NEVER have Indo-Europeans imagined to become more religious when a “beyond” claimed to release them from “this world”, which was devalued to a place of sorrow, persecution and salvation — to a “beyond” to which was attributed the fullness of joys, so that a soul fleeing “this world”, must long for it all his earthly life.
The American religious scientist, William James, has contrasted the religion of healthy mindedness and the religion of the sick soul,21 and Western examples of the religiosity of a sick soul may be found in Blaise Pascal and Sören Kierkegaard. Indo-European religiosity is healthy both in body and soul, and the God-filled soul after elevation to the divine achieves equilibrium in all the bodily and spiritual powers of man.
While non-Indo-European or non-Nordic religiosity, often breaks out all the more excitedly the more a religious man loses his equilibrium, the more he is in ekstasis or outside himself, the more the Nordic Indo-European strives for equilibrium and composure.
The Indo-European has confidence only in those spiritual powers which are to be experienced when the soul is in equilibrium, that is to say, in proportion and prudence.
He also mistrusts all insight and knowledge and experience, which the believer acquires only in some state of excitement. It is extraordinarily characteristic of Indo-European nature, that with the Hellenes eusebeia (religiosity) and sophrosyne (prudence) are often used in the same sense. In this the Nordic nature of true Hellenic religiosity is clearly seen, and results always in aidoos, that is to say, the shyness, or reserve of the worshippers. Religiosity expresses itself with these powerful resolute men in prudent conduct and noble reserve, which qualities alone become part of the fullness of the divine. Here the root of Indo-European religiosity is revealed to ethnological gaze: the religiosity of a farming aristocracy of Nordic race,22 and of honest generations, possessed of a secure self-consciousness and an equally secure reserve, who dispassionately contemplated all phenomena, and who preserved balance and dignity even when facing the divine. In the form and character of Indo-European religion speaks the nobility of the Nordic farming aristocratic nature — all those fides, virtus, pietas, and gravitas, which, summarised as religio, corresponding to the Hellenic aidoos (reserve), also formed the essence of the true Roman, originating from Indo-European ancestors. To this, however, there is a limit, which has been repeatedly alluded to above: Indo-European religiosity owing to its origin and its nature, can never become common to everyone.
What Nietzsche, the sick man, called Great Health and what appeared to him as of such high value, namely nobility, both permeate the religious life of the Indo-Europeans. Whoever wishes to measure religiosity by the visible excitement of the religious man must find the Indo-Europeans irreligious. The highest attainments of Indo-European religions are only accessible to him when he has learned to master his spiritual powers in due proportion, and when he has achieved a proper sense of balance. Therefore Horace (Carmina, II, 3, 1-2), in accordance with the wisdom of Hellenic teaching admonishes us:
|Aequam memento rebus in arduis|
As has been mentioned above, Plato described the man of moderation as a friend of the deity.
The Indo-European wishes to stand before the deity as a complete man who has achieved the balanced equilibrium of his powers which the deity demands from him.
A noble balance, the constantia and gravitas, which the Romans expected in particular from their senators and high officials, has also been found preserved, by one of the most eminent scholars of the pre-Christian Teutonic spirit, the Swiss, Andreas Heusler,23 in the spiritual expression of the numerous Roman sculptures (Kurt Schumacher: Germanendarstellungen, edited by Hans Klumbach, 1935) of Teutonic men and women: “What strikes one most about these great, nobly formed features, is their mastered calm, their integral nobility, indeed their reflective mildness.” But such spiritual features can also be recognised in the evidence of the ancient Teutonic moral teachings and wisdom of life which Andreas Heusler cites in the same connection. This evidence contradicts the slanders still sometimes repeated today that the Teutons were crude barbarians, to whom only the Mediaeval Church succeeded in inculcating moral standards.
The mastered calm and integral nobility mentioned by Heusler are, however, characteristics of the Indo-European in general, expressions of hereditary dispositions, which point back in time beyond the Teutonic into the Indo-European primal period, and thus into the early Stone Age of central Europe. This noble balance is the basis of Nordic religiosity: when facing the divine will the religious man preserves the equilibrium of his soul, the aequanimitas of the Romans, the metriotes and sophrosyne of the Hellenes, the upeksha of the Indians.
Hermann Oldenberg (Buddha, edited by Helmuth von Glasenapp, 1959, p. 185) has described the peculiarity of Buddhistic religiosity as: “The equilibrium of forces, inner proportion — these are what Buddha recommends us to strive for”. Buddha himself once compared the spiritual impulses of a religious man with a lute whose strings sound most beautifully of all when they are stretched neither too loosely nor too tightly (Mahavagga, V, 1, 15-16). This and not perhaps a flaccid mediocrity is also the meaning of the aurea mediocritas of Horatius, which can be explained from the Nichomachean Ethics of Aristotle.
This ideal of integral nobility, common to all the Indo-Europeans, the sense of a noble balance has also expressed itself in works of the plastic arts and poetry. I have cited the festival of the Panathenaea, the ara pacis and the carmen saeculare of Horace as examples. In Athens every four years in celebration of the city goddess Athena, the all-Athenian (Pan-athenian) festival procession made its way to the Acropolis, as portrayed in the sculpture of the Parthenon frieze, one of the most beautiful creations of the noble balance of Hellenic and Indo-European religiosity. Ernst Langlotz, who wrote about this frieze in his book Schönheit und Hoheit (1948, p. 14), describes the long series of these sculptures in such a way that through their noble self-control the tragic Indo-European destiny of the Hellenic is also recognised: these figures are “filled by the dangerous spiritual tensions of power in their life, which, akin to tragedy, elevates men, while it crushes them”. Nobility of soul and calm, a calm which is above all expressed in the Parthenon, has also been described by Josef Strzygowski (Spuren indogermanischen Glaubens in der Bildenden Kunst, 1936, pp. 279 et seq.) as characteristic of Hellenic as well as of Indo-European nature in general.
The ara pacis, an altar dedicated in Rome in the year 9 B.C. probably based on Hellenic models and the Parthenon frieze, represents a sacrifice by noble Romans, in which Augustus himself and his family participates, accompanied by high officials and lictors. The architecture and its sculptures express the Hellenic-Roman religiosity of religio, of aidoos (reserve), even in this late period, in pure and mature shape.
The Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus has also expressed pure and mature religiosity of an Indo-European type in the midst of a spiritually confused and morally desolate late period, in a festive religious poem, the carmen saeculare (Carmina, III, 25). The Indo-European idea of world order, in which the man of belief strives to adapt himself, is here expressed again; Honour, manliness, loyalty, modesty and peace (Verse 57-58). The furtherance of all growth is implored from the Gods, the prospering of cattle and of the fruits of the fields; the Gods should present the Roman people “with success and children and everything beautiful” (Verse 45). The same attitude is evident in the greeting of the Scandinavian Teutons, who wished each other a fruitful year and peace (ar ok fridr) or also a fruitful year and prosperous herds of cattle (ar ok fesaela).
The upright man regards nothing in his nature as lower in value than deity; therefore for the Indo-Europeans there is no conflict between body and soul. This absence of conflict indeed already emanates from the will to preserve the equilibrium of the human powers, even when he conceives of the body and soul as different in essence. Yet on the whole the Indo-European has lived more in harmony of body and soul; the Teutons, for example, have always tended to regard the body as an expression of the soul.24 A perceptive form of theoretical dualism, in which the subject faces the object — in which the perceiver faces an “object of perception” (H. Rückert) — will be no more to the true Indo-European spirit, than a method, a convenient thought process for knowledge, and he will neither emphasise the concept of contrast between body and soul nor will he misjudge (as did Ludwig Klages) the spirit aroused in the tension between the subject and object as an adversary of the soul. To the Indo-European, the distinction between body and soul is not stimulating, not even to religiosity.
Thus this question has never vexed the Indo-Europeans, and they have never de-valued the body so as to value the soul more highly. Quite remote from them lies the idea that the body, addicted to this world, is a dirty prison for a soul striving out of it towards another world. Whenever the outer and inner in men are observed separately, then they are joined in the religious man in an effect of mutual equilibrium. The ideal of a healthy mind in a healthy body has become an English proverb in recent years, and in this we see the reassertion of Nordic religiosity in modern times. It is, after all, a reflection of the prayer which Plato, at the end of his Phaedrus causes Socrates to utter to the Gods:
The honouring of the body as a visible expression of membership of a selected genus or race is characteristic of the Indo-Europeans. For this reason, every idea of killing the senses, of asceticism, lies very remote from this race, and would appear to them as an attempt to paralyse rather than balance human nature. It is something especially peculiar to the Hither-Asiatic race,25 but it is also found in another form in the East Baltic race.26 Indo-European religiosity is that of the soul which finds health and goodness in the world and in the body. For the religious men of the Hither-Asiatic race and for the western Europeans governed by the Hither-Asiatic racial spirit the Indo-Europeans must appear as children of this world, because the non-Indo-European spirit can seldom understand even the essence of Indo-European religiosity and hence will assume that it lacks religiosity altogether.
Hermann Lommel (Iranische Religion, in Carl Clemen: Die Religionen der Erde, 1927, p. 146) uses the term “religiosity of this world” to characterise the Iranian (Persian) religion: “Life in this world”, he says, “offered the Iranians unbounded possibilities for the worship of God”. Goethe also, in his poem Vermächtnis altpersischen Glaubens has strikingly described the religiosity of the Iranians:
|Schwerer Dienste tägliche Bewahrung,|
Sonst bedarf es keiner Offenbarung.
Daily preservation of hard services,
No other kind of revelation is needed.
The Indo-Europeans are truly children of this world in the sense that this world can allow the unfolding of the whole richness of their worshipping, confiding and entrusting dedication to the divine, a worshipful penetration of all aspects of this life and environment through an all embracing elevated disposition of the mind. The divine is found to be universally present, as Schiller (The Gods of Greece) has described it:
|Alles wies den eingeweihten Blicken,|
alles eines Gottes Spur.
To the enlightened, the whole Universe
breathes the spirit of God.
Thus the religious forms of the Indo-Europeans have unfolded with great facility into a multiplicity of Gods, always accompanied, however, by a premonition or clear recognition that ultimately the many Gods are only names for the different aspects of the divine. In the worship of mountain heights, rivers, and trees, in the worship of the sun, the beginning of spring, and the dawn (Indian: Ushas, Iranian: Usha, Greek: Eos from Ausos, Latin: Aurora from Ausosa, Teutonic: Ostara), in the worship of ploughed land, and the tribal memory of outstanding individual leaders of prehistory subsequently elevated to the status of demi-Gods . . . in all this the Indo-European religiosity of “this world” is revealed as an expression of the experience of being sheltered and secure in the world which these peoples felt. W. Hauer27 has described the foundation of the Indo-European religiosity as “being sheltered by the world” (Weltgeborgenheit). One could also quote Eduard Spranger in support of this when he spoke of the religiosity of this world in which this feeling of being secure in the world has been expressed.
Since being secure in the world forms the basis of this religiosity, as soon as it is developed with philosophic reflection it easily assumes the concept of the universal deity and becomes pantheistic, but this tendency remains reflective, and Indo-European religiosity never becomes intoxicated by the more impulsive forms of mysticism.
The strictly theistic religions of the Semites proclaimed personal Gods. T. H. Robinson (Old Testament in the Modern World, in H. H. Rowley: The Old Testament and Modern Study, 1951, p. 348) states categorically that “in the Jewish or Old Testament belief, there is no room left open for any kind of Pantheism.” Arthur Drews, in Die Religion als Selbstbewusstsein Gottes (1906, pp. 114-115), called Theism the basic category of Semitic religiosity, and Pantheism the basic category of Indo-European religiosity. Hermann Güntert, in Der arische Weltkönig und Heiland (1923, pp. 413 et seq.) found that mysticism corresponds to the Indo-European kind of mind, and considers that the existence of such a common tendency depends on their original racial identity.
The original Indo-European characteristically did not conceive of temples as dwelling places for Gods, nor did the oldest Indians. The early Romans and the Italici probably neither built temples nor carved images of the Gods. Tacitus (Germania, IX) wrote that the Teutons’ idea of the greatness of the deity did not permit them to enclose their Gods within walls. For the same reason the Persian King Khshayarsha (Xerxes) burnt the temples in Greece (Cicero: de legibus, II, 26: quod parietibus includerunt deos) which the Hellenes, deviating from the original Indo-European outlook, had begun to construct in the seventh century B.C. — wooden buildings at first, unmistakeably derived from central European early Stone Age and Bronze Age rectangular houses. Similarly the fact that the Indo-Europeans originally possessed no images of their Gods may correspond to a religiosity originating in the feeling of being secure in the world, and of being men of broad vision, an attitude which from the beginning has tended towards the concept of universal divinity.
The broad vision of the Indo-Europeans — a vision of man summoned to spiritual freedom, to theoria, or beholding (gazing) as perfected by the classical art of the Hellenes — such a vision comprehends the whole world, and all divine government and all responsible human life in it, as part of a divine order. The Indians called it rita, over which Mitra and Varuna (Uranos in Greek mythology) stand guard — “the guardians of rita”;28 the Persians called it ascha or urto (salvation, right, order); the Hellenes, kosmos; the Italici, ratio; the Teutons, örlog, or Midgard. Hermann Lommel, in Zarathustra und seine Lehre (Universitas, Year XII, 1957), speaks of a “lawful order of world events”, which the Iranians are said to have represented. Such an idea, the idea of a world order in which both Gods and men are arranged, permeates the teaching of the Stoics, and when Cicero (de legibus, I, 45; de finibus, IV, 34) praises virtue (virtus) as the perfection of reason, which rules the entire world (natura), then he once more expressed the idea of universal ordered life. This idea was recognised and expounded by the Jena scholar of jurisprudence Burkhard Wilhelm Leist (1819-1906), in his works Ancient Aryan Jus gentium (1889) and Ancient Aryan Jus civile (1892-1896). Julius von Negelein in Die Weltanschauungen des Indogermanischen Asiens (Veröffentlichungen des Indogermanischen Seminars der Universität Erlangen, Vol. I, 1924, pp. 100 et seq., 104 et seq., 118 et seq.) has studied the idea of order as expressed in the course of the year with Indians and Iranians, an idea which corresponded to the teachings of the duty of the man of insight and of elevated moral outlook to fit himself into the order of the world. Later, Wolfgang Schultz (Zeitrechnung und Weltordnung, 1929), stressed that it is found solely of all the peoples on earth, amongst the Indo-Europeans. The fragment of a Hellenic prayer has been preserved which implores the Gods for order (eunomia) on behalf of mortals (Anthologia Graeca, Vol. II, edited by Diehl, p. 159).
In India the caste order also corresponded to universal order of life (Gustav Mensching: Kastenordnung und Führertum in Indien, Kriegsvorträge der Universität Bonn am Rh., Heft 93, 1942, pp. 8 et seq.). By means of the caste order, the three highest castes, descendants of the tribes which immigrated from south-eastern middle Europe in the second pre-Christian millenia (R. von Heine-Geldern: Die Wanderungen der Arier nach Indien in archäologischer Betrachtung, Forschungen und Fortschritte, Year 13, No. 26-27, p. 308; Richard Hauschild: Die Frühesten Arier im alten Orient), who, like the Iranians, called themselves Aryans, attempted to keep their race pure. The caste law was regarded as corresponding to the law of world order (dharma), or the ius divinum as the Romans described it. Participation in the superior spiritual world of the Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads originally determined the degree of caste. The higher the caste, the stricter was the sense of duty to lead a life corresponding to the world order. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), who can be described as predominantly Nordic from the shape of his head and facial features, informs us in his autobiography, that he originated on both his father’s and mother’s side from the Brahman families of Kashmir — from the mountainous north-west of India, into which the Aryans had migrated in substantial numbers, where blond children are still sometimes found — and that one of his aunts had been taken for an English woman because of her fair skin, her light hair and her blue eyes. All the great ideas of Indian religion and philosophy were either brought into India with the Aryan immigrants or else have originated in the area of Aryan settlement, that is in the valley of the Indus, the land of the five streams (the Punjab) or the region of the upper Ganges.
If in Germany there were a university chair to study the spiritual life of the Indo-Europeans, in the same way as in France there is a chair to study “la civilisation Indo-Européenne”, at present occupied by the outstanding, though almost unknown, Georges Dumézil, then the inter-relationships of the Indo-European spirit and interpretation of the world (B. W. Leist bravely attempted this study towards the end of the nineteenth century), would have been investigated more zealously. The idea which took shape in the Christian Middle Ages, of co-ordinating everything in this world to another world, extending from the division of the classes of the state to include the segregation of all men into an ordo salutis, an order of salvation, is probably a blend of thought derived from the impact of the Indo-European concept of the meaningful world order upon the invocation of Pauline-Augustinian Christianity to retreat from “this world”. It is also interesting to find that Ernst Theodor Sehrt (Shakespeare und die Ordnung, Veröffentlichungen der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Universitätsgesellschaft, No. 12, 1955, pp. 7 et seq.), has shown that the Indo-European idea of order, linked with the Pythagorian and Platonic ideas of the harmony of the spheres and with the Stoic praise of reason, which is understood as in accord with world order, is also found in Shakespeare.
“The Gods fixed the measure and end of everything on mother earth,” says the Odyssey (XVIII, 592-593), and Pherecydes who was probably taught by Anaximandros speaks in the sixth century B.C. of “ordering Zeus”, and here the idea of the divine world order resounds, just as it resounds in the Edda in The Vision of the Seeress:
|Then go the Regi rulers all|
To their judgment stools,
These great holy Goths
And counselt together that
To the Night and New Moon
They’d give these names.
Morning also they named
And Mid-Day too
Dinner and Afternoon
The time for to tell.
|(L. A. Waddell: The British Edda, 1930, p. 23.)|
Family, nation and state, worship and law, the seasons of the year and the festivals (cf. also Johannes Hertl: Die Awestischen Jahreszeitenfeste, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, Vol. 85, 2, 1933; Das indogermanische Neujahrsopfer, Vol. 90, 1, 1938) the customs and spiritual life, farmland, house and farm; all were related in a world order, and in this order man lived as a member of his race, which was perpetuated permanently in ordered procreation. This appears with the Hellenes as the Hestia idea, and was symbolised with all Indo-Europeans in the worship of the fire of the hearth (in Indian: Agni, in Latin: ignis, in Iranian: Atar, in Celtic: Brigit). Thus within the all-embracing world order, disciplined and selective procreation plays a divine role for the preservation of racial inheritance, the God-given racial heritage. Thus care of race is both a consequence and a requirement of the world order — a direct assertion of the Indo-European religious heart.
In the Indian Law Book of Manu, X, 61, may be found the idea of order in procreation: “The inhabitants of the kingdom, in which disorderly procreation occurs, rapidly deteriorate”. Hence the Indo-European holds sexual life sacred, enshrining it in the family and the woman, honouring the mistress of the house (despoina, matrona) as the guardian of their Racial Heritage. The worship of the divi parentes sprang naturally from the pride and reverence in which they held their ancestors. It follows that Indo-European religiosity calls for disciplined choice (Zuchtwahl), in selecting a husband or wife (a eugeneia), and that Indo-European families strive to preserve good breeding.
In the recorded cosmic or Midgard concepts of the Indo-Europeans, man has his proper place in the great scheme of ordered life, but he is not enchained to it as are the oriental religions, with their star worship and priestly prophesies of the future — the study of entrails and the flight of birds, practised by the Babylonians, Etruscans and others. He appears in a trusting relationship with his God, whose nature itself is connected with the world order, and he joins with this God on a national scale in the struggle against all powers hostile to man and God, against chaos, against Utgard. The Indo-European recognises Midgard, the earth-space, as the field in which he may fulfil his destiny, cherishing life as a cultivator or farmer, where plants, animals and men are each called to grow and ripen into powerful forces asserting themselves within the timeless order. Guilt in man — not sin — arises wherever an individual defies or threatens this order and attempts through short-sighted obstinacy to oppose the divine universal order in life. For such a crime an individual incurs guilt. By such a crime, his people are threatened with the danger of decline and degeneration, and the world order with confusion and distortion.
|Wenn des Leichtsinns Rotte|
die Natur entstellt,
huldige du dem Götte
durch die ganze Welt!
If the frivolous mob,
Honour thou the God
Through all the world!
(Von Platen: Parsenlied)
The Indo-Europeans, and particularly the Iranians, have to struggle continuously between on the one hand, the divine will, which strives to shape and introduce order into nations for the enhancement of every living thing, and between, on the other hand, a will hostile to God, which brings disintegration and distortion of form and the destruction of all seed on the other. The God Ahura Mazda (Ormuzd) perpetually struggles against the anti-God Angro Mainju (Ahriman). Midgard, the universal order of life, preserves and renews itself only through the brave and the constant struggle of men and Gods against the powers hostile to the Divine order, against Utgard. (cf. also Julius von Negelein, op. cit., pp. 116 et seq.). Midgard is the product of the harmonious ordering of human honour29 and the divine laws.
The ideas of rita and ascha, the kosmos and ratio, and the Midgard idea of the Indo-Europeans reveal particularly clearly that Indo-European religiosity was rooted in a will to enhance life. It was a religious outlook by virtue of which man, with his great soul, sought to stand proudly beside God as megalopsychos, inspired by the truly Indo-European magnitudo animi, the stormenska, the mental elevation and magnanimity of the Icelanders, the hochgemüte of the Mediaeval German knights; “rüm Hart, klar Kimming” as the Frisian proverb says, is characteristic of the religiosity of the Nordic Indo-European farming aristocracy.
IF we survey the whole field of Indo-European religiosity it is clear that much of what has been held in the Christian West as characteristic of the especially religious mind, will be found lacking in the Indo-European — lacking for those who seek to measure the Indo-European in terms of their own different religious stamp. Death can never be regarded by the Indo-European as a gloomy admonition to belief and religiosity. The fear of death, the threatened end of the world and the judgment of the dead have often been described as reasons for adhering to the narrow path of faith and morality. This is not true of the Indo-Europeans, for whom religiosity is a means to a fuller and wider life. As the Edda says:
|Bright and cheerful|
should each man be
until death strikes him!
(Edda, Vol. II, 1920, p. 144.)
Death is a significant phenomenon of human life, but the strength of Indo-European religiosity is not based upon the contemplation or fear of death. Death belongs to the universal order of life. The Indo-European faces it in the same way as the best in our people do today. Because for the honest man perfect human life is already possible on this earth, through balanced self-assertion; because in the order of the world the death of the individual is a natural phenomenon in the life or progression of the race, and because the beyond has no essential meaning in the life of the Indo-European, death has no influence on the Indo-European’s beliefs or moral concepts, except as a reminder that the time allowed to the individual to fulfil his purpose and duties as a member of the race is limited.
It is striking how pallid and how unstimulating are the original Indo-European ideas of life after death, such as the kingdom of death, of Hades, or Hel as seen by the Teutons.30 The Teutonic concept of Valhalla is scarcely of value here, being a late and exceptional development, derived less from religious disposition than from the poetic descriptive gift, of the Norwegian and Icelandic poets of the Viking era. It is also striking to find that no memories of Valhalla have been preserved in German sagas and fairy tales. Fundamentally, death for the Indo-Europeans meant the passage to a life, which in its individual features resembled life in the world of the living, only it was quieter, more balanced. The dead person remained part of the clan soul, in which he had shared when alive. He was at no time an unbridled individual, but always part of the existence over generations of a clan, inhabiting hereditary farms in the national homeland. As part of the clan soul individual death had no meaning for him. What concerned him in the kingdom of death was the welfare and prosperity of his clan, with its horses and cattle, fields and meadows. Achilles, when dead, asks Odysseus, who had penetrated into the underworld: “Give me news of my splendid sons!” (Odyssey, XL, 492), and goes away “with great strides, filled with joy” when he has learned of “his sons’ virtue” (XI, 539-540). As Paul Thieme (Studien zur indogermanischen Wortkunde und Religionsgeschichte, 1952, pp. 46 et seq.), has shown, the Indo-European ideas of a kingdom of the dead were originally less gloomy than the later Hellenic ideas of Hades or the Teutonic concept of Hel. In the Rig Veda of the Indians, as in the Avesta of the Iranians and as with Homer, memories are preserved of the kingdom of the dead as a pleasant meadow, a cattle meadow (Rig Veda) or a foal’s meadow (Homer) separated from the land of the living only by a river. On such green meadows the dead are reunited with their ancestors. According to Hans Hartmann (Der Totenkult in Irland, 1952, pp. 207-208) the honouring of dead ancestors as well as the worship of fire and the sun in Celtic Ireland corresponds to North-Germanic, Italic, Tocharic and Indo-Iranian customs, and seems therefore to form part of common Indo-European customs. Corresponding word equivalents between the Celtic and Italic on the one side and the Indo-Iranian on the other are also found (Paul Kretschmer: Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache, 1896, pp. 125 et seq.; J. Vendryès: Les Correspondances de vocabulaire entre l’Indo-Arien et l’Italo-Celtique, Memoires de la Société de Linguistique, Vol. XX, 1918, pp. 268 ff., 285). Indo-European religiosity in fact has never emphasised the death of the individual, for the world order is regarded as timeless. Despite the decline of whole eras shaken through guilt, there is no actual world’s end, nor any dawn of a “Kingdom of God” transforming all things, in preparation for which many “Westerners” today retreat from the world to reflect upon their “last hour”.
As long as the order of life is preserved by the efforts of man and God against the powers hostile to the divine, the idea of redemption is incomprehensible to the Indo-Europeans. Redemption from what — and to what other existence? Midgard was not evil, and if one strove by brave, noble or moral action to keep the forces of Utgard at bay, there was no better life than that of friendship with the Gods by participating through balanced self-assertion in the universal order of life.
The true and original Indo-Europeans lack the figures of redeemers, the “heralds of salvation” and “saviours”, who are so characteristic of the history of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the entire region from Hither-Asia to India. The earliest stirring of the idea of redemption, and the earliest figure of a redeemer, the saoshyant, amongst the peoples of Indo-European tongue is found with the Persians undoubtedly due to an admixture of Hither-Asiatic race and culture whom L. F. Clauss has aptly described as “redemption men”. Also, aspects of the Teutonic God Balder belong to the saviour figures of Hither-Asia, most of all in the circle of the Babylonian Astarte legends and the ideas widely spread in the Orient of the dying and ever rising God.31 Balder has rightly often been compared with Christ. He is a saviour figure, given new meaning by the Teutonic spirit, and is no more an original Teutonic God, than are the Vanir, from south-east Europe whose Hither-Asiatic features were reinterpreted in Teutonic forms. For the unfolding of religious feelings heralds of salvation were not necessary to the Indo-Europeans.
The concept of a redeemer who serves as a mediator between the divinity and man must also be alien to Indo-European religiosity; according to his own nature, the Indo-European seeks the natural direct way to God. For this reason a priesthood as a more sacred class, elevated above the rest of the people, could not develop amongst the original Indo-Europeans.32 The idea of priests as mediators between the deity and men would have been a contradiction of Indo-European religiosity and instead of a rulership of priests there developed amongst the original Indo-Europeans the far-sighted, resolute state organisations of the Nordic-Indo-European kind. Comprising a community of farmer warriors, the idea of the state proceeded from the freedom and equality of the land-owning family fathers, who owned their hereditary farm as freemen (Greek: klaroi or kleroi, Latin: heredia). It sprang therefore from a rural democracy, which in later times was usually succeeded by a city trading democracy. Democracy based on the rural spirit of yeomen has been celebrated by Gottfried Keller in Fähnlein der sieben Aufrechten (1861), while democracy based on the city trader spirit was pilloried by him in Martin Salander (1896). The democracy of yeomen, by its very nature, did not permit the existence of a priestly hierarchy. Such other functions as a priestly hierarchy might desire to usurp were already fulfilled by the father of the family and the heads of the clans, tribes and nations in their natural and national function as a part of the world order.
It is true that the Indo-European might accept the priest as an interpreter and perfecter of the traditional folk spirit, as the unfolder and new creator of hereditary religiosity; that is in accordance with Indo-European nature. But the idea of the priest as a prophet, anxious to dominate and spiritually enchain the religious community, is something which Indo-European nature cannot tolerate, for Nordic-Indo-European religiosity is based on noble, measured conduct and the secure maintenance of a bodily and spiritual distance between men. Both heightening oneself, and emotional intoxication, ekstasis, or holy orgia, and standing outside oneself and the infiltration of self into the spiritual domains of other men, are distinctive features of the Hither-Asiatic race soul. Measure (balance), yoga (Latin: iugum, German: Joch, English: yoke), metron, temperantia, are as above, distinctive features of the Nordic race soul and of the original Indo-European religiosity: eusebeia synonymous with sophrosyne; Sanskrit: upeksha, Pali: upekha; likewise in the religiosity of the Stoics (apatheia) and of the Epicureans (ataraxia).
This is not to suggest that the Indo-Europeans were not aware that the condition of intoxication is indicative of superabundant spiritual activity — as distinct from alcoholic intoxication, which like the Nectar of the Hellenes or the Met (Mead) of the Teutons they prepared from honey, and known by the Indo-Aryans as Soma and the Iranians as Haoma. From Herodotus (I, 33) and from Tacitus (Germania, XXII), it can be seen that the Indo-Europeans demanded control of any state of intoxication. The sense of intoxication of the spiritual creator when finding and shaping new knowledge is admittedly to be traced amongst all peoples of Indo-European tongue, the mania musoon, the craze of the Muses without which, according to Plato, there is no spiritual creation. Without this “madness”, the creations, re-creations and new creations of Indo-European religiosity would not have been possible. But when one seeks to ascertain to what extent the Indo-Europeans have expressed such spiritual intoxication in visible behaviour and in words, again and again one becomes aware of their self-control (yoga, enkrateia, disciplina, self-control). Such intoxications allow the spirit to take flight, but the flight itself obeys the laws of race soul striving for balance. Hölderlin knew the “uncontrolled powers of Genius” but as a basic principle of creation he taught the Indo-European to seek the wisdom of a maturer age: “Hate intoxication like the frost!” he said, to which he added the admonition, “Be devout only as the Greeks were devout!” In this he echoed the words of Horace (ars poetica, 268-269), expressing the awe aroused in men by the works of Hellenic poetry:
|vos exemplaria Graeca|
nocturna versate manu, versate diurna!
If we ask ourselves what the Hellenic spirit and what Hellenic art signified to Horace, to Winckelmann, Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hölderlin, and Shelley, then it must have been this: that among all Indo-European peoples, it was granted to the Hellenes to represent with the greatest clarity and beauty the balanced dignity of man in fearless freedom of the spirit. Walter F. Otto (Das Wort der Antike, 1962, p. 345) has described the impression — attractive to the Indo-European nature — which strikes visitors to a museum of ancient art when they pass from the Egyptian or Hindoo or east-Asiatic displays into the room of Hellenic art: “The first feeling one receives,” he writes, “is that of a wonderful freedom.” With such a feeling of freedom as this, the Hellenic man of balance and dignity confronted the deity.
What such Indo-European freedom signifies in the state will be studied later. Here we can only allude to what Cornelius Tacitus wrote: Freedom (libertas) in the Indo-European sense is only possible where a people strives to achieve the value of virtus, the dignity of the powerful, upright individual man. If in a people the freedom of the city masses, who desire welfare (Bread and Circuses) from the State, triumphs then in such a state the freedom of the individual man and that of the minority will be steadily suppressed by the majority, until finally only dominatio is still possible, that is to say, the equal subjection of all under one tyrant.
Confronted with the hereditary disposition of the Indo-Europeans, religions which have been described as revelations or stipendiary religions, i.e. religions with a “founder” were unable to develop among them. The sudden transformation of one’s own nature into something completely different, the transformation which is regarded as a re-birth or inner experience belongs far more to the oriental race soul of the desert, and readily occurs in the Orient, where the predominant spirit is of the Hither-Asiatic and Oriental races.33
Revelation — L. F. Clauss calls the Oriental race “revelation men” — the forming of religions through a prophet, the excitability and impulsiveness of the faithful for the revealed faith, are all phenomena which do not prosper in the realm of Indo-European religiosity. The elevation of faith in itself, and of credulity for the sake of credulity, the meritoriousness of faith as a particularly powerful magical means for justification before God — Luther’s sola fide — religious manifestations such as these appear to the Nordic-Indo-Europeans as a distortion of human nature, of that human nature which is willed by the deity itself. Faith in itself cannot be an Indo-European value, but it is certainly a value for men of Oriental (desert land) races. Goethe in his introductory poem to the Westöstlichen Divan — typified the overexcess and excitedness of Oriental faith and the lack of thought corresponding to such excess, being all “Broad belief and narrow thought”. Excitedness for a belief, excitedness over an urge to convert, the mission to “unbelievers” the assertion that one’s own belief alone could make one blessed, an excitedness, further, which expresses itself in hatred towards other Gods and persecution of their believers: such excited rage or fanaticism has repeatedly emanated from tribes of predominantly Oriental race and from the religious life of such tribes. Eduard Meyer, in his Geschichte des Alterums (1907, Part I, Book I, p. 385), has even spoken of the brutal cruelty, which has distinguished the religious spirit of peoples of Semitic language.
All this is as remote and unnatural to the Indo-European as is the immersion of the self into alien domains of the soul, frequently evident in men of Hither-Asiatic race. The more convinced the Indo-European lived in his belief, all the more repellent to his nature must have been the idea of its being represented to a stranger as the only valid one before God. The Indo-European religiosity does not preach to non-believers, but is willing to explain to an enquirer the nature of his personal beliefs. Hence the patience of all Indo-Europeans in religious matters. In my book Die Nordische Rasse bei den Indogermanen Asiens (1934, p. 112), I have written: “Zeal to convert and intolerance have always remained alien to every aspect of Indo-European religiosity. In this is revealed the Nordic sense of distance between one man and another, modesty which proscribes intrusion upon the spiritual domains of other men. One cannot imagine a true Hellene preaching his religious ideas to a non-Hellene; no Teuton, Roman, Persian or Aryan Brahman Indian, who would have wished to ‘convert’ other men to his belief. To the Nordic race soul, interfering in the spiritual life of other men is as ignoble as violating individual boundaries.” Mutual tolerance of religious forms is a distinctive feature of the Indo-European. The memorial stones in the Roman-Teutonic frontier region reveal through their inscriptions that the Roman frontier troops and settlers not only honoured their own Gods, but also respected the local deity of the Teutons, the genius huius loci.
In the Persian kingdom of the Achaemenides, Ahura Mazda was worshipped as the Imperial God (G. Widengren: Hochgottglaube im Alten Iran, Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift, 1938, pp. 259 et seq.) and from being an Iranian tribal God became God over all peoples of the earth.
Jahve (Jehovah), who was originally a Hebrew tribal God, subsequently turned for many — not all — Jews into a God of all the peoples. But the Persians, as Indo-Europeans, never forced Ahura Mazda on the alien tribes and peoples of their kingdom. The kings Cyrus the Great and Darius passed commandments concerning the mutual tolerance of the religions of their Empire (G. Widengren: Iranische Geisteswelt, Vienna, 1961, pp. 245 et seq.). The Indian King Asoka, who was converted to Buddhism, the sole religion which spread peacefully and without bloodshed, ruled in approximately the middle of the third century B.C. in India over a great kingdom, and introduced laws prescribing mutual tolerance between the religions of his kingdoms. They were engraved on stone tablets, and many were rediscovered at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The historian can only cite such examples from the Indo-European realm. Vergil’s law of sparing the vanquished (parcere subjectis) was practised by the Romans not only on subject peoples, but also on their Gods and religions although an interpretatio Romana once attempted to include alien Gods as being off-shoots of their own deities.
Ammianus Marcellinus, a troop leader in the army of the Emperor Julian, whom the Christians called the Apostate (apostata) wished to continue the histories of Tacitus in his own writings. In recording the events in his time, when Christianity had already become the state religion, Ammianus — a pagan — reported the intrigues of the Christians against Julian without abuse, since this would not have corresponded to his Hellenic-Roman attitude of tolerance. In the controversies of Pagan and Christian writers and poets, passionate worshippers of the old Roman belief such as Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, Ambrosius Theodosius Macrodius and Claudius Rutilius Namantianus, have given their opinion of Christianity and Christians in a dignified manner. Abuse and contempt for opponents is found in these times only amongst the Christian writers. Only after their conversion to Christianity, whose idea of God corresponded to the intolerant, religious war-waging Gods of the Semitic tribe, have Indo-European peoples forced their beliefs on alien tribes; the king of the Franks, Charlemagne, forced Christianity upon the Saxons who were subjected after a bloody struggle. King Olav Tryggveson of Norway (995-1000), after being baptised in England, was persuaded to force conversion on his own people by cunning, treachery and cruel persecutions, as well as by bribing them to submit to baptism. Andreas Heusler (Germanentum, 1934, pp. 47, 48, 119, 122) has asserted that among the Northern Teutons there was quite enough violence, but never cruelty; only after the introduction of Christianity did converted zealots behave cruelly towards their countrymen. With the conversion of the North, an alien wave of cruelty entered the land. Heusler has said that the methods of torture used by the converted King Olav against those who were reluctant to change their faith, could have been learned by the Northerners “only in the Orient”.
Only in Iceland, whence many Pagan Norwegian yeomen fled from religious persecution to found a state of free and equal landowning family fathers, a characteristic Teutonic democracy, was the inherited tolerance restored and preserved. In this country alone was the Pagan faith permitted to survive without persecution after the triumph of Christianity — as recorded in the poems of the Edda and the long series of tales of the Icelanders, the Sögur (singular: Saga; cf. Andreas Heusler: Germanentum, 1934, p. 94; Hans Kuhn: Das Nordgermanische Heidentum in den ersten christlichen Jahrhunderten, Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur, Vol. LXXIX, 1942, p. 166). Even the heroic songs of Teutonic antiquity which had been collected and recorded by the Christian Charlemagne, king of the Franks, were burned as being pagan by his son, Ludwig the Pious. Indo-European belief without tolerance is inconceivable, and any Indo-European religious form, which demanded “true believers”, is similarly inconceivable, just as much as an Indo-European form of belief in conflict with free research, and independent thought is inconceivable. Where excitedness of belief might damage the inborn love of truth and the inborn nobility of the freeman, rightness of belief cannot be considered as a value of religiosity. All Indo-European forms of belief, so long as they maintained the pure, traditional Nordic spirit, have remained free from any rigid doctrine of belief or dogma and from the worship of a revealed word. Hence it follows that under the original Indo-Europeans there arose no teachers to instruct the people in their beliefs, no Theologians, and no priesthood holier and more elevated than the rest of the people. In this respect it is also a fact that Indo-European religious communities have never become churches. The churchifying of a belief is again an assertion of the spirit of the Oriental (desert lands) race or of the joint effect of Oriental and Hither-Asiatic race spirit.
There is yet another reason why no church could arise amongst the Indo-Europeans. A church as a sacred and sanctifying device for a community of men practising their special form of religiosity under priestly dominance, of men who desire to justify themselves before the deity — such a church can only take root, where “this world” is regarded as “unholy” and enticing to “sin”. The result of the creation of such a church was to institute a separate holy region of the devout, a device to redeem hereditary sinful man (original sin) from the constriction of “this world” through its merciful means and to reveal a way of salvation to redemption.
But where the world consists of ordered life and the deity itself has joy in the justified man, the church as such has no meaning.
|Pay homage to the God,|
Through the whole world!
Communion of belief will not therefore be shaped by the Indo-Europeans into a community with a special, rigid religious outlook. The formation of a community in this sense is opposed by the originality of the Nordic race soul of the individual Indo-European nations. “They live for themselves and apart” (colunt discreti ac diversi) said Tacitus (Germania, XVI), describing the Teutonic manner of settlement. More than a habit, it is indeed an expression of the spiritual nature of the Teuton, of the Teutonic joy in the mutual retention of distance between men. In this frame of mind a taciturn, confiding community of belief is possible, but not the formation of a community upon which a spirit can descend, in whose tension all individual human nature consumes itself.
The Brahmanism of the Aryan Indians like the Druidism of the Celts, is an exception among the priesthoods of the Indo-European peoples, but it only developed as such over the course of the centuries, reflecting alien admixtures, customs and influences.
Indo-European religiosity will never be able to unfold in its purity in a church-community but certainly in a State whose structure is in accordance with the racial nature. In the Gau region of the Teutons, in the civitas of the Romans, in the polis of the Hellenes, i.e. in those folk orders in which Indo-European men organised their nation-states along lines peculiar to their own disposition, Indo-European religiosity has been able to develop in the purest of all forms. The individual Indo-European removed himself apart from men when he wished to pray (cf. Odyssey, XII, 33), in contrast with the practice of the Semitic peoples, for whom prayer was a communal rite. But in Xenophon’s Oikonomikos (XI, 8), an official state prayer is mentioned, which implores of the Gods to send down on them “health, bodily strength, understanding between friends, salvation in war and well-being”. Here the community of belief is a national not a religious community, and in such a kingdom Indo-European religiosity flowers to perfection.
Inborn Indo-European religiosity will unfold much more easily in a definite mystical form than in belief in redemption and revelation or in churchly forms. What causes the Indo-Europeans to show interest in mystical views, is the possibility of direct relationship with the deity, the deepening of an ever vital urge to “reciprocal friendship between Gods and men” (Plato) and the implicit tendency towards the ideas of the universal deity (Pantheism). The idea of miraculous creation is alien to the Indo-European, and particularly in mysticism the idea of creation falls away. Mystical outlooks have easily grown out of the Indo-European; with the Indians in the Vedas and Upanishads, in Brahmanism, in Buddhism, with Hellenes in the expositions of Platonic thought which incorporated Plato’s anamnesis in the mystical sense though weakened and alienated by oriental spirit in the thinking of Plotinus and his neo-Platonic followers in the Middle Ages. Where Indo-Europeans accepted alien beliefs, mystical thought has later set in against these beliefs, as is already found with the Christian Boethius (480-525), who in his work, Concerning Consolation Through Philosophy, advances viewpoints which he had taken over from Plato, the Stoics, the Neo-Pythagorians, and from Plotinus, rather than from Christian services. The same mystic revolt, tending towards a return to Pantheism, is found in the Sufism which arose amongst the Aryan Persians after their forcible conversion to Islam. It also began to stir in Europe as soon as the Nordic-Teutonic spirit began to express itself against the Roman-Christian belief. Meister Eckhart, possibly represents most strongly the development of mysticism as a result of the revolt of the Teutonic Indo-European spirit against Roman-Christianity.
BUT Indo-European religiosity is not able to unfold truly in conformity with its nature in every form of mysticism; not for instance, in the mysticism of supersensual and sexual moods and abandonments: not in the mysticism of intoxicated excitement, in that enthusiasmos, in which man wishes to torture himself out of the bounds of his body in order to reach down into the essence of the deity; nor also in the manner of being enraptured or carried away, as in Islamic mysticism by the feeling of being torn away, overpowered by a transcendent God, by the mysticism which involves a dissolution of all barriers, an immersion and swimming in formless un-becoming. All such trends are opposed to the Indo-European view of the ordered shaping of the world and the Indo-European feeling of duty to battle against destructive powers, against Utgard. Therefore the mysticism of self-seclusion (myein), of retreat from the world, of inaction and the extinction of the will or even of the senses, of excessive contemplation, the so called quietistic mysticism — is not the mysticism of the Indo-Europeans. However much as calmness may be valued by the Indo-Europeans, deep as the insight he will acquire again and again in self-immersion or in the pure contemplation of things without activity of will, the Indo-European can never give himself up to them entirely, and self assertion, the confrontation of destiny, is essential to his nature. Indo-European mysticism is thus the inner contemplation of high-minded (hochgemüter) men: through sinking the morally purified individual soul (Indian: atman) into itself, the soul experiences itself in its ground as the universal soul (Indian: brahman).
For this reason Indo-European mysticism as inward contemplation will confine itself again and again to contemplation which is unbounded in space — not secluded within itself, but open, and far seeing, such as is represented most beautifully of all through the far-aiming gaze of the Apollo of Belvedere, by whose statue Winckelmann was so moved and which he described so stirringly! With such vision the Indo-European experiences the divine:
|Von Gebirg zum Gebirg|
schwebet der ewige Geist
ewigen Lebens ahndevoll.
From mountain to mountain,
Hovers the eternal spirit
of everlasting life ominously.
(Goethe: An Schwager Kronos)
At great moments, Indo-European nature thus participates in a vision, a theoria, a one and all (hen kai pan) in the All-One, which is already taught by the older Upanishads in India34 and then — each in his own way — by the great early Hellenic thinkers, such as Heraclitus, Xenophon and Parmenides.35 A universal teaching of Indo-European kind, the Vedanta philosophy,36 was announced in India at the beginning of the ninth century A.D. by the Brahman thinker, Sankara. Since it came to be known in Europe and North America it has influenced many thinking men. The same religiosity breaks through Christian dogma in the Nordic-German mysticism of reality, which H. Mandel has described.37
The wide vision of the Indo-European, which was represented most beautifully of all through far-aiming Apollo, can develop into a dedication to a universe without beginning and without end such as Heraclitus announced, or it can emerge as that feeling of identity with the universe which has been described as nature mysticism. Josef Strzygowski (Die Landschaft in der nordischen Kunst, p. 256) has described the plastic art of the Indo-European as the “feeling” of being one with the universe and its expanse. In such nature mysticism the Indo-European width of vision and inner contemplation are combined. Western (i.e. European) landscape painting, above all that of the Teutonic peoples, and landscape lyricism,38 above all in England and Germany, but also in Hölderlin’s Hyperion display the same feeling of identity with Nature.
From the Indo-Iranian belief in the Gods of antiquity (Polytheism), Spitama Zarathustra created in approximately the ninth century B.C. the first teaching of and belief in One God (Monotheism) in the history of religions. The Gods who had been common to the Indians and Iranians now passed into the background behind the one Ahura Mazda, after whom Mazdaism is named. These other Gods, preserved in India, in Iran became the sacred immortals (amesha spentas) the representatives of the moral virtues. They were later regarded as the messengers (Greek: angeloi) of Ahura Mazda, and the archangels created by Jewish and Christian legends were modelled on them. Spitama Zarathustra erected his monotheistic form of belief in a one-sided way, purely based upon morality, but in so doing he contradicted hereditary Indo-European religiosity. Hermann Lommel (Von arischer Religion, Geistige Arbeit, Year 1, No. 23, pp. 5-6) has proved, however, that, arising from Iranian popular belief, a natural religiosity again and again broke out in Mazdaism. A curious example of these outbreaks was the creation by the Persian kings, of landscape parks and gardens, whose fame spread far and wide. One of these gardens was called pairidesa and from it derived the Old Testament idea of Paradise and of the Garden of Eden (Josef Strzygowski: Spuren Indogermanischen Glaubens in der Bildenden Kunst, 1936, pp. 279 et seq.; G. Widengren: Hochgottglaube im Alten Iran, Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift, 1938, pp. 6, 151 et seq. and 171 et seq., 235, 240 et seq., 372 et seq.; A. T. Olmstead: History of the Persian Empire, 1952, pp. 20, 62, 170, 315, 434; P. A. J. Arberry: The Legacy of Persia, 1953, pp. 5, 35, 260-261, 271). According to Xenophon (Oikonomikos, IV, 20-22), the younger Kurash (Cyrus), who later fell in the battle of Kunaxa (401 B.C.), showed the Spartan Lysandros (Lysander) with pride his Paradise (paradeisos), a park laid out according to his plans with rows of beautiful trees, part of which he had planted himself.
Nature religiosity has also been expressed in Iranian poetry and plastic art in the descriptions of the “Landscape filled with the glory of the deity” (khvarenah — Josef Strzygowski: Die Landschaft in der nordischen Kunst, pp. 143, 261 et seq.), akin to that of Indo-European aristocratic farmers, and the landscape parks of eighteenth century Europe.
It was Nature religiosity that filled the Persian king Khshayarsha (Greek: Xerxes), from the family of the Achaemenides, the king with the “flashing dark blue eyes” (Aeschylus: The Persians, 81). Herodotus (VII, 31) reports that, when on the march to Lydia and the Hellespont, the king caught sight of a beautiful plane tree, he had it hung with golden jewellery and guarded by a man from his bodyguard. This story called forth the famous Largo by Friedrich Handel, which was not, as generally assumed, a church composition, but a further example of Indo-European nature religiosity: the Persian king of Handel’s opera Serse (Xerxes) praises the beautiful plane tree in song in the Largo Ombra mai fu: o mio platano amato!
Bismarck and Moltke were talking one day in Berlin after the war was ended in 1871 and Bismarck asked the field marshal what, after such events and successes, they could still enjoy in life together. After a pause, Moltke said simply, “to see a tree growing”. The love and worship of trees as Erik Therman (Eddan och dess Ödestragik, 1938, pp. 124 et seq.; cf. also Giacomo Devoto: Origini Indoeuropee, 1961, pp. 251-252) has also shown was one of the characteristics of Teutonic religiosity.
Nature religiosity, the religiosity of aristocratic Indo-European farmers, also permeates the Georgica of Vergilius Maro (Vergil), the works of the painters Claude Lorrain and William Turner, Gottfried Keller’s poetry and his novel Der grüne Heinrich, and the novel Nachsommer by Adalbert Stifter. Inborn nature mysticism has again and again removed far away from the teachings of the Church many Christian theologians, as for example the Weimar court chaplain, Herder. The North American, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), resigned his office as pastor, when he could no longer reconcile the mystical concept of a world soul, which was revealed to him in the sublimity of landscape and in the demands of conscience, with the teachings of the Church. His apologia, entitled Nature, appeared in the year 1836.
A surrender to the Cosmos, which on account of its being without beginning and end, cannot be called creation, a devotion to liberation from time and space, thus a Nirvana during lifetime, was experienced by Richard Jefferies (1848-1887), an English mystic, whose life and work, The Story of My Heart, has remained almost unknown in his own country.
Nature mysticism — contrary to the intention of the author, who thought in materialistic terms under the influence of Epicurus — can be seen, in the rich and grandiose poem of the Roman, Titus Lucretius Carus, De rerum natura. Even his introductory invocation to the Goddess Venus, in whom, however, Lucretius, as the heir to rational Hellenic thought, no longer believed, signifies more than mythological embellishment: it begets a spiritual fullness of poetry, a hen kai pan, a unio mystica, of the discerning poet and thinker with the universe as the object of his knowledge. The remoteness of a mystic also corresponds to the Roman poet’s moral and religious goal: “to be able to view everything with a calm spirit” (V, 1203) — pacata posse omnia mente tueri.
Otto Regenbogen (Lucretius: Seine Gestalt in seinem Gedicht, Neue Wege zur Antike, Heft I, 1932, pp. 47, 54, 61, 75 ff., 81 ff., 85 et seq.) has shown that the Epicurian thinker Lucretius and the poet Lucretius were not one and the same person; but De rerum natura provides sufficient proof of the fact that Lucretius had departed from the materialist Epicurus and his teaching on the motions of atoms — apart from the fact that the Roman’s poem was Stoic in spirit and more austere and manly, indeed more commanding, than the teaching of the Hellenic thinker. If Lucretius rejected all religio in general, then this is explained by the fact that the rural religiosity which originally formed the religio of the Latin-Sabine Romans, had already been penetrated, through the influence of the neighbouring Etruscans, with many gloomy superstitions and repellent customs. However, such a rejection of every religion speaks, as Regenbogen has said, more respect for the highest and ultimate things, than all the religious receptiveness of the philistine.
Was Lucretius a materialist as well as a nature mystic? Goethe, the poet of nature religiosity (and as such not a materialist), was going to write a study of Lucretius in which he intended to portray him as a “natural philosopher and poet” (Goethe: Von Knebel’s Translation of Lucretius, Cotta’s Jubilee edition, Vol. XXXVII, p. 218), and he took an active interest in the translation by his friend Karl Ludwig von Knebel, who had made a masterly rendering of De rerum natura into German. Karl Büchner (Römische Literaturgeschichte, 1962, pp. 236, 246, 249) has pointed out that Lucretius was the first Roman thinker to discover the spirit (mens), a spirit which liberates through knowledge: Lucretius discovered meaning “only in the superiority of the perceptive spirit”, and that liberation could be achieved solely by belief in the “power of the spirit and of reason”. Liberation to the timeless value of “a firm, lasting spirit” was the religious and moral goal of the poet. Genus infelix humanus (V, 1194) the unfortunate species of humanity, was looked on by the poet as men who were still bound by superstition, incapable of attaining the freedom of the spirit.
But if Lucretius the thinker thus portrayed for the Romans the capacity of perception, the spirit (mens), then Lucretius the poet, in contrast to Epicurus, who in his nature teachings had proceeded from Democritus, must have had a premonition or have understood that while feeling (sensitivity), consciousness and the perceptive activity of man were linked to the material activity of the brain and body and hence, in the last analysis, as Democritus and Epicurus had taught, to the movements of atoms, yet they were not in fact derived from such movements, and cannot be explained by them. Spirit becomes alive only in the tension between a discerning (perceptive) consciousness which faces, as Subject, an Object of perception. While Lucretius the Epicurean followed the materialistic atomic teaching of the Hellene, the poet Lucretius discovered a spirit which is free to experience natural religiosity. It is worth commenting here that Walter F. Otto (Das Wort der Antike, 1962, pp. 293 et seq.) also regarded both Epicurus and Lucretius as poets of a religious mind.
In Faust’s monologue in the scene “Wald und Höhle” (Faust, I, Verse 3217, et seq.) Goethe has linked both with each other: the study of the Object Nature, in the sense of Lucretius the thinker is linked in antithesis with a sensitive and discerning consciousness as Subject namely — the “secret, deep miracles in one’s own breast” (Verse 3232 et seq.) — giving rise to a power of reflection without which a true understanding of magnificent Nature cannot be grasped. With Goethe, it is not possible, as with Lucretius, to separate the poet from the thinker. But Goethe, like his friend Knebel, was enthused by the latter’s natural religiosity which he expressed in his Poetry and Truth (Second part, sixth book, Goethe’s Complete Works, Cotta’s Jubilee edition, Vol. XXIII, p. 10): “God can be worshipped in no more beautiful way than by the spontaneous welling-up from one’s breast of mutual converse with Nature”.
Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909) has described this hen kai pan recently in more appropriate language in his poem Hertha. Thus a metaphysical need as Schopenhauer called it, has again and again called forth poems and semi-philosophical ideal poems (F. A. Lange) of the All-One. Western thinkers, for example Schelling, have however, attempted to convey the teaching of Universal Oneness more convincingly through the medium of an unfortunate philosophy of identity and more recently through an even less convincing form of Monism. In his Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (1801) Schelling wished to prove that the perceptive consciousness and its object, Nature, were one. Time conditioned poetical moods are possible from a oneness outwards, but not judgment of thoughts which are timelessly valid. Any thinker, who wishes to prove in a comprehensible manner that material and spirit or body and soul, or thinking and Being, or subject and object, are One and the same, or identical, overlooks the fact that such terms as material or power or spirit or Being already correspond to the judgments of a discerning subject, which faces an object — Rückert’s “object of knowledge”, even if this object is one’s own body or the personal spiritual stimulation of the thinker.
How can the One or the Universal or the All-One, which according to their nature are indissolubly one, be split into two, namely into a perceiving subject and an object of perception? How can they so be arranged that they become released from themselves in such a way that, thinking themselves in opposition to each other, they understand each other and name themselves accordingly? Nevertheless poets and enthusiastic poetic thinkers of the Indo-European peoples have again and again been compelled to express by unnatural imagery, what cannot be imparted in comprehensible language as a generally valid judgment. In this light we must examine the different kinds of Pantheism and Mysticism, as also Goethe’s “God-nature”, an Indo-European exposition of Spinoza’s Deus sive natura, which resulted from Spinoza incorporating Indo-European ideas from the Stoics and the Pantheist Giordano Bruno.
Any thinker who wishes to equate God, the world and human spiritual life as one, such as is attempted by some poets at inspired moments, will in the Indo-European domain be confronted by destiny — as has been shown above, an all too difficult object of perception to be redeemed in a becalming or inspiring Universal-Oneness.
How was it possible, that belief in a God and Gods among the Indo-European peoples became transmitted, first with the Indians, then with the other peoples, and finally also with the Islamised and Christianised peoples, into Pantheism and Mysticism?
Hildebrecht Hommel39 has shown that the figure of a heavenly father originally common to all Indo-Europeans — known by the Indians as Djaus pitar, by the Hellenes as Zeus Pater, and by the Romans as Jupiter (from Diupater) — was elevated above the other Gods at an early point in time and recognised as a god of the Universe by the Teutons, as the Icelander Snorri proves — the “All Father” (in Old Nordic: alfadir), which Indo-European mysticism later discovered in the soul of the religious man. In upper Bavaria and in Tyrol the description Heavenly Father has been preserved amongst the farmers and transferred to the Christian God — an orderer and protector of a universe without beginning and end, and hence, as the Hellenes said, a “Father of Gods and Men”, in the Christian God, the creator of a universe with a beginning in time. The transition from the father of the heavens, a term which possibly belongs to the Bronze Age, to an inner worldly and spiritual God, was gradually accomplished by the Indo-Europeans towards the end of their early period, which was full of Sagas of the Gods. In India this transition took place from the ninth century B.C. onwards in the Upanishads, in which the world was not seen as the creation of a God: the universe was a timeless essence, the brahman, which dwells in all things and all souls. Paul Deussen (Vedanta und Platonismus im Lichte der Kantischen Philosophie, Comenius-Schriften zur Geistesgeschichte, Zweites Heft, 1922, pp. 19-20) — has shown that, even in the most recent songs of the Rig Veda, the existence of the traditional Indo-Aryan world of the Gods is doubted, and that even here — as later in Hellas — philosophic thought forced its way through as a premonition or certainty of the unity of all existence. In the Rig Veda (I, 164) it is said: “What is the One, poets call manifold” (K. F. Geldner: Der Rig-Veda aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche Übersetzt, Erster Teil, 1951, p. 236). The simple men of remote agricultural communities did not participate readily in this transition from the manifold Gods of the universe to a sole God. The isolated Italic farmers still worshipped and celebrated their native Gods in festivals, the dii indigentes of the early Roman period, when in the capital, Rome, after the Olympic Gods of the Hellenes had been equated to the ancient Roman divinities (numina), an inner-worldly deity had already been anticipated and conceived by thinking men. The general Indo-European transition from the Gods of the Sagas to Pantheism and Mysticism, which took place amongst those who by choice or by force were converted to Christianity or Islam, despite the resistance of true believers, can be briefly portrayed as follows.
After their early period and in the middle age of their development — on the way “from myth to Logos” (W. Nestle) — the Bronze Age idea of the Gods and God gradually grew dim among logical and resolutely thinking men in the Indo-European peoples, whose hereditary dispositions directed them towards reason. This school of free thought recognised that it was childish to imagine that the Gods lived somewhere out in space, reaching down into the human world, and these ideas necessarily carried less and less conviction to thinking men, when they became convinced that the gods too were governed by destiny. Thus there gradually evolved the idea of an inner-worldly and inner-spiritual deity (Pantheism) and of a God working within us (Mysticism) — the dominans ille in nobis deus, as Marcus Tullius Cicero (Tusculanae disputationes, I, 74) called this divinity. Thus Pantheism was joined by rational mysticism, perception and inner experience, which postulates that the individual immersing himself in himself experiences self-comprehension in its ultimate form as the universal soul, and concludes that the atman, or individual soul, is, in the final analysis, a part of brahman, as the Indians described such mysticism.
The pantheistic width of vision and mystical inner contemplation of the Indo-Europeans were interchangeable — if not in comprehensible thought, at least in poetical moods. The power pervading the universe and the power felt by the soul as it sank into the universal soul could be felt to flow together in one. In the first years of his stay at Weimar, Goethe happily agreed with a sentence which he found in Cicero’s de Divinatione (I, 49): everything is filled by divine spirit and hence the souls of men are moved by communion with the divine souls (cumque omnia completa et referta sint aeterno sensu et mente divina, necesse est contagione divinorum animorum animos humanos commoveri). This again is the premonition of a deity which expresses the divine in the universe as the basis of the soul.
The fearless thinkers among the Teutons, above all among the North Teutons, to whom the world of the Gods of the Aesir and Vanir had become a childish idea, must have recognised long before the penetration of Christianity the existence of an inner-worldly and inner-spiritual deity, a brahman, or a theion, as the Hellenes called it, a daimonion, such as Socrates felt working within himself. It is a striking fact, to which too little attention has been paid hitherto, that the word “God” was neuter in gender in the Teutonic languages (Das Gott, or, in Old Nordic: gud) and that it was only after the false interpretation by Christian converters that the word acquired male gender. Thus thinking Indians no longer spoke of Gods even at an early period, but of a deity governing the world (dewata), which was also called the brahman. This is the deus in nobis of Hellenic and Roman poets and thinkers.
When Christian missionaries asked the north Teutons who or what they believed in, they received the reply which centuries previously the south Teutons — who had believed in Das Gott (neuter) — might also have given, that they believed in their power (matt) or strength (magin), a power working within them, a deity filling the religious man, an inner-worldly and inner-spiritual deity. Such an answer must have seemed to the missionaries, as it would to many present day commentators, a mere boast of power or an idolatrous presumption, while in fact it must be understood as a factual “The God” (Das Gott) corresponding to the dominans ille in nobis deus. But it is easy to understand that the missionaries, who in Christianity had accepted the extra-mundane, transcendent ideas of a “personal” God, from the Semitic peoples, were at a loss when confronted by faith in a destiny ruling within men.
The pagan north Germans, who still believed that the divine was present in all “men of high mind”, were called Godless (gudlauss or gudlausir menn) by their converted countrymen, who were spiritually more simple, and therefore could not understand inner spiritual power or strength.
The men with more insight among the Hellenes would have understood the neuter God — Das Gott — of the Teutons, for it corresponded to their own to theion. Thinking Hellenes had already long replaced the plurality of the Gods by the single deity and later by the single figure called The Mighty (to Kreitton). The orator Dion of Prusa, known as Chrysostom (40-120), and the philosopher Plotinus (204-270), would not have misunderstood the Icelanders: Might and Power as descriptions of the deity were familiar to them. Dion of Prusa (XXXI, 11) says of the deeply prudent men of his time: “They simply combine all Gods together in one might (ischys) and power (dynamis)” and Plotinus expresses this in the Enneads (I, 6, 8) in the same way as Goethe, who read this passage in the year 1805:
|Läg’ nicht in uns des Gottes eigne Kraft,|
wie könnt’ uns Göttliches entzücken?
If the Gods own power did not lie within us,
how could the divine enrapture us?
(Zahme Xenien, III, 725, 26)
The might or power of which the Indo-Europeans had a presentiment, this unity of the deity was split up by thinkers in the realm of human experience into the trinity of “The Good, the True and the Beautiful”, but in such a way that these ideas or words remained close neighbours in Hellas. Here and there with the later Hellenic-Roman thinkers the true could easily be understood as the good and the beautiful, aletheia could signify both intellectual truth as well as moral truth, and in the kalok’agathia the ideal of sifting and selection, of eugeneia or human disciplined, choice bodily beauty and moral fitness, and virtue (arete) became linked with one another. Since Plato’s Banquet, Indo-European thinkers have recognised truth, beauty and virtue as life values which pointed beyond the realm of experience to the divine, to the brahman, or the concept of Das Gott (neuter) — to a deity which through truth rendered the thinking man capable of knowledge.
The reappearance of Indo-European religious attitudes, also explains why Christian theologians as well as thinkers and poets of the Christianised West again and again revolted against the concepts of an other-worldly, personal God — of a God who had created the world from nothing and had populated it with creatures according to his design. The French mystic and scholar, Amalric of Bena, who died in Paris about 1206, was even cursed after his death by the Church because he rationally rejected the teachings of God as a creator, and because he had asserted that such a God must be responsible for the sorrow of all living creatures and for the vices of man, since he had created them all. Amalric, the Pantheistic mystic, knew as a result of his Indo-European disposition, that the justification (Theodicy) by the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-merciful God, of the evils of his creation, was impossible.
The outlook of Amalric of Bena, however, had already been expressed in north India after it had been penetrated by Indo-European migrants in the pre-Christian centuries and especially by Samkhya teaching, by Jains and Buddhists, who guarded themselves against non-Indo-European theistic religions infiltrating from Southern India: God the creator must be reproached with having either created or permitted the existence of liars, thieves and murderers.
The Indo-European concept of destiny relieved the Gods from responsibility for the evil of earthly life, and Epicurus, who himself no longer believed in Gods (cf. Eduard Schwartz: Charakterköpfe aus der Antike, 1943, p. 147; Epicurus: Philosophie der Freude, translated by Johannes Mewaldt, 1956), advised his contemporaries who did, to imagine them as creatures, who lived a blessed untroubled life amongst the stars without bothering about men, neither using nor harming them. Such an idea had already appeared in the Iliad (XXIV, 525) centuries before Epicurus. There Achilles attempts to console Priamos bowed down by sorrow, with the words:
|Thus have the Gods determined it for the wretched men,|
To live sorrowfully, but they themselves are struck by no sorrow.
Shakespeare (King Lear, IV, 1) puts the same embittered thoughts on Gloucester’s lips:
|As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods —|
They kill us for their sport.
This idea was adopted by Hölderlin in Hyperion’s Song of Destiny and by Tennyson in his poem The Lotus Eaters. Kant, in his Critique of the Power of Judgment (Part II, p. 85), defended the Hellenes and Romans in these words: “One cannot count it so highly to their blame, if they conceived their Gods . . . as limited, for when they studied the artifices and course of Nature, they encountered the good and evil, the purposeful and pointless in it . . . and only with the greatest difficulty could they have formed a different judgment of its cause”.
Theodicies were not necessary for the Indo-Europeans, because over the Gods stood merciless destiny. (Virgil: inexorabile fatum). Within Christianity however, Pantheism and Mysticism again and again sought to set themselves against the church’s teachings of an all-powerful, all-knowing, predestined and yet all-good creator. The church answered with condemnation and burning; examples are numerous: Origen, Scotus Eriugena, Hugo of St. Victor, Amalric of Bena, David of Dinant, Meister Eckhart, Nikolaus von Kues, Sebastian Frank, Miguel Serveto (Servetus), Vanini, Valentin Weigel, Jakob Böhme, Angelus Silesius, Fénélon, Herder, Fichte, Schelling, Schleiermacher, Shelley, Tegnér, Kuno Fischer and others.
Thus the religiosity of the Indo-Europeans, which appears whenever their nature can unfold itself freely, emerges only in that form which religious science has described as nature religions. Here however, it may be said, that Indo-European religiosity in the West has also been repeatedly misinterpreted and misunderstood, for the outlook is widespread that the more the faith, all the greater the religiosity, which is to be found where men feel drawn to “supernatural” values. In a far more inward sense than the description nature religion commonly implies, the belief and religiosity of the Indo-Europeans represent the natural, balanced conduct of the worshipping mind, and the heroic power of thought as it is found in the honest Nordic man. Powerful spontaneous thought and ordered worship of the deity here strengthen and deepen one another. The more richly a man cultivates these facilities the more perfect in his humanness, the more truly religious does he become at the same time.
No pressing forward to God is possible in this attitude of mind and spirit, no rigid belief, no pretence of a duty to believe, no anxiety to please the deity; freedom and dignity and the composure of the noble spirited, even under deep stress, are characteristic of the purest religiosity. Indeed, one can almost say that Indo-European religiosity and morality (in contrast to the commands and penalties of a God who promises reward and punishment) emanates from the dignity of man, the dignity of humanitas — from a dignitas which is characteristic of the great-minded and well-born. According to Cicero, a great and strong-minded person (fortis animus et magnus) wishes to carry himself with honour (honestum — de officiis, I, 72-73, 94-95, 101, 106, 130; III, 23-24) because in such conduct reason controls desire. Thus the Roman concept of humanitas as interpreted above, presupposes “the centuries long breeding of an aristocratic type of man” (Franz Beckmann: Humanitas, Ursprung und Idee, 1952, p. 7). Hence Hellenic-Roman humanitas cannot become a morality for everyone; in Hellas it was the morality of the eleutheroi, in Rome that of the ingenui, or of the free-born, and it could not be transferred to the freedmen (liberti). In the Middle Ages the church used the word humanitas to describe human lowliness (humilitas) when faced by the extra-mundial, other worldly God. It was not until the advent of the scholars of the Renaissance in Florence, around 1400 A.D., that humanitas was again understood to mean human dignity, and conceived of as a duty which it was incumbent on man to observe.
When today praise is lavished on so-called works of art, it is almost tragic to recall that Friedrich Schiller demanded this very humanitas and dignitas above all from artists; just as Marcus Tullius Cicero did of the Italici:
|The dignity of man is given into your hands.|
It falls with you, it will rise with you.
As far as the mature religiosity of the Indo-Europeans is concerned, their morality does not, like the morality of the Bible, spring from a commandment of God, from a “Thou shalt not!” (Leviticus, xix. 18; Matthew, v. 43; Luke, vi. 27). Indo-European morality springs from the positive dignity of the high-minded man, to whom humanity or human love, which may best be described as good-will, comes as second nature — maitri in Sanskrit, or metta in Pali, or eumeneia, philanthropia or sympatheia in Greek, or benevolentia or comitas in Latin. Biblical morality is of alien law (heteronom). Indo-European morality is of its own law (autonom). Compared with the biblical admonition to love thy neighbour (agape), which originally only applied to the fellow members of the tribe, the concept of good-will is perhaps more valid, since love cannot be commanded.
Burkhard Wilhelm Leist (Alt-arisches Jus gentium, 1889, p. 173; Alt-arisches Jus civile, 1892-96, pp. 228, 241, 381-82; 1892, Vol. I, p. 211) has proved that such humanity and good will already existed in the oldest legal records of the Indo-Europeans, that Indo-European human dignity had demanded that in man one should always see one’s fellow and meet him with aequitas, or good will (maitri, metta), one of the highest values of ancient India, and above all of Buddhist morality. According to the Odyssey (VI, 207; VII, 165; IX, 270) Zeus himself guides the worthy man who implores him for help and avenges strangers who are cast out and those in need of protection: Zeus xenios, who looks after strangers and all those in want, corresponds to the dii hospitales of the Romans. The Edda advises in the Teachings to Loddfafnir (21, 23):
Scorn and mockery
To the stranger and traveller!
Never scold the stranger,
Never drive him away from the gate!
Be helpful to the hungering!
|(Edda, Vol. II, 1920, translated from the German of Felix Genzmer, pp. 137-138.)|
However, to the Teutons, who according to Tacitus (Germania, XXI) were the most hospitable of all peoples, “moral demands were not divine commands”, for them a good deed had no reward, an evil deed expected no punishment by the deity (Hans Kuhn: Sitte und Sittlichkeit, in Germanische Altertumskunde, edited by Hermann Schneider, 1938, p. 177). Man’s attempt to wheedle himself into favour with the Gods by offering sacrifices is censured by the Edda (Havamal, 145):
|Better not to have implored for anything,|
than to have sacrificed too much;
the gift looks for reward.
The morality of human dignity is not inspired on account of the prospect of a reward in heaven, but for its own sake: nihil praeter id quod honestum sit propter se esse expetendum. This was how Cicero understood the Roman religiosity and morality (de officiis, I, 72-75, 94-95, 106, 130; III, 23-24, 33; Tusculanae disputationes, V, 1), which both originate from ancient Italic and hence Indo-European nature. Such aims as the Hellenic kalok’agathia (beauty and fitness), and that of the Roman humanitas — humanitas being understood in the era of the Roman aristocratic republic as a duty or ideal of full manhood, of human wholeness, or of Noble nature40 — such goals of heroic perfection are therefore particularly expressive of Indo-European religiosity which offers the worship of a resolute, heroic heart.
It can be shown, and could be proved in detail, that in Europe and North America, the noblest men and women, even those who admitted to accepting a church belief handed down to them, behaved and spoke in the decisive hours of their lives according to the religious disposition, actions and morality of the Indo-European.
Indo-European spiritual history had commenced at the beginning of the first pre-Christian millennium with outstanding works like the Vedas (cf. K. F. Geldner: Vedismus und Brahmanismus, Religionsgeschichtliches Lesebuch, Vol. IX, 1928) and the Upanishads, which Schopenhauer (Parerga und Paralipomena, Chapter XVI) called not only the “consolation of his life”, but also the “consolation of his death”. The Indo-Europeans entered the stage of world history with Kurash (Cyrus) II, the Persian king of the Hakamanish family of the Achaemenides, who ruled from 559 to 529 B.C., and founded the great Persian kingdom which extended from India to Egypt (cf. Albert T. Olmstead: A History of the Persian Empire, 1948, pp. 34 et seq.). The Hellenic historian Xenophon wrote about Kurash the Great in his Kyrupaideia. The Persians under the Achaemenides, with the Hellenes, “brothers and sisters of the same blood” (Aeschylus: The Persians, Verse 185), are described by Bundahishn (XIV), a Persian saga book of the ninth century (G. Widengren: Iranische Geisteswelt, 1961, p. 75) as “fair and radiant eyed”. According to Herodotus (I, 136) they taught their sons “to ride, to shoot with the bow and to speak the truth”. The religion of Mazdaism regarded lies and deceit (German: Trug, Persian: drug) as a basic evil, truth as a basic virtue.
Since the advent of the twentieth century the Indo-Europeans have begun to withdraw from the spiritual history of the world. Particularly today, what is described as most “progressive” in music, the plastic arts and literature of the “Free West” is already no longer Indo-European in spirit.