion of the civilised society it becomes necessary to speak of the religion of antique society as against the religion of modern society.
The religious revolution, which marks off antique society from modern society, is far greater than the religious revolution, which divides savage society from civilised society. Its dimensions will be obvious from the differences it has brought about in the conceptions regarding the relations between God, Society and Man. The first point of difference relates to the composition of society. Every human being, without choice on his own part, but simply in virtue of his birth and upbringing, becomes a member of what we call a natural society. He belongs that is to a certain family and a certain nation. This membership lays upon him definite obligations and duties which he is called upon to fulfil as a matter of course and on pain of social penalties and disabilities while at the same time it confers upon him certain social rights and advantages. In this respect the ancient and modern worlds are alike. But in the words of Prof. Smith[f8]:—
"There is this important difference, that the tribal or national societies of the ancient world were not strictly natural in the modern sense of the word, for the gods had their part and place in them equally with men. The circle into which a man was born was not simply a group of kinsfolk and fellow citizens, but embraced also certain divine beings, the gods of the family and of the state, which to the ancient mind were as much a part of the particular community with which they stood connected as the human members of the social circle. The relation between the gods of antiquity and their worshippers was expressed in the language of human relationship, and this language was not taken in a figurative sense but with strict literally. If a god was spoken of as father and his worshippers as his offspring, the meaning was that the worshippers were literally of his stock, that he and they made up one natural family with reciprocal family duties to one another. Or, again, if the god was addressed as king, and worshippers called themselves his servants, they meant that the supreme guidance of the state was actually in his hands, and accordingly the organisation of the state included provision for consulting his will and obtaining his direction in all weighty matters, also provision for approaching him as king with due homage and tribute.
"Thus a man was born into a fixed relation to certain gods as surely as he was born into relation to his fellow men; and his religion, that is, the part of conduct which was determined by his relation to the gods, was simply one side of the general scheme of conduct prescribed for him by his position as a member of society. There was no separation between the spheres of religion and of ordinary life. Every social act had a reference to the gods as well as to men, for the social body was not made up of men only, but of gods and men."
Thus in ancient Society men and their Gods formed a social and political as well as a religious whole. Religion was founded on kinship between the God and his worshippers. Modern Society has eliminated God from its composition. It consists of men only.
The second point of difference between antique and modern society relates to the bond between God and Society. In the antique world the various communities
"believed in the existence of many Gods, for they accepted as real the Gods of their enemies as well as their own, but they did not worship the strange Gods from whom they had no favour to expect, and on whom their gifts and offerings would have been thrown away.... Each group had its own God, or perhaps a God and Goddess, to whom the other Gods bore no relation whatever, " [f9]
The God of the antique society was an exclusive God. God was owned by and bound to one singly community. This is largely to be accounted for by
"the share taken by the Gods in the feuds and wars of their worshippers. The enemies of the God and the enemies of his people are identical; even in the Old Testament `the enemies of Jehovah' are originally nothing else than the enemies of Israel. In battle each God fights for his own people, and to his aid success is ascribed ; Chemosh gives victory to Moab, and Asshyr to Assyria ; and often the divine image or symbol accompanies the host to battle. When the ark was brought into the camp of Israel, the Philistines said, "Gods are come into the camp ; who can deliver us from their own practice, for when David defeated them at Baalperazirm, part of the booty consisted in their idols which had been carried into the field. When the Carthaginians, in their treaty with Phillip of Macedon, speak of "the Gods that take part in the campaign," they doubtless refer to the inmates of the sacred tent which was pitched in time of war beside the tent of the general, and before which prisoners were sacrificed after a victory. Similarly an Arabic poet says, "Yaguth went forth with us against Morad"; that is, the image of the God Yaguth was carried into the fray".
This fact had produced a solidarity between God and the community.
"Hence, on the principle of solidarity between Gods and their worshippers, the particularism characteristic of political society could not but reappear in the sphere of religion. In the same measure as the God of a clan or town had indisputable claim to the reverence and service of the community to which he belonged, he was necessarily an enemy to their enemies and a stranger to those to whom they were strangers".[f10]
God had become attached to a community, and the community had become attached to their God. God had become the God of the Community and the Community had become the chosen community of the God.
This view had two consequences. Antique Society never came to conceive that God could be universal God, the God of all. Antique Society never could conceive that there was any such thing as humanity in general.
The third point of difference between ancient and modern society, has reference to the conception of the fatherhood of God. In the antique Society God was the Father of his people but the basis of this conception of Fatherhood was deemed to be physical.
"In heathen religions the Fatherhood of the Gods is physical fatherhood. Among the Greeks, for example, the idea that the Gods fashioned men out of clay, as potters fashion images, is relatively modern. The older conception is that the races of men have Gods for their ancestors, or are the children of the earth, the common mother of Gods and men, so that men are really of the stock or kin of the Gods. That the same conception was familiar to the older Semites appears from the Bible. Jeremiah describes idolaters as saying to a stock, Thou art my father ; and to a stone, Thou has brought me forth. In the ancient poem, Num. xxi. 29, The Moabites are called the sons and daughters of Chemosh, and at a much more recent date the prophet Malachi calls a heathen woman "the daughter of a strange God". These phrases are doubtless accommodations to the language, which the heathen neighbours of Israel used about themselves. In Syria and Palestine each clan, or even complex of clans forming a small independent people, traced back its origin to a great first father ; and they indicate that, just as in Greece this father or progenitor of the race was commonly identified with the God of the race. With this it accords that in the judgment of most modern enquirers several names of deities appear in the old genealogies of nations in the Book of Genesis. Edom, for example, the progenitor of the Edomites, was identified by the Hebrews with Esau the brother of Jacob, but to the heathen he was a God, as appears from the theophorous proper name Obededom, " worshipper of Edom", the extant fragments of Phoenician and Babylonian cosmogonies date from a time when tribal religion and the connection of individual Gods with particular kindreds was forgotten or had fallen into the background. But in a generalized form the notion that men are the offspring of the Gods still held its ground. In the Phoenician cosmogony of Philo Bablius it does so in a confused shape, due to the authors euhemerism, that is, to his theory that deities are nothing more than deified men who had been great benefactors to their species. Again, in the Chaldaean legend preserved by Berosus, the belief that men are of the blood of the Gods is expressed in a form too crude not to be very ancient; for animals as well as men are said to have been formed out of clay mingled with the blood of a decapitated deity. "[f11]
This conception of blood kinship of Gods and men had one important consequence. To the antique world God was a human being and as such was not capable of absolute virtue and absolute goodness. God shared the physical nature of man and was afflicted with the passions infirmities and vices to which man was subject. The God of the antique world had all the wants and appetites of man and he often indulged in the vices in which many revelled. Worshipers had to implore God not to lead them into temptations.
In modern Society the idea of divine fatherhood has become entirely dissociated from the physical basis of natural fatherhood. In its place man is conceived to be created in the image of God ; he is not deemed I to be begotten by God. This change in the conception of the fatherhood of God looked at from its moral aspect has made a tremendous difference in the nature of God as a Governor of the Universe. God with his physical basis was not capable of absolute good and absolute virtue. With God wanting in righteousness the universe could not insist on righteousness as an immutable principle. This dissociation of God from physical contact with man has made it possible for God to be conceived of as capable of absolute good and absolute virtue.
The fourth point of difference relates to the part religion plays when a change of nationality takes place.
In the antique world there could be no change of nationality unless it was accompanied by a change of Religion. In the antique world, "It was impossible for an. individual to change his religion without changing his nationality, and a whole community could hardly change its religion at all without being absorbed into another stock or nation. Religions like political ties were transmitted from father to son ; for a man could not choose a new God at will ; the Gods of his fathers were the only deities on whom he could count as friendly and ready to accept his homage, unless he forswore his own kindred and was received into a new circle of civil as well as religious life."
How change of religion was a condition precedent to a Social fusion is well illustrated by the dialogue between Naomi and Ruth in the Old Testament.
"Thy Sister" says Naomi to Ruth, "is gone back unto her people and unto her Gods"; and Ruth replies, "Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God."
It is quite clear that in the ancient world a change of nationality involved a change of cult. Social fusion meant religious fusion.
In modern society abandonment of religion or acceptance of another is not necessary for social fusion. This is best illustrated by what is in modern terminology and naturalisation, whereby the citizen of one state abandons his citizenship of the state and becomes a citizen of new state. In this process of naturalisation religion has no place. One can have a social fusion which is another name for naturalisation without undergoing a religious fusion.
To distinguish modern society from antique society it is not enough to say that Modern Society consists of men only. It must be added that it consists of men who are worshippers of different Gods.
The fifth point of difference relates to the necessity of knowledge as to the nature of God as part of religion.
"From the antique point of view, indeed the question what the Gods are in themselves is not a religious but a speculative one ; what is requisite to religion is a practical acquaintance with the rules on I which the deity acts and on which he expects his worshippers to frame their conduct—what in 2 Kings xvii. 26 is called the "manner" or rather the "customary law " (misphat) of the God of the land. This is true even of the religion of Israel. When the prophets speak of the knowledge of the laws and principles of His government in Israel, and a summary expression for religion as a whole is "the knowledge and fear of Jehovah," i.e. the knowledge of what Jehovah prescribes, combined with a reverent obedience. An extreme skepticism towards all religious speculation is recommended in the Book of Ecclesiastes as the proper attitude of piety, for no amount of discussion can carry a man beyond the plain rule, to "fear God and keep His Commandments". This counsel the author puts into the mouth of Solomon, and so represents it, not unjustly, as summing up the old view of religion, which in more modern days had unfortunately begun to be undermined."
The sixth point of difference relates to the place of belief in Religion.
In ancient Society :—
"Ritual and practical usages were, strictly speaking, the sum total of ancient religions. Religion in primitive times was not a system of belief with practical applications ; it was a body of fixed traditional practices, to which every member of society conformed as a matter of courage. Men would not be men if they agreed to do certain things without having a reason for their action ; but in ancient religion the reason was not first formulated as a doctrine and then expressed in practice, but conversely, practice preceded doctrinal theory. Men form general rule of conduct before they begin to express general principles in words ; political institutions are older than political theories and in like manner religious institutions are older than religious theories. This analogy is not arbitrarily chosen, for in fact the parallelism in ancient society between religious and political institutions is complete. In each sphere great importance was attached to form and precedent, but the explanation why the precedent was followed consisted merely of legend as to its first establishment. That the precedent, once established, was authoritative did not appear to require any proof. The rules of society were based on precedent, and the continued existence of the society was sufficient reason why a precedent once set should continue to be followed."
The seventh point of difference relates to the place of individual conviction in Religion. In ancient Society :—
"Religion was a part of the organized social life into which a man was born, and to which he conformed through life in the same unconscious way in which men fall into any habitual practice of the society in which they live. Men took the Gods and their worship for granted, just as they took the other usages of the state for granted, and if they reason or speculated about them, they did so on the presupposition that the traditional usages were fixed things, behind which their reasoning must not go, and which no reasoning could be allowed to overturn. To us moderns religion is above all a matter of individual conviction and reasoned belief, but to the ancients it was a part of the citizen's public life, reduced to fixed forms, which he was not bound to understand and was not at liberty to criticize or to neglect. Religious non-conformity was an offence against the state; for if sacred tradition was tampered with the bases of society were undermined, and the favour of the Gods was forfeited. But so long as the prescribed forms were duly observed, a man was recognized as truly pious, and no one asked how his religion was rooted in his heart or affected his reason. Like political duty, of which indeed it was a part, religion was entirely comprehended in the observance of certain fixed rules of outward conduct."
The eighth point of difference pertains to the relation of God to Society and man, of Society to Man in the matter of God's Providence.
First as to the difference in the relation of God to Society. In this connection three points may be noted. The faith of the antique world
"Sought nothing higher than a condition of physical bien etre. . . . The good things desired of the Gods were the blessings of earthly life, not spiritual but carnal things." What the antique societies asked and believed themselves to receive from their God lay mainly in the following things :
"Abundant harvests, help against their enemies and counsel by oracles or soothsayers in matters of natural difficulty." In the antique world
"Religion was not the affair of the individual but of the Community. . . . It was the community, and not the individual, that was sure of the permanent and the unfailing hand of the deity." Next as to the difference in the relation of God to man.
"It was not the business of the Gods of heathenish to watch, by a series of special providence, over the welfare of every individual. It is true that individuals laid their private affairs before the Gods, and asked with prayers and views for strictly personal blessings. But they did this just as they might crave a personal boon from a king, or as a son craves a boon from a father, without expecting to get all that was asked. What the Gods might do in this way was done as a matter of personal favour, and was no part of their proper function as heads of the community."
"The Gods watched over a man's civic life, they gave him his share in public benefits, the annual largess of the harvest and the vintage, national peace or victory over enemies, and so forth, but they were not sure helpers in every private need, and above all they would not help him in matters that were against the interests of the community as a whole. There was therefore a whole region of possible needs and desires for which religion could and would do nothing." Next the difference in the attitude of God and Society to man.
In the antique world Society was indifferent to individual welfare. God as no doubt bound to Society. But
"The compact between the God and his worshippers was not held to pledge the deity to make the private cares of each member of the Community his own."
"The benefits expected of God were of a public character affecting the whole community, especially fruitful seasons, increase of flocks of herds and success in war. So long as community flourished the fact that an individual was miserable reflected no discredit on divine providence."
On the contrary the antique world looked upon the misery of a man as proof.
"That the sufferer was an evil-doer, justly hateful to the Gods. Such a man was out of place among the happy and the prosperous crowd that assembled on feast days before the alter." It is in accordance with this view that the leper and the mourner were shut out from the exercise of religion as well as from the privileges of social life and their food was not brought into the house of God.
As for conflict between individual and individual and between society and the individual God had no concern. In the antique world :
"It was not expected that (God) should always be busy righting human affairs. In ordinary matters it was men's business to help themselves and their own kins folk, though the sense that the God was always near, and could be called upon at need, was a moral force continually working in some degree for the maintenance of social righteousness and order. The strength of this moral force was indeed very uncertain, for it was always possible for the evil-doer to flatter himself that his offence would be overlooked." In the antique world man did not ask God to be righteous to him.
"Whether in civil or in profane matters, the habit of the old world was to think much of the community and little of the individual life, and no one felt this to be unjust even though it bore hardly on himself. The God was the God of the national or of the tribe, and he knew and cared for the individual only as a member of the community."
That was the attitude that man in the antique world took of his own private misfortune. Man came to rejoice before his God and "in rejoicing before his God man rejoiced with and for the welfare of his kindred, his neighbours and his country, and, in renewing by solemn act of worship the bond that united him to God, he also renewed the bonds of family, social and national obligation." Man in the antique world did not call upon his maker to be righteous to him.
Such is this other Revolution in Religion. There have thus been two Religious Revolutions. One was an external Revolution. The other was an internal Revolution. The External Revolution was concerned with the field within which the authority of Religion was to prevail. The Internal Revolution had to do with the changes in Religion as a scheme of divine Governance for human society. The External Revolution was not really a Religious Revolution at all. It was a revolt of science against the extra territorial jurisdiction assumed by Religion over a field which did not belong. The Internal Revolution was a real Revolution or may be compared to any other political Revolution, such as the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. It involved a constitutional change. By this Revolution the Scheme of divine governance came to be altered, amended and reconstituted.
How profound have been the changes which this internal Revolution, has made in the antique scheme of divine governance can be easily seen. By this Revolution God has ceased to be a member of a community. Thereby he has become impartial. God has ceased to be the Father of Man in the physical sense of the word. He has become the creator of the Universe. The breaking of this blood bond has made it possible to hold that God is good. By this Revolution man has ceased to be a blind worshipper of God doing nothing but obeying his commands. Thereby man has become a responsible person required to justify his belief in God's commandments by his conviction. By this Revolution God has ceased to be merely the protector of Society and social interests in gross have ceased to be the center of the divine Order. Society and man have changed places as centers of this divine order. It is man who has become the center of it.
All this analysis of the Revolution in the Ruling concepts of Religion as a scheme of divine governance had one purpose namely to discover the norm for evaluating the philosophy of a Religion. The impatient reader may not ask where are these norms and what are they? The reader may not have found the norms specified by their names in the foregoing discussion. But he could not have failed to notice that the whole of this Religious Revolution was raging around the norms for judging what is right and what is wrong. If he has not, let me make explicit what has been implicit in the whole of this discussion. We began with the distinction between antique society and modern society as has been pointed out they differed in the type of divine governance they accepted as their Religious ideals. At one end of the Revolution was the antique society with its Religious ideal in which the end was Society. At the other end of the Revolution is the modern Society with its Religious ideal in which the end is the individual. To put the same fact in terms of the norm it can be said that the norm or the criterion, for judging right and wrong in the Antique Society was utility while the norm or the criterion for judging right and wrong in the modern Society is Justice. The Religious Revolution was not thus a revolution in the religious organization of Society resulting in the shifting of the center—from society to the individual—it was a revolution in the norms.
Some may demur to the norms I have suggested. It may be that it is a new way of reaching them. But to my mind there is no doubt that they are the real norms by which to judge the philosophy of religion. In the first place the norm must enable people to judge what is right and wrong in the conduct of men. In the second place the norm must be appropriate to current notion of what constitutes the moral good. From both these points of view they appear to be the true norms. They enable us to judge what is right and wrong. They are appropriate to the society which adopted them. Utility as a criterion was appropriate to the antique world in which society being the end, the moral good was held to be something which had social utility. Justice as a criterion became appropriate to the Modern World in which individual being the end, the moral good was held to be something which does justice to the individual. There may be controversy as to which of the two norms is morally superior. But I do not think there can be any serious controversy that these are not the norms. If it is said that these norms are not transcendental enough ; my reply is that if a norm whereby one is to judge the philosophy of religion must be Godly, it must also be earthly. At any rate these are the norms I propose to adopt in examining the philosophy of Hinduism.