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ideas on the essential characteristics, on the natural laws and development of spiritual strength, given already in our introduction, there can be no existing revelations for one special language, for poetry and religion, as isolated. The human soul is an indivisible unity of spiritual powers. The sense, which in subjective feeling and representation unfolds itself within, comprehends the external objective world, which the understanding and the mind in self-consciousness again shape into a unity; from which, on the other hand, the subjective impulse and conception in the will come forth again objective in revelation. The operations of the understanding and condition of the will are, according to the different reception by the senses of objective things, and according to the individual constitution, more or less palpable, and the will brings the substance of the operations to the revelation. Now, what must man originally have had for objects of physical contemplation, except Nature herself, in which he so wholly, body and soul, was placed? The immediate ideal contemplations of God, to which the outer senses are not adapted, we shall here leave quite unnoticed, for we are speaking not of man in Paradise, but of fallen human nature : and the circumstances of art must first be attended to. The original representations must, therefore, have certainly been images of natural objects, and the feelings connected with them must consist of pleasure or pain, which would necessarily determine the objective attraction and repulsion of the spectator of them. That in young humanity the representations should be brilliant, and the feeling lively, is a natural consequence; and thence the combinations of such images would be influenced more by a fugitive fantasy than by tranquil reason: and this prevailing ascendancy of the imagination over the understanding is strikingly obvious in the ancient mythologies. Theories were the business of reflection, and came afterwards.
Schweigger, in the works referred to, has in the amplest manner placed side by side the historical evidences in favour of the philosophical, æsthetic, and artistic views, with the physical comprehension of the myths, to which I must refer the reader. I shall here, supported by these inquiries and other sources, endeavour to show that magic in the primeval ages—that is, before the so-called historical period-was
contained in the mysteries, and that the greater portion of those poetical enigmas in the mythology rested, in fact, on views of natural science.
The most ancient monuments of the East and of the Greeks point to deeper contemplations of nature. The imagination of the poets took out of these the material for their serious as well as their sportive images, and therefore the true poet is actually styled by Plato, the teacher of the present and the future; whence the Pythian madness is of more value than the human rationality which is so highly lauded; since in these the most eloquent echoes of the past, and anticipating notes of the future, make themselves heard.
But is the myth equally a poem; and is it, therefore, equally empty and fictitious ? To such a conclusion one might easily be led if we received the mythology merely from Homer and the historic times. But the ground and substance of mythology lie far beyond Homer, whom antiquity represents expressively by the phrase of the wise poet,” and as an old man, who, not only exalted above the fleeting youth of frivolity, but over the understanding of the man engaged in the affairs of the world, speaks wisdom, drawing from the past knowledge at once for the present and the future. In the language of Homer all the peculiarities of the age of man and the innocence of the child are expressed, -as the fire of youth, the vigour of man, and the calm reflection of the grey-haired sage; and there also are reflected in his poems the saga of the people and the doctrines of the ancient mysteries ; so that the mythology is to be regarded as a code of natural philosophy, and of religious and poetical contemplations, in which natural science, or rather the objective and religious relations, furnish the material, and the poetical the form,—which form Homer first presented to the public in so beautiful and unrivalled a
Herodotus himself says that Homer and Hesiod have given the genealogy of the gods, have attributed to them names, honours, and arts, and have described their forms. Herodotus gives his view of them merely as an individual, steering clear of the teaching of the priests : for the priests of Dodona drew the names of the gods from Egypt, there being originally in Greece only one nameless god worshipped. Such were the foundations of the myths, which Herodotus corroborates, only ascribing their fuller development and adornment to Homer and Hesiod.
But it is not merely the question of a Grecian mythology : every original race has its mythology; the Indians, the Egyptians, the Scandinavians, and the Germans. Every where it stands prior to history, and possesses a universal internal resemblance, although the remaining means of understanding these mythologies are greater or less in different countries. The German mythology, for instance, is of all others the poorest and most circumscribed in the means of demonstrating its original completeness. Grimm laments this in his “German Mythology:""Here on a dead ground stand trees whose topmost boughs bear green leaves ; there the ground is still verdant below, but all the trees are dried up.
Seldom are we able to call up to us shapes from the far distant twilight into sufficient distinctness to be able to recognise and describe them.” But as the imagination originally embodied objective things and expressive signs and symbols, which is its essential function, the myths have everywhere sprung out of the symbolising, poetical fantasy, and were not first invented by Homer and Hesiod and their age. Mythology originated in a necessity of nature, and in accordance with ideas which nations entertained of the world, and with the spirit of their language.
Very beautifully and instructively does Creuzer describe symbolic poetry : although it was by no means his object to represent natural philosophy as the fundamental basis of mythology, yet be really expresses this clearly in his "Introduction to his Symbolism and Mythology," and which we may quote as tending to elucidate what follows:
• The imaginative compositions and the religions of the nations," he says (Moser's Abridgment, 1822, p. 22), “lie as a fact at the bottom of the general life of things, without any separation of the spiritual and the bodily. This mode of thinking everywhere acknowledges the Iiving and the human from an inward impulse. Man is to himself the centre of the world, and from all the regions of nature life and character reflect themselves back upon him. The perspicuity and figurativeness of writing and of speaking, of thinking and inventing, which prevailed in antiquity, is not to be looked upon as an arbitrary one, but as an absolutely necessary mode of expression. Man, regarding himself as the centre of creation, thus sees himself in all nature, and all nature in his nature. That which abstract reason terms the operative power, was to his view a person. What we call plastic is thus the impression of the form of thought to which antiquity was addicted, and which the more timid spirit of an educated age cannot altogether withdraw itself from. The old religions lie before us as the memorials of those plastic times whose fundamental character reposes on the creative strength of personification. The elements of nature spoke to man, and she became tangible to him through joy and pain; she expressed to him her sensations in speaking images. That mode of expression brings many characteristics into the focus of a single phrase, which she at once imprints upon the soul, and completes the intuition at a blow. The essential characteristics of symbolism are a hovering and undeterminateness between being and form; the simple light of an idea is in a symbol laid in a coloured ray of signification. This signification, however, arises from the exuberance of the meaning in comparison with the expression. The meaning must be clear; that which is to be expressed must be expressed positively, The comprehensive power of symbols is closely connected with their conciseness, which is only expressive when it is poignant,—when it bursts on us like a flash of lightning, and opens a view into a boundless distance. But only the most important things can be significant—that which originates in the mystery of our being, that which fills and agitates our life; and therefore the ancients were observant of the divine intimations in momentous crises of life ; and the embodiment of these they called symbols.
“ The strictly symbolical confines itself to the tender middle line between spirit and nature; within these bonds it can avail to render visible to a certain degree even the divine, and is thus so highly expressive. It obeys Nature, merges itself into her form, and animates it; the infinite becomes human, and thus the strife between the two is at an end. That is the divine symbolism ; that is the beauty of form united to the highest fullness; and as the Grecian sculpture has most perfectly expressed this, we may call it the plastic symbolism. The character of necessity in symbols we may also style the symbolic language of nature; for symbols are only a reminiscence of that which speaks to man as an unalterable law of nature: it consecrates the works of man to eternity by reminding us of the eternal course of nature.
“But the Greeks, besides art, knew an expression of higher knowledge of the secret doctrine, which contains the signification—the symbol in the external of an embodied enigma,--aivlyua. Therein especially consists the temple symbolism of Greece and Rome. When the clearness of the scene is wholly annihilated, and only the astonishment remains, so that a certain religious instruction is implied, the symbolism is still more enigmatical, and the key to the mystery is in many cases lost. The symbol is always an embodied idea, --allegory only a general conception; whence the mythos comprehends this, but not the symbol, since in it is a momentary totality,-in the allegory an advance through a series of moments. The myth unfolds itself best in an epos, and endeavours only in Theomythos to compress itself into symbolism. In allegory is freedom; in symbolism the necessity of nature,—both of which conceal a truth.”
In the farther observation of the genesis of mythos (p. 31, f.) he speaks of the historical myth, which ordained festivals, &c. to distinguished benefactors, as sons of the gods, in gratitude for their services, and then proceeds :" Physical occasions for the origination of a myth were probably frequent :the character or the strength of a beast, the peculiar form or properties of a natural body, and the explanation of these things, propagated itself, according to Pausanias, as a myth. Still more occasion was furnished by the secret operation of the powers of nature, which to the untutored man were so striking. Thence arose a number of relations, in which a physical element or a remarkable phenomenon of nature appeared as the acting personage. Even language was a prolific mother of gods and myths : and still more sprung out of the clothing of symbols, and the locked-up facts of hieroglyphic signs, sagas, and legends. Thus the Mythos divides itself into two chief branches, into doctrine and tradition, which between them comprehend the convictions which, basing themselves on God, nature,