« ZurückWeiter »
may resist it only to have it pass as the hereditary doom of his family, representing an imputed sin. 'For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation.'
There are processes of this kind in nature, hereditary evils, transmitted diseases and disgraces, and afflictions of many through the offences of one. But a fearful Nemesis follows the deification and adoration of them. 'How can I be happy in heaven,' said a tender-hearted lady to her clerical adviser, 'when I must see others in hell ?' 'You will be made to see that it is all for the best.' 'If I am to be made so heartless, I prefer to go to hell.' This genuine conversation reports the doom of all deities whose extension is in dragons. Hell implies a Dragon as its representative and ruler. Theology may induce the abject and cowardly to subject their human hearts to the process of induration required for loyalty to such powers, but in the end it makes atheism the only salvation of brave, pure, and loving natures. The Dragons' breath has clouded the ancient heavens and blighted the old gods; but the starry ideals they pursue in vain. Behemoth has supplied sirloins to many priesthoods for a long time, but he has at last become too tough even for their teeth, and they feed him less carefully every year. Nay, he is encountered now and then by his professional feeders, and has found even in Westminster Abbey his Guy of Warwick.
Nor could this desp'rate champion daunt
Cut from her enormous side a sirloin.
THE DRAGON DOGMA.
The sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter to the one, and of young Conyers to the other, found commutation in the case of man's rescue from Satan by Christ's descent to Hades, and in the substitution of nine uneasy deaths for the demanded parricide in the Lambton case; and the most direct survival of these may be found in any country lad trying to cure his warts by providing a weed for them to adhere to. Their end in Art was in such forms as this starveling creature of Callot's (Fig. 32), whose thin, spectacled
Fig. 32. - FROM THE TEMPTATION OF ST. ANTHONY (Callot). rider, tilting at St. Anthony, denotes as well the doom of all powers, however lofty, whose majesty requires tali auxilio et istis defensoribus. The Dragon passes and leaves a roar of laughter behind him, in which even St. Anthony could now join. But Leviathan and Lambton Worm have combined and merged their life in a Dogma; it is a Dogma as remorseless and voracious as its prototype, and requires to be fed with all the milk of human kindness, or it at once begins to gnaw the foundations of Christendom itself. Christianity rests upon the past work of the Worm in Paradise, and its present work in Hell. It makes no real difference whether man's belief in a universe enmeshed in serpentcoils be expressed in the Hindu's cowering adoration of
418 SERPENT SUPERSTITION AND SCIENCE.
the venomous potentate, or the christian's imprecation upon it: fundamentally it is serpent-worship in each case. Vishnu reposes on his celestial Serpent; the god of Dogma maintains his government by support of the infernal Serpent. Fear beheld him appearing in Durham to vindicate the mass and the Sabbath ; but the same fear still sees him in the fiery world punishing Sabbath-breakers and blasphemers against his Creator and chief. That fear built every cathedral in Christendom, and they must crumble with the phantasm evoked for their creation.
The Serpent in itself is a perfect type of all evil in nature. It is irreconcilable with the reign of a perfectly good and omnipotent man over the universe. No amount of casuistry can explain its co-existence with anthroponiorphic Love and Wisdom, as all acknowledge when a parallel casuistry attempts to defend any other god than their own from deeds that are, humanly considered, evil. It is just as easy to defend the jealousy and cruelty of Jove, on the ground that his ways are not as our ways, as it is to defend similar tempers in Jehovah. The monster sent by one to devour Prometheus is ethically atwin with the snake created by the other to bite the heel of man.
Man is saved from the superstitious evolution of the venomous Serpent into a Dragon by recognising its real evolution as seen by the eye of Science. Science alone can tell the true story of the Serpent, and justify its place in nature. It forbids man his superstitious method of making a god in his own image, and his egotistic method of judging nature according to his private likes and dislikes, his convenience or inconvenience. Taught by Science man may, with a freedom the barbarian cannot feel, exterminate the Serpent; with a freedom the christian cannot know, he may see in that reptile the perfection of that economy in nature which has ever defended the advancing
SCIENCE THE SPEAR OF ITHURIEL.
forms of life. It judges the good and evil of every form with reference to its adaptation to its own purposes. Thus Science alone wields the spear of Ithuriel, and beneath its touch every Dragon shrinks instantly to its little shape in nature to be dealt with according to what it is.
( 420 )
Dore's 'Love and Fate'-Moira and Moiræ—The 'Fates'of Æschylus
-Divine absolutism surrendered—Jove and Typhon-Commutation of the Demon's share — Popular fatalism – Theological fatalism-Fate and Necessity—Deification of Will-Metaphysics, past and present.
GUSTAVE DORÈ has painted a picture of Love and Fate,' in which the terrible hag is portrayed towering above the tender Eros, and while the latter is extending the thread as far as he can, the wrinkled hands of Destiny are the boundaries of his power, and the fatal shears close upon the joy he has stretched to its inevitable limit. To the ancient mind these two forms made the two great realms of the universe, their powers meeting in the fruit with a worm at its core, in seeds of death germinating amid the play of life, in all the limitations of man. They are projected in myths of Elysium and Hades, Eden and the Serpent, Heaven and Hell, and their manifold variants.
Perhaps there is no one line of mythological development which more clearly and impressively illustrates the forces under which grew the idea of an evil principle, than the changes which the personification of Fate underwent in Greece and Rome. The Moira, or Fate with Homer, is only a secondary cause, if that, and simply carries out the decrees of her father, Zeus. Zeus is the real Fate. Never