Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Divine Origin of Language by Morgan Peter Kavanagh 1871

The Divine Origin of Language by Morgan Peter Kavanagh 1871

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The reader is doubtless aware that all the names of the heathen deities were in the beginning appellatives, or, as they are also called, common names, just as the now proper names, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Carpenter, and Mr. Mason must have previously been. Now as this cannot be doubted, nor is it denied by any one, it follows from the admissions of the learned (unwittingly made), that, as the names of all the gods and goddesses of antiquity served at one time or other to designate the sun, even without regard to sex, so must all other words have done, as it cannot be conceived that such multitudes of words could have ever had this single meaning without all other words having had it also—that is, when primarily considered.

Here is what Sir William Jones—a man profoundly acquainted with as many as twenty languages, and beyond all doubt the most learned Oriental scholar England has to boast of—says on this subject: "We must not be surprised at finding, on a close examination, that the characters of all the pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other, and at last into one or two; for it seems a well-founded opinion that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses, in ancient Rome and modern Varanes, mean only the powers of nature, and principally those of the sun, expressed in a variety of ways and by a multitude of fanciful names."

I beg to refer the reader to the work from which the above extract is taken, for other opinions to the same effect, confirmed by those of the learned of ancient times. Thus, it is shown that Jupiter was both male and female, not only the father but also the mother of the gods. And "Apuleius makes the mother of the gods of the masculine gender, and represents her describing herself as called Minerva at Athens, Venus at Cyprus, Diana at Crete, Proserpine in Sicily, Ceres at Eleusis: in other places, Juno, Bellona, Hecate, Isis, &c.; and if any doubt could remain, the philosopher Porphyry, than whom probably no one was better skilled in these matters, removes it by acknowledging that Vesta, Thea, Ceres, Themis, Priapus, Proserpine, Bacchus, Attis, Adonis, Silenus, and the satyrs were all the same."

And according to Hesychius Servius (upon Virgil's AEneid, 1. ii. 632), in Cyprus Venus is represented with a beard, and called Aphrodite!

And, according to Bryant, Metis is said to be, like the others, of two genders, and to be also the sun!

In the Anacalypsis (vol. i. p. 44) I find also the following: "After a life of the most painful and laborious research, Mr. Bryant's opinion is, that all the various religions terminated in the worship of the sun. He commences his work by showing, from a great variety of etymological proofs, that all the names of the deities were derived or compounded from some word which originally meant the sun. Notwithstanding the ridicule which has been thrown upon etymological inquiries, in consequence of the want of fixed rules, or of the absurd length to which some persons have carried them, yet I am quite certain it must, in a great measure, be from etymology at last that we must recover the lost learning of antiquity."

"Macrobius says that in Thrace they worship the sun or Solis Liber, calling him Sebadius; and from the Orphic poetry we learn that all the gods were one:—


Nonnus also states, that all the different gods, whatever might be their names, Hercules, Ammon, Apollo, or Mithra, centred in the sun.

Mr. Selden says, "Whether they be called Osiris, or Orphis, or Nilus, or Siris, or by any other name, they all centre in the sun, the most ancient deity of the nations."

While language was yet in a very infant state, no word being composed of more than one syllable, just as it is at present in China, it could not be difficult to perceive that all names, when traced up to their original source, did not differ from that of the sun, whence the belief that he (then adored as the universal god) and all the other divinities were but one and the same character.

This too accounts for the origin of myths, for the worship not only of human beings as gods, but even of animals and inanimate things. But when a name was first given to a person or an object, it could not then lead to a belief so erroneous as to induce men to pay divine honours to either the one or the other; for the real signification of such a name must have then been well known, as it was of course ever given on account of some quality found peculiar to the person or object it served to designate. But when with time such a name underwent so considerable a change that no one could tell what it first meant, and that it was perceived to be, however, one of the countless names of the sun, or to be easily traced to this source; then must superstition have begun respecting whatever such a name designated, whether man, animal, or object. Hence the vast number of divinities with some people, as with the Egyptians for instance, who are reported to have had many thousands of them, perhaps nearly as many as they had words in their language.

Need we now wonder at language having been ever regarded as something very sacred, as having had, in short, a divine origin?

There is a passage in the Anacalypsis (vol. ii. p. 6) taken from Georgius, according to which letters and superstition are in Thibet so closely allied as to be found inseparable, so that neither can be examined or inquired into without bringing in the other. As the rays of light flow from the nature of the sun, even so do the natives of Thibet believe that letters have emanated from the Deity. And, adds Georgius, the Indians entertain a belief somewhat similar about the Veda of Brama and the book of Atzala Isuren. Respecting the letters of their alphabet, the Thibetans revere them as wonderful gifts sent down from heaven. And referring to this passage Higgins observes: "The truth of the observation respecting the close connexion between letters and superstition cannot be denied; and thus this beautiful invention, which ought to have been the greatest blessing to mankind, has been till lately its greatest curse. But if at first it forged the chain, it will break it at last."

There is something like inspiration in what Higgins here says about letters breaking at last the chain of superstition; and of this he would have had still less doubt had he known any thing of their real origin; but he makes a great mistake when he calls letters a beautiful invention. To consider them as an invention, would be, as I have already said, and as M. Max Muller has also since repeated, "to place a human being almost on a level with God Himself, to raise his wisdom to an eminence immensely beyond its reach."

The Chinese also hold letters in religious veneration, and when they have done with any writing, burn it with peculiar ceremony.

It is not now to be wondered at that the ancients adored a being called the Word. "In the Zendavesta," says Bishop Marsh in his Michaelis, "we meet with a being called 'the Word' who was not only prior in existence, but gave birth to Ormuzd, the creator of good; and to Ahriman, the creator of evil. It is true that the work which we have at present under the title of Zendavesta, is not the ancient and genuine Zendavesta; yet it certainly contains many ancient and genuine Zoroastrian doctrines. It is said, likewise, that the Indian philosophers have their LOGOS, which, according to their doctrines, is the same as the MONOGENHS."

That is to say, their LOGOS, or Word, is taken in the sense of the Only Begotten of St. John. But whence did St. John derive his LOGOS? I must not say whence, since if I did, every narrow-minded religionist might accuse me of blasphemy, and so do every thing to prevent my discovery being made known; and such too would be the pitiful plea of all such philologists as cannot allow any one to be equal to or superior to themselves, for never bringing it into notice. I must not therefore dare to offer an opinion as to whence St. John derived his knowledge of the Word; but I cannot surely be censured if I quote what a very learned and pious Christian Bishop says on the subject: "Since St. John," observes Bishop Marsh in his Michaelis, "has adopted several other terms which were used by the Gnostics, we must conclude that he derived also the term LOGOS from the same source. If it be further asked whence did the Gnostics derive this use of the expression 'Word'? I answer, that they derived it most probably from the Oriental or Zoroastrian philosophy, from which was borrowed a considerable part of the Manichean doctrines."

To a certainty, if Bishop Marsh had lived in the time of Calvin, and if this holy Christian got him within his power, he would have had him roasted alive like Servetus on a slow fire; and which merciful sentence would have been highly approved of by all his followers, nor last nor least among these would be the gentle Melanchthon. To trace the Evangelist's doctrine of the Word to an idolatrous source, would have been judged as antichristian as any thing the unfortunate Servetus wrote about the Trinity.

Now this undoubted fact, that in ancient times the Word was revered as a Divine Being, must confirm still more and more the bold assertion that language grew, as I have shown, out of the name of the sun; this object having from the beginning been adored as God. Hence it cannot, according to Bishop Marsh, be wrong to assign to this source the opening of the Gospel of St. John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word." A religious heathen could not receive these words but as literally true, they being in perfect accordance with his own belief.

And has not a Grecian philosopher cried out, on reading this opening of John's Gospel: "By Jove, this barbarian is one of ourselves;" or, "This barbarian believes as we do." I quote from memory; but as the passage is well known, the reader will admit, if he should recollect it, that I do not mistake as to the sense, though I may do so as to the exact words.

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