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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

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§ 1. American Racial Origins.

In the study of the native religions of North and South America, there is a special attraction bound up with the special perplexity of the subject. These religions, like the peoples which have held them, seem to stand historically apart from the rest of humanity, unrelated, underived, independent. The first question that occurs to the ethnologist when he looks at the native American races is, How and when did they get there? With which of the other human families are they most nearly connected? In the present state of knowledge, we still infer a "unity" in the human race, and decline to believe that different human species were independently evolved from lower forms in different continents, acquiring the same physical structure under widely varying conditions. 1 The suggestion to this effect by Waitz 2 represents the state of speculation before the bearings of the Darwinian theory had been realised. 3

It is therefore fitting that ethnologists should try to trace a connection between the native races of America and the races of Asia, which are the nearest to them in geographical position. Until that hypothesis is either established or overthrown, our anthropology and our moral science must remain in large part unsettled. It has been argued that "we may safely leave to ethnologists the task of deciding whether the whole human race descends from one original couple or from many; for, spiritually speaking, humanity in any case is one. It is one same spirit that animates it and is developed in it; and this, the incontestable unity of our race, is likewise the only unity we need care to insist on." 4 But this defines rather the theological than the scientific attitude: for the very question whether

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an alleged spiritual unity is independent of a biological or genealogical unity is one of the preliminary problems of true "spiritual" science.

As we go into detail, we shall see some remarkable coincidences between American and Asiatic and European and Polynesian religious systems; and our conception of human nature must alter a good deal according as we decide that certain peculiar superstitions and ritual practices were reached alike by various races who grew separately out of pre-human species, and these out of still lower species, in different parts of the world, without intermixture; or decide that the whole of the man-like family developed interconnectedly over one area, and that the different races now existing did not branch off from the central stem till they had already acquired what we call human characteristics—that is, until they had reached the stage of speech, weapons, and fire, at which they probably had "religion."

Suppose, for instance, that the American races came many thousands of years ago from Asia, and that they are kindred to the earlier Asiatic races: they would already have the germs of myths and a certain religious bias in common with peoples whose descendants subsist in Asia; and the coincidences in their religion would have to be pronounced historical, that is, they would represent a sequence of phenomena substantially determined by one original set of conditions within a given area and territory. If, on the other hand, we suppose that evolution proceeded in different parts of the planet and in widely different environments on identical lines from the lowest forms of life through many others, up to the anthropoid and the human, our whole conception of evolutionary law is affected, and that in turn must affect our philosophy. Looking inductively for evidence, we find what appear to be clear traces of the existence of man in the Mississippi valley between fifty and sixty thousand years ago, or perhaps even in the "inter-glacial" period. Without deciding as to times, it would seem certain that palæolithic man, whether by way of Behring Strait or of Greenland and Labrador, peopled America from Asia or Western Europe; 1 and there are some grounds for inferring two distinct racial movements. 2 But to whatever conclusions the palæologist may come on that head, 3 the original scientific and logical veto on the hypothesis of

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two or more independent evolutions of the human species must for the present hold good.

However remote be the time of the first migration, then, we are shut up to the assumption that the American races derive from Asia, either directly or by way of Polynesia, 1 since the alternative is a hypothesis of a human evolution from pre-human forms in the New World, with the result of yielding an identical human species, while the fauna and flora in general are markedly different. As to the possibility of such an evolution in America, Haeckel gives an emphatic negative. Putting the two hypotheses of immigration from north-east Asia and from Polynesia, he adds: "In any case the original inhabitants of America came from the Old World, and are certainly not, as some suppose, evolved from American apes. Catarrhine or small-nosed apes have at no period existed in America." 2 The fact that men are so much alike in the two hemispheres, while the animals are so widely different, is a proof that the former are not autochthonous in America. 3

Nor is there any physical difficulty over the hypothesis that the American races proceeded, by successive waves of emigration, from Asia. 4 At Behring Strait Asia and America are almost within sight of each other; and at one time they were united. And if we suppose a migration of tribes like the Kamtskadals, who easily bear extreme cold, being but slightly civilised, we dispose of all such difficulties as the suggestion that pastoral Mongols would never have crossed without some of their animals. Prescott, however, remarks that "it would be easy for the inhabitant of Eastern Tartary or Japan to steer his course from islet to islet, quite across to the American shore, without being on the ocean more than two days at a time"; 5 and this hypothesis is open. 6 The question is one for the exact solution of which we have not sufficient materials; and it must be admitted that some ethnologists in the past came to their conclusions

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lightly. It has been said of Pickering, for instance, that he set up a connection between the Malay and the Californian because each had an open countenance, one wife, and no tomahawk. 1 Happily we need not resort to such inductions as these. Nor need we be deterred from the scientific search by the fact that some of the guesses made have been wildly absurd. There is said to be widely current in Peru a legend, fully believed by the natives, that the name of the first Inca, Manco Capac, arose in the actual advent of a shipwrecked Englishman, who got to be known as Ingasman, and who married the daughter of one Cocapac, his son being accordingly called Ingasman Cocapac, whence the name and title Inca Manco Capac2 That is droll enough; but we need not therefore proceed with Dr. Réville dogmatically to decide that "everything shows that the civilisations of Mexico and Peru are autochthonous, springing from the soil itself." 3 If it be meant merely that the higher forms of those civilisations (for there were many separate processes) may have subsisted for many centuries without foreign influence, there is no dispute; but the statement as it stands is an unwarranted assertion of a separate human evolution from pre-human forms.

In the nature of the case, the primary separation of the American from the Asiatic races being admittedly very remote, there are not many close parallels to be expected. A number of extraordinary correspondences, however, have been traced, which point to migrations posterior to the Stone Ages. Take that, for instance, between the Aztec calendar signs and the Mongolian zodiac. "The symbols in the Mongolian calendar are borrowed from animals. Four of the twelve are the same as the Aztec. Three others are as nearly the same as the different species of animals in the two hemispheres would allow. The remaining five refer to no creature then found in Anahuac. The resemblance went as far as it could." 4 And no less remarkable is the "analogy between the Mexican system of reckoning years by cycles and that still in use over a great part of Asia," seeing that "this complex arrangement answers no useful purpose, inasmuch

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as mere counting by numbers, or by signs numbered in regular succession, would have been a far better arrangement." 1 Such a correspondence must be allowed to count for much; and there is also a remarkable, though perhaps not a conclusive, resemblance between the Aztec, pre-Aztec, and Peruvian temple-pyramids and those of Mesopotamia, 2 which derived from the earlier Akkadians or Sumerians. Ruins of these still subsist in Central America and Peru which can be compared with the records of those of Babylonia and the one example at Saqqara in Egypt. 3 Those temples or "mountain houses" doubtless began as graves, and grew into great mounds of earth, like those found in the Mississippi valley; 4 and the Asiatic like the Mexican pyramid was latterly one of several stages or terraces. 5 Five seems to have been long a common number in Asia, the Babylonian number seven being reached only at a late period; 6 and five was the number of stages or stories in the great temple of Huitzilopochtli, the Mexican national God. 7 In the fact that such pyramid temples, or tombs of the same type—the former often carefully covered with masonry, and having likewise in some cases five stages—are found in many of the South Sea Islands, 8 we have a fresh reason for supposing an ancient distribution of races eastwards from Asia, in repeated waves of migration. 9 So, too, we are entitled to surmise kinship, when we find that the Mexicans and some Native American tribes 10 had a fixed usage of throwing the first morsels of their meals into the fire; 11 that something like this is the practice of the islanders of

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[paragraph continues] Lamotrek in the Carolines 1 and those of Efate in the New Hebrides; 2 and that many Tungusian, Mongolian, and Turkish tribes persistently do the same thing to this day; 3 and it is difficult to believe that the peculiar usages of sacrificing a "messenger" or "ambassador" to the Sun, painting him red, and hanging up his and other victims’ skins, stuffed, as possessing a sacred efficacy, 4 were independently evolved in the two hemispheres. Even the practice of scalping seems to be peculiar to the Native Americans and the kindred Polynesians, and, in a modified form, 5 to the Mongols; 6 and, as we shall see, the Mexicans, like the ancient Semites and their Sumer-Akkadian teachers, passed their children "through the fire" to the Fire-God. What is more significant, they had the Semitic usage of making certain of their special sacrificial observances last for five days. 7

There are remarkable concrete parallels, also, in the religious practices and symbolisms of Asia and Mexico, apart from those which may be taken as universal. Thus a stone or metal mirror was the symbol, and the source of the name, of the Mexican God Tezcatlipoca; and it is also the outstanding symbol in Japanese Shintoism, 8 recognisably a very primitive Asiatic cult. It is told, again, of the national God and War-God Huitzilopochtli that, when the people came to Mexico from their home, his wooden image with certain war-emblems was carried by four priests in an ark or chest, called the Seat of God. Here we have a widespread usage; 9 but it is significant that it is found in some closely similar form among Mongols, Chinese, and Japanese. So with the casting of children's horoscopes. 10 More specific is the parallel between certain Mexican usages and those of the Buddhist priests of Thibet and Japan—such as red and yellow headdresses and black robes, 11 which were in all likelihood pre-Buddhistic. Singularly suggestive of Buddhist contacts, however, are a number of Mexican sculptures: many figures of Quetzalcoatl are practically identical with the established type of Buddha; and other carvings show hardly less close parallels. 12 But

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no less significant of a general Asiatic connection, perhaps, is a circumstance which has not been much considered by the ethnologists, though it has been noted by the anthropologists—the fact, namely, that both in ancient Asia and in ancient America men kept records by means of knots in strings. 1 The Chinese in old times are known to have done so; 2 and it is told of he Dravidian Khonds of Orissa that when brought to European knowledge sixty years ago they "kept all accounts by knots on strings," and conceived of their Gods as recording men's faults in the same fashion. 3 This would seem to be exactly the method of mnemonics used by the Peruvians when they were discovered by the Spaniards, their quipus being described in the same terms; and there is evidence that the same device was used in Central America, and perhaps among the Tlascalans, though it had gone into disuse among the Mexicans, who had attained to the use of "hieroglyphics." 4

There remains the question of the source and nature of those hieroglyphics. To examine it in detail is beyond the scope of this survey; and it must suffice to say that as the Mexican hieroglyphic system proper represents an early stage in the evolution of writing from pictures to phonetic symbols, with a phonetic system developed alongside of it, 5 the phenomena are quite consistent with the hypothesis of culture influences from Asia at a remote period. It is not necessary to identify glyphs in order to infer that the Chinese, Egyptian, and Aztec systems are akin. The Egyptian symbols remained substantially undeveloped for at least two thousand years; 6 and recent specialists are satisfied that "many of the elements of hieroglyphic writing had been growing upon the banks of the Nile long before the time of the first historic dynasty." 7 Given such a slow rate of growth, and noting the fact that Mexican and Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Chinese script, are all written in columns, we are provisionally entitled to see in all three the stages of a continuous evolution. 8

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It is true that the American languages, while demonstrably akin to each other, like the Indo-European group, show little or no relation to any of the languages of Asia. But though the difficulty of fully proving affinities of language between American and Asiatic races is great, and we seem thus bound to suppose a very remote separation indeed; on the other hand the extraordinary difference between the tongues of American Indians of the same race 1 and the observed facts as to the rapid changes of language among South Sea islanders, when isolated from each other, go to suggest that very wide deviation may occur in a few thousands of years among people of one stock who have separated at a stage in which they have no literature, and only the material beginnings of a ritual. Beyond this we need not go. It suffices that there is no conceptual obstacle to the assumption that the civilisation of pre-Christian America grew from the central Asiatic roots which fed the beginnings of civilisation as we know it in Mediterranean Asia and Europe; and that from the practical certainty of an original migration of Asiatics to America there follows the probability that there occurred several, at different stages of Asiatic evolution. 2 The hypothesis which seems best to meet all the facts is that America was first peopled from Asia at an extremely remote period; that there slowly grew up American races with a certain definite type of language; and that later immigrants from Asia or Polynesia, perhaps coming as conquerors in virtue of importing a higher civilisation, were linguistically absorbed in the earlier mass, as conquering invaders have repeatedly been in the known history of Europe. 3


339:1 See the problem discussed in Prof. Keane's Ethnology, 2nd ed. ch. vii.

339:2 Anthropologie der Naturvölker, iii, 1-2 (1862).

339:3 It has, however, been persisted in since Waitz. See Simonin, as cited by Nadaillac, L’Amérique préhistorique, 1883, p. 569; and Hovelacque, Science of Language, Eng. trans. 1877, p. 311

339:4 Prof. A. Réville, Hibbert Lectures, 1884, On the Native Religions of Mexico and Peru, p. 40.

340:1 A. H. Keane, Ethnology, ed. 1909, p. 362; Man, Past and Present, 1900, p. 352.

340:2 M., Ethnology, pp. 98, 347; Man, p. 353.

340:3 See the history of the discussion in Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, 1889, i, 336, 367-8, 382-395. Mr. Haynes (id. pp. 367-8) thinks that man evolved from the palæolithic to the neolithic stage in the region of the Delaware, and that the ancestors of the present Indians are later arrivals.

341:1 For a history of this discussion see Winsor, as cited, i, 76-81, 369-376.

341:2 Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte, 2te Aufl. p. 613. Cp. Keane, Man, p. 361; Ethnology, p. 157.

341:3 In an article entitled "America the Cradle of Asia," by Stewart Culin, in Harper's Magazine for March, 1903, there is claimed "the same, if not a higher, antiquity for man on the American continent as is revealed by the most remote historical perspective of Egypt or Babylon" (p. 536)—the implication being that civilisation was thus early developed. The grounds offered for this proposition are certain parallels or identities of popular games and accessories found among American and Asiatic races. All of these data are Perfectly compatible with an Asiatic derivation of the former. Mr. Culin's main principle appears to be a "patriotic" desire to prove that "American culture" has not been "sterile."

341:4 See Keane, Ethnology, pp. 231-2: Nadaillac, L’Amérique préhistorique, pp. 533, 536, 537; Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, iii, 56 sq.; Oscar Peschel's Races of Man, Eng. tr. p. 400 sq. Cp. A. H. Buckland, Anthropological Studies, 1891, pp. 61-2.

341:5 Conquest of Mexico, App. Part I. On this cp. Winsor, i, 78; Nadaillac, pp. 547-8; and see the testimonies cited by Buckle, 3-vol. ed. i, 99, note.

341:6 For yet other hypotheses see Nadaillac, p. 534 sq. And cp. Admiral Lindesay Brine, Travels amongst American Indians, 1894, pp. 410-422.

342:1 H. H. Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, i, 24.

342:2 W. B. Stevenson, Twenty Years’ Residence in South America, 1825, i, 394-6. Stevenson gives the story as a purely native invention. Mr. A. H. Buckland, who (Anthropological Studies, 1891, pp. 96-7) ingeniously parallels the Peruvian legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocello with the known case of a group of white men and women wrecked among the Kaffirs on the south-east coast of Africa early in the eighteenth century, presumably does not suppose the "Ingasman" theory to be probable. But the Peruvian story in any case will not square with that of Quma and the Kaffirs, where it is not pretended that a great evolution of culture took place, as in the Peruvian myth.

342:3 Lectures cited, p. 242. Dr. Réville, singularly enough, mentions all the weak hypotheses, but does not allude to that of a migration by Behring Strait.

342:4 Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, App. I. It is no refutation of this analogy to say, as does Dr. Brinton (cited by Keane, Ethnology, p. 218), that the American signs "had nothing to do with the signs of the zodiac," even if this negative could be fully proved.

343:1 Tylor, Researches into the Early History of Mankind, 1865, pp. 92-3.

343:2 J. G. Müller, Amerikanische Urreligionen, pp. 645-6.

343:3 See the photographs of the Papantla and other temple pyramids in Encyc. Brit., new ed., art. America, vol. i, Pl. i, ii, iii; and that of Tepoxtlan in Bulletin 28 of the Amer. Bur. of Ethnol., Mexican and Central American Antiquities, etc., 1904, p. 345. Cp. p. 293. For views of other Central American pyramids see Admiral Lindesay Brine's Travels, as cited, pp. 227, 340, 352. Cp. pp. 304-8, 318, 330, 392. For the Peruvian analogue see the cut in Squier's Primeval Monuments of Peru, p. 9, rep. in Winsor, i, 250.

343:4 Also like that altar of Lycæan Zeus in Arcadia, where human sacrifices were offered—a Semitic survival. See Pausanias, viii, 2; and above, p. 273.

343:5 It may be worth noting that in Asia Minor there is a kind of natural model for such structures in a number of stratified mountains of limestone. See Sir Charles Fellows’s Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, 1852, pp. 95-96.

343:6 Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 613-615.

343:7 Clavigero, Hist. of Mexico, Eng. tr. ed. 1807, i, 262; Müller, p. 646.

343:8 See the illustrations in W. Ellis’s Polynesian Researches, 2nd ed. i, 341; in T. Williams’s Fiji and the Fijian Islands, i, 215, 223; in The Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, 1826, p. 124; and in F. W. Christian's The Caroline Islands, 1899, frontisp., pp. 80, 94, 256; cp. pp. 53, 114. B. Seeman (Fiji and its Inhabitants, in F. Galton's Vacation Tourists, and Notes of Travel, 1862, p. 269) states that "all Fijian temples have a pyramidal form, and [they] are often erected on terraced mounds," the same rule holding in Eastern Polynesia. Cp. Moerenhout, Voyage aux Iles du Grand Ocean, 1837, i, 467; Herman Melville, Typee, ed. 1847. p. 172; and Rev. R, Taylor, Te Ika a Maui, 1870, pp. 27-30. Strictly, however, some in Fiji are conical, like some in the Mississippi valley, though still terraced (see Williams, as cited, p. 223; and Rev. J. B. Stair, Old Samoa, 1897, p. 227). Terraces, again, were a feature of the place on which used to be consummated the sacrifice of the King of Calicut. Frazer, Lect. on Early Hist. of Kingship, 1905, p. 295.

343:9 See also above, p. 154, as to the resemblances between Polynesian and Khond sacrifices. The Polynesians, too, have the Hindu myth of the eight uncreated Gods, children of one Pair. Ellis, i, 325.

343:10 H. Youle Hind, Explorations in the Labrador Peninsula, 1863, ii, 17-18.

343:11 J. G. Müller, as cited, p. 167.

344:1 F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands, 1899, p. 238.

344:2 Rev. D. Macdonald, Oceania, 1889, p. 160.

344:3 Castrén, Vorlesungen über die Finnische Mythologie, 1853, p. 57.

344:4 Above, p. 190, and Part II, ch. ii, § 15.

344:5 W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, iv, 159.

344:6 J. G. Müller, p. 597.

344:7 Cp. Exod. xii, 3, 6; Infra, p. 375; Clavigero, Hist. of Mexico, Eng. tr. ed. 1807, B. vi, § 31, 35 (i, 300), 310, 312; Grant Allen, Evolution of the Idea of God, 1897, pref. p. vi.

344:8 Religious Systems of the World, p. 106; Thunberg, Voyages au Japon, trad. fr. 1796, iii, 255.

344:9 J. G. Müller, p. 594.

344:10 Id. p. 656.

344:11 Id. p. 648. A line of investigation that might be worth pursuing is suggested by the resemblances of the Mexican use of colour to Chinese and Japanese methods. There's also a curious similarity in the folding of Mexican and Japanese books. Cp. Müller, p. 551.

344:12 Nadaillac, pp. 275, 540. As to the legends of Buddhist contacts see p. 544 sq.

345:1 Tylor, Researches into the Early History of Mankind, 1865, pp. 154-8.

345:2 Lao-Tsze, Tau Têh King, ch. 80 (Chalmers' trans. p. 61); Pauthier, Chine Modern, 1853, P.359.

345:3 Macpherson, Memorials of Service in India, as before cited, p. 359.

345:4 J. G. Müller, Amerikanische Urreligionen, p. 549. Cp. Prescott, p. 48, note.

345:5 Tylor, Researches, 91, 94-9; Champollion, Précis du système hiéroglyphique, 1824, p. 280; Keane, Man, p. 409.

345:6 Champollion, p. 281; Tylor, p. 99.

345:7 A. J. Evans, "Further Discoveries of Cretan and Ægean Script," in Journ. of Hellenic Studies, xvii (1897), 384. Cp. Champollion, p. 280.

345:8 Cp. Tylor, pp. 99-100. Mr. Culin (as cited above) quotes Dr. Brinton as saying: "The inner stronghold of those who defended the Asiatic origin of Mexican and Central American civilisation is, I am well aware......the Mexican calendar, the game of Patolli, and the presence of Asiatic jade in America" (Paper "On various supposed relations between the American and Asiatic races" read at the International Congress of Anthropology, 1893). It is odd that Dr. Brinton should see no force in the identity of quipus and temple structures (both of which were noted by McCulloh as early as 1816) and horoscopes.

346:1 Cp. Brine, American Indians, as cited, pp. 149-154; Keane, Ethnology, p. 157; and Hovelacque, as there cited.

346:2 "There can be no doubt that America was populated in some way by people of an extremely low culture at a period even geologically remote. There is no reason for supposing, however, that immigration ceased with these original people" (Dall, Third Report of U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, p. 146, cited by Winsor, i, 76). Cp. Major J. W. Powell, "Whence came the American Indians?" in The Forum, Feb. 1898, p. 688.

346:3 Prof. A. H. Keane, from whose generally negative verdict I dissent with due diffidence, seems finally to admit (Ethnology, p. 345) the possibility of arrivals in small number in the period of civilisation before Columbus.

Next: § 2. Aztecs and Peruvians