Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
Meantime it may be helpful to draw up a tentative genealogical scheme of the history of the sacrificial idea as we have sketched it up to Christianity, and further to reduce this to diagram form. We set out with the dim primeval life in which
A. All "victims," whether animal or human, are not strictly sacrificed but commonly eaten, the "Gods" and the "dead" being held to share in the feast, as a feast. Dead relatives are similarly eaten, and parents filially slain and eaten, to preserve their qualities in the family or tribe. On such habits would follow the sacrifices of human beings at funerals, 2 held by Mr. Spencer to be primordial forms of sacrifice proper. 3
Thence would differentiate
B. Offerings to the Gods. These would include burnt-offerings, fruits and libations, especially first fruits, and latterly incense, 1 corn, and wine; and with them might correlate
B″. Human Sacrifices as such, normally of captives, which would be eaten (a) along with the God as thank-offering or as food for the slain dead, or (b) as propitiatory or "sin" offerings, or (c) as vegetation-charms and life-charms, or else (d) buried in morsels as vegetation-charms, or (e) as sanctifying foundations of houses or villages. 2
In virtue of the general functioning of the priest there would thus arise the general conception of
C. Priest-blessed ritual sacrifices, eaten as sacraments, including
C″. Human sacrifices, in which the victim (a) represented the God, or (b) had a special efficacy as being a king or a king's son, or (c) a first-born or only son. In the case of Goddesses, the sacrifice might be a virgin; and this concept would react on the conception of the God in an ascetic movement, making him either double-sexed or virtually sexless. For the sacrifice, nevertheless, the victim must latterly be as a rule a criminal. These various victims might or might not be eaten.
There is thus evolved (1) the general conception of a peculiarly efficacious Eucharist or sacramental meal in which is eaten, symbolically or otherwise, a sacrificed animal or human being, normally regarded as representing the God, though the God eats thereof. Latterly men often assume that the animal so sacrificed is thus treated as being an enemy of the God, where the nature of the animal admits of such an interpretation. Finally, after public human sacrifices are abolished or made difficult, there is found (2)
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the practice of a Mystery-Drama, symbolical of the act of human sacrifice, in which the victim is sympathetically regarded as an unjustly slain God.
Such practices competing successfully with the official or public rites and sacrifices, they in turn elicit a priesthood which raises them to official ritual form. Thus there arises
D. The priest-administered eucharist, of which the mean or norm is Bread and Wine = Body and Blood, but which may retain the form of
D″. A baked image of the God-Man or Child.
In virtue, however, of the symbolical principle, and of the priestly function, the thing eaten, though still called the host (= hostia, victim), may be reduced to a single symbol, which stands for the living body, including its blood. Such is the "communion in one kind" or consecrated wafer of the Catholic Church, repudiated by Protestants, who revert to the "communion in two kinds" or bread and wine of the sacred books. The Catholic practice is practically on a par with some of the usages of the pre-Christian Mexicans; while the Protestant reverts to the Mithraic and Dionysiak usages which were imitated by the early Church.
Thus is an appallingly long-drawn evolution summed up for the modern world in a symbol which to the uninstructed eye tells nothing of the dreadful truth, and presents a fable in its place. If to die as a human sacrifice for human beings be to deserve the highest human reverence, the true Christs of the world are to be numbered not by units, but by millions. Almost every land on this globe has during whole ages drunk their annually shed blood. According to one calculation, made in the last century, the annual death-roll from human sacrifice and female infanticide in one section of British India alone was fifteen hundred. 1 Taking the sacrifices at only a fifteenth of the total; noting further the calculation of Sir George Grey, which gives four millions of victims for New Zealand alone in 2,000 years; 2 taking into account the known holocausts of modern Africa and Polynesia, 3 and pre-Christian Mexico, 4 and the universal practice of pre-Christian Europe, we are
led to an estimate beside which every Christian reckoning of the "army of martyrs" becomes insignificant. We are forced to reckon by thousands of millions: the truth is too vast for realisation. Tantum relligio. Thus has the human race paid in death for its faith in immortality. "Laugh as much as you please," wrote Dobrizhoffer a century ago, "at the sepulchral rites of the Abipones; you cannot deny them to be proof of their believing in the immortality of the soul." 1 Even so. And for rites at which madness itself could not laugh, we have the same explanation. Of these miserable victims of insane religion, the majority were "innocent" even by the code that sacrificed them; and of the rest, in comparison with those who slew them, who shall now predicate "guilt"? Thus have nameless men and women done, many millions of times, what is credited to the fabulous Jesus of the Christian gospels; they have verily laid down their lives for the sin of many; and while the imaginary sacrifice has been made the pretext of a historic religion during two thousand years, the real sacrifices are uncommemorated save as infinitesimals in the records of anthropology. Twenty literatures vociferously proclaim the myth, and rivers of tears have been shed at the recital of it, while the monstrous and inexpugnable truth draws at most a shudder from the student, when his conceptual knowledge becomes for him at moments a lightning-flash of concrete vision through the awful vista of the human past. In a world which thus still distributes its sympathies, a rational judgment on the historic evolution is not to be looked for save among the few. Delusion as to the course of religious history must long follow in the wake of the delusion which made the history possible. 2
209:2 As to the vogue of these, see Letourneau, Sociology, Eng. tr. pp. 226, 231, 232, 234-5, 237, 240, 242-4, 246, 291-3. Cp. Grant Allen, Evol. of the Idea of God, pp. 248, 282, 319.
209:3 Principles of Sociology, i, § 141. See also Dr. Jevons, Introd. to the Hist. of Relig., pp. 161, 199-200; and Mr. Lang, Myth, Rit., and Relig., 2nd ed. i, 257, 263. Both Dr. Jevons and Mr. Lang, however, seem to distinguish inconsistently between a "savage" and a "barbaric" stage; and both at this point arbitrarily exclude propitiatory (or sympathetic-magical) sacrifices, dealing only with the honorific and Macular. Dr. Jevons treats the slaughter of persons at the grave of a "savage chieftain" as "early"that is, as prior to human sacrifice to the Gods. But tolerably "low" savages in South America sacrificed captives on Asiatic lines (J. G. Müller, Amerik. Urrelig., pp. 58, 143, 282-3); and Dr. Jevons (p. 201, note) cites high testimonies to the moral character of the Australian aborigines, whom for the purposes of this argument Mr. Lang treats as low or backward. Again, Dr. Jevons (p. 161) ascribes human sacrifice among the Americans and Polynesians to lack of domestic animals, though the Polynesians have pigs and poultry; while Mr. Lang lays stress on its absence among the Australians, who had no domesticated animals at all. Letourneau (Sociology, p. 210) suggests lack of animals as the reason for the common cannibalism of the Maoris; but this view is negated by the case of many African peoples who have domestic animals, and yet practise human sacrifice and cannibalism. We seem rather led to regard human sacrifice as a specialty of the general Polynesian race, to which the Australians do not appear to belong. New Zealand is pronounced by Letourneau (LEvolution Religieuse, 1832, pp. 140-1) "the most archaic of the Polynesian archipelagos, from the point of view of civilisation"; and Ellis (Polynes. Researches, 2nd ed. iii, 348) heard of no human sacrifices among them, despite their cannibalism; but such sacrifices had certainly taken place in the past, the victims being sometimes eaten, sometimes not. (White, Anc. Hist. of the Maori, Wellington, 1887, i, 12.) Sir George Grey sums up that the creeds of the Maoris were "based upon a system of human sacrifices to the Gods," and, as we said, reckons that in a period of 2,000 years at least four millions of human beings had been sacrificed in the islands where the usage Prevailed (Polynesian Mythology, pref. end).
210:1 This is found in the East among Turanians, Dravidians, and Semites; in the West among the races reached by early Semitic culture; and in America in the form of tobacco. (Lafitau, Murs des sauvages ameriquains, 1724, ii, 133-4; Brine, Travels amongst American Indians, 1894, p. 170; Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, iii, 155, 181, 220.) The principle seems to have been the same as that of the burnt-offeringthat the God was reached by odours.
210:2 Presumably by way of feeding, and so propitiating, the earth deities. But cp. Grant Allen, Evol. of Idea of God, p. 249, for another theorythat the victim was to be a protecting God.
212:1 Calcutta Review, vol. x, Dec. 1848, p. 340.
212:2 Above, p. 209, note.
212:3 Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, pp. 160, 400; Partridge, Cross River Natives, 1905, pp. 56. 59, 62; H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, 1903, pp. 63, 69, 72, 77, etc.; Cunningham, Uganda and its Peoples, 1905, p. 215; Burton, A Mission to Gelele, 1864, ii, 20, 24: A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-Speaking Peoples, 1887, pp. 35-72, 160, 161, 166, 170; The Ewe-Speaking Peoples, 1890, pp. 120, 124, 1.25, 126, 128; W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, ed. 1831, i, 104, 348; iv, 362-3; Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, 1876, pp. 14, 15, 24, 37, 289-90, 297.
212:4 Below, Part iv, § 5.
213:1 Account of the Abipones, Eng. tr., ii, 269.
213:2 How slow is the evolution may be gathered from the testimony of a modern anthropologist: "To this day, as I can testify from personal observation, the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim (where alone in all the world the passover-blood is now shed, year by year) bring to mind the blood covenant aspect of this rite, by their uses of that sacred blood. The spurting life-blood of the consecrated lambs is caught in basins, as it flows from their cut throats; and not only are all the tents promptly marked with the blood as a covenant-token, but every child of the covenant receives also a blood-mark on his forehead, between his eyes, in evidence of his relation to God in the covenant of blood friendship." (H. Clay Trumbull. D.D., The Blood Covenant: A Primitive Rite and its Bearings on Scripture, 1887, p. 232.) On the theory of the Blood Covenant, the lamb is the blood-brother of those who drink the blood. Even so, of old time, was the slain child or man for whom the lamb was substituted.