(Volume I [867 pages], Volume II [525 pages])
It is a common practice with authors to place their portraits in the first page of their books. I am not very vain of my personal appearance, and, therefore, I shall not present the reader with my likeness. But, that I may not appear to censure others by my omission, and for some other reasons which any person possessing a very moderate share of discernment will soon perceive, I think it right to draw my own portrait with the pen, instead of employing an artist to do it with the pencil, and to inform my reader, in a few words, who and what I am, in what circumstances I am placed, and why I undertook such a laborious task as this work has proved.
Respecting my rank or situation in life it is only necessary to state, that my father was a gentleman of small, though independent fortune, of an old and respectable family in Yorkshire. He had two children, a son (myself) and a daughter. After the usual school education, I was sent to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, as a pensioner, and thence to the Temple. As I was expected to pay the fees out of the small allowance which my father made me, I never had any money to spare for that purpose, and I nearer either took a degree or was called to the bar.
When I was about twenty-seven years of age my father died, and I inherited his house and estate at Skellow Grange, near Doncaster. After some time I married. I continued there till the threatened invasion of Napoleon induced me, along with most of my neighbours, to enter the third West-York militia, of which, in due time, I was made a major. In the performance of my military duty in the neighbourhood of Harwich, I caught a very bad fever, from the effects of which I never entirely recovered This caused me to resign my commission and return home. I shortly afterward became a magistrate for the West Riding of my native county. The illness above alluded to induced me to turn my attention more than I had formerly done, to serious matters, and determined me to enter upon a very careful investigation of the evidence upon which our religion was founded. This, at last, led me to extend my inquiry into the origin of all religions, and this again led to an inquiry into the origin of nations and languages; and ultimately I came to a resolution to devote six hours a day to this pursuit for ten years. Instead of six hours daily for ten years, I believe I have, upon the average, applied myself to it for nearly ten hours daily for almost twenty years. In the first ten years of my search I may fairly say, I found nothing which I sought for; in the latter part of the twenty, the quantity of matter has so crowded in upon me, that I scarcely know how to dispose of it.
When I began these inquiries I found it necessary to endeavour to recover the scholastic learning which, from long neglect, I had almost forgotten: but many years of industry are not necessary for this purpose, as far, at least as is useful. The critical knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages, highly ornamental and desirable as it is, certainly is not, in general, necessary for the acquisition of what, in my opinion, may be properly called real Iearning. The ancient poetry and composition are beautiful, but a critical knowledge of them was not my object. The odes of Pindar and the poems of Homer are very fine; but Varro, Macrobius, and Cicero De Natura Deorum, were more congenial to my pursuits. The languages were valuable to me only as a key to unlock the secrets of antiquity. I beg my reader, therefore, not to expect any of that kind of learning, which would enable a person to rival Porson in filling up the Lacunæ of a Greek play, or in restoring the famous Digamma to its proper place.
But if I had neglected the study of Greek and Latin, I had applied myself to the study of such works as those of Euclid, and of Locke on the Understanding, the tendency of which is to form the mind to a habit of investigation and close reasoning and thinking and in a peculiar manner to fit it for such inquiries as mine; for want of which habit, a person may possess a considerable knowledge of the Classics, while his mind may be almost incapable of comprehending the demonstration of a common proposition in geometry. In short, we see proofs every day, that a person may be very well skilled in Greek and Latin, while in intellect he may rank little higher than a ploughboy.
Along with the study of the principles of law, whilst at the Temple, I had applied myself also to the acquisition of the art of sifting and appreciating the value of different kinds of evidence, the latter of which is perhaps the most important and the most neglected of all the branches of education. I had also applied myself to what was of infinitely more consequence than all the former branches of study, and in difficulty almost equal to them altogether, namely, to the unlearning of the nonsense taught me in youth.
Literary works at the present day have generally one or both of two objects in view, namely, money and present popularity. But I can conscientiously say, that neither of these has been my leading object. I have become, to a certain extent, literary, because by letters alone could I make known to mankind what I considered discoveries the most important to its future welfare; and no publication has ever been written by me except under the influence of this motive.
When I say that I have not written this work for fame, it must not be understood that I affect to be insensible to the approbation of the great and good: far from it. But if I had my choice, I would rather rank with Epictetus than with Horace, with Cato or Brutus than with Gibbon or Sir Walter Scott. Had either present popularity or profit been my object, I had spared the priests; for, in Britain, we are a priest-ridden race: but though I had died a little richer, I had deserved contempt for my meanness.
My learning has been acquired since I turned forty years of age, for the sole purpose of being enabled to pursue these researches into the antiquities of nations, which, I very early became convinced, were generally unknown or misunderstood. But though I do not pretend to deep classical learning, yet perhaps I may not be guilty of any very inexcusable sanity in saying, that I find myself now, on the score of learning, after twenty years of industry, in many respects very differently circumstanced in relation to persons whom I was accustomed formerly to look up to as learned, from what I was at the beginning of my inquiries; and that now I sometimes find myself qualified to teach those by whom I was at first very willing to be taught, but whom I do not always find disposed to learn, nor to be untaught the nonsense which they learned in their youth.
In my search I soon found that it was impossible to look upon the histories of ancient empires, or upon the history of the ancient mythologies, except as pleasing or amusing fables, fit only for the nursery or the fashionable drawing-room table, but totally below the notice of a philosopher. This consideration caused my search into their origin; indefatigable labour for many years has produced the result,—the discovery which I believe I have made, and which in this work I make known to my countrymen.
I am convinced that a taste for deep learning among us is fast declining;* and in this I believe I shall be supported by the booksellers, which is one reason why I have only printed two hundred copies of this work: but I have reason to think the case different in France and Germany; and on this account I have sometimes thought of publishing editions in the languages of those countries. But whether I shall wait till these editions be ready, and till my second volume be finished, before I make public the first, I have not yet determined; nor, indeed, have I determined whether or not I shall publish these editions. This must depend upon the foreign booksellers.
* Of this a more decisive proof need not be given than the failure of the Rev. Dr. Valpy’s Classical Journal, a work looked up to as an honour to our country by all learned foreigners, which was given up, as well from want of contributors as from want of subscribers.
If, like some learned persons, I had commenced my inquiries by believing certain dogmas, and determining that I would never believe any other; or if, like the Rev. Mr. Faber, I had in early life sworn that I believed them, and that I would never believe any other, and that all my comfort in my future life depended upon my professed continuance in this belief, I should have had much less trouble, because I should have known what I was to prove; but my story is very different. When I began this inquiry, I was anxious for truth, suspicious of being deceived, but determined to examine every thing as impartially as was in my power, to the very bottom. This soon led me to the discovery, that I must go to much more distant sources for the origin of things than was usual; and, by degrees, my system began to form itself. But not having the least idea in the beginning what it would be in the end, it kept continually improving, in some respects changing, and I often found it necessary to read again and again the same books, for want of an index, from beginning to end, in search of facts passed hastily over in the first or second reading and then thought of little or no consequence, but which I afterwards found most important for the elucidation of truth. On this account the labour in planting the seed has been to me great beyond credibility, but I hope the produce of the harvest will bear to it a due proportion.
I very early found that it was not only necessary to recover and improve the little Greek and Latin which I had learned at school, but I soon found my inquiries stopped by my ignorance of the Oriental languages, from which I discovered that ours was derived, and by which it became evident to me that the origin of all our ancient mythoses was concealed. I therefore determined to apply myself to the study of one of them; and, after much consideration and doubt whether I should choose the Hebrews, the Arabic,or the Sanscrit, I fixed upon the first, in the selection of which, for many reasons, which will appear hereafter, I consider myself peculiarly fortunate.
For some time my progress was very slow,—my studies were much interrupted by public business; and, for almost two years together, by a successful attempt into which I was led, in the performance of my duty as a justice of the peace, to reform some most shocking abuses in the York Lunatic Asylum.
In my study of Hebrew, also, a considerable time, I may say, was wasted on the Masoretic points, which at last I found it were a mere invention of the modern Jews, and not of the smallest use.*
* It may be necessary to inform some persons who may read this books that, in the dark ages, the Jews, in order to fix the pronunciation and the meaning of their Hebrew with to their own fancy at the time, invented a system called the Masoretic Points, which they substituted in place of the vowels, leaving the latter in the text; but, where they could not make them stand for consonants and thus form new syllables, leaving them silent and without meaning. The belief in the antiquity of this system has now become with them a point of faith; of course here the use of reason ends. On this account I shall add to the appendix to this volume a small tract that I formerly published on this subject, which I doubt not will satisfy reasoning individuals.
During this process, I also found it was very desirable that I consult the works in the libraries of Italy and France, as well as examine the remains of antiquity in those countries, and my reader will soon see that, without having availed myself of this assistance, I should never have been able to make the discoveries of which he will have been apprized. The benefit which I derived from the examination of the works of the ancients in my two journeys to Rome, and one to Naples, at last produced a wish to examine the antiquities of more Oriental climes, and a plan was laid for travelling in search OF WISDOM to the East;—the origin and defeat of this plan I have detailed in the preface to my Celtic Druids. I am now turned sixty; the eye grows dim, and the cholera and plague prevail in the East; yet I have not entirely given up the hope of going as far as Egypt: but what I have finished of my work must first be printed. Could I but ensure myself a strong probability of health and the retention of my faculties, for ten, or I think, even for seven years, I should not hesitate on a journey to Samarkand, to examine the library of manuscripts there, which was probably collected by Ulug-Beig. If the strictest attention to diet and habits the most temperate may be expected to prolong health, I may not be very unreasonable in looking forwards for five or six years; and I hope my reader will believe me when I assure him, that the strongest incentive which I feel for pursuing this course of life is the confident hope and expectation of the great discoveries which I am certain I could make, if I could once penetrate into the East, and see things there with my own eyes.
In a very early stage of my investigation, my attention was drawn to the ancient Druidical and Cyclopæan buildings scattered over the world, in almost all nations, which I soon became convinced were the works of a great nation, of whom we had no history, who must have been the first inventors of the religious mythoses and the art of writing; and, in short, that what I sought must be found among them. My book, called the CELTIC DRUIDS, which I published in the year 1827, was the effect of this conviction, and is, in fact, the foundation on which this work is built, and without a perusal of it, this world will, notwithstanding my utmost care, scarcely be understood. It might very well have formed a first volume to this, and I now regret that I did not so arrange it.
I think it right to state here, what I beg my reader will never forget, that in my explanations of words and etymologies I proceed upon the principle of considering all the different systems of letters, Sanscrit excepted, to have formed originally but one alphabet, only varied in forms, and the different written languages but one language, and that they are all mere dialects of one another. This I consider that I have proved in my CELTIC DRUIDS, and it will be proved over and over again in the course of the following work.
Numerous are the analyses of the ancient mythology, but yet I believe the world is by no means satisfied with the result of them. There is yet a great blank. That the ancient mythoses have a system for their basis, is generally believed; indeed, I think this is what no one can doubt. But, whether I have discovered the principles on which they are founded, and have given the real explanation of them, others must judge.
The following work is similar to the solution of a difficult problem in the mathematics, only to be understood by a consecutive perusal of the whole—only to be understood after close attention, after an induction of consequences from a long chain of reasoning, every step of which, like a problem in Euclid, must be borne in mind. The reader must not expect that the secrets which the ancients took so much pains to conceal, and which they involved in the most intricate of labyrinths, are to be learned without difficulty. But though attention is required, he may be assured that, with a moderate share of it, there is nothing which may not be understood. But instead of making a consecutive perusal of the work, many of my readers will go to the Index and look for particular words, and form a judgment from the etymological explanation of them, without attending to the context or the arguments in other parts of the volume, or to the reasoning which renders such explanation probable, and thus they will be led to decide against it and its conclusions and consider them absurd. All this I expect, and of it I have no right to complain, unless I leave a right to complain that a profound subject is attended with difficulties, or that superficial people are not deep thinkers, or that the nature of the human animal is not of a different construction from what I know it to be. The same lot befel the works of General Vallancey, which contain more profound and correct learning on the origin of nations and languages than all the books which were ever written. But who reads them ? Not our little bits of antiquarians of the present day, who make a splashing on the surface, but never go to the bottom. A few trumpery and tawdry daubs on an old church wall serve them to fill volumes. It is the same with most of our Orientalists. The foolish corruptions of the present day are blazoned forth in grand folios* as the works of the Buddhists or Brahmins; when, in fact, they are nothing but what may be called the new religion of their descendants, who may be correctly said to have lost, as they, indeed, admit they have done, the old religions, and formed new ones which are suitable to their present state—that is, a state equal to that of the Hottentots of Africa.
* Vide the works, for instance, published by Akerman.
Hebrew scholars have been accused of undue partiality to what is sneeringly called their favourite language by such as do not understand it: and this will probably be repeated towards me. In self-defence, I can only say, that in my search for the origin of ancient science, I constantly found myself impeded by my ignorance of the Hebrew; and, in order to remove this impediment, I applied myself to the study of it. I very early discovered that no translation of the ancient book of Genesis, either by Jew or Christian, could be depended on. Every one has the prejudices instilled into him in his youth to combat, or his prejudged dogma to support. But I can most truly say, that I do not lie open to the latter charge; for there is scarcely a single opinion maintained in the following work which I held when I began it. [Almost all the latter part of my life has been spent in unlearning the nonsense I learned in my youth.] These considerations I flatter myself will be sufficient to screen me from the sneers of such gentlemen as suppose all learning worth having is to be found in the Latin and Greek languages; especially when, in the latter part of this work, they find that I have come to the conclusion, that the Hebrew language, or that language of which Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic are only dialects, was probably the earliest of the written languages now known to us.
When I affirm that I think the old synagogue Hebrew is the oldest written language, the philosopher will instantly turn away and say, "Oh ! I see this is only the old devoteeism." He may be assured he will find himself mistaken. I believe that I found my opinion on evidence equally free from modern Christian or ancient Jewish prejudice. I attribute the preservation of these old tracts (the books of Genesis) from the destruction which has overtaken all other sacred books of the priests of the respective temples of the world, to the fortunate circumstance that they were made public by Ptolemy Philadelphus. Natural causes, without any miracle, have produced a natural effect, and thus we have these interesting remains, and have them, too, in consequence of a religious dogma having operated, nearly uncorrupted, in their general language, by modern Jewish and Masoretic nonsense. In the SYNAGOGUE books we have, most fortunately, several tracts in a language older than any language, as now written, in the world, not excepting the beautiful and almost perfect Sanscrit. And this I think I shall prove in the course of the work. That my reader may not run away with a mistaken inference from what I now say, I beg to observe, that I pay not the least attention to the generally received ancient chronologies.
In order to arrive at what I believe to be the truth, I have often been obliged to enter into very abstruse and difficult examinations of the meaning of Hebrew words; but they are generally words which have undergone the most elaborate discussion, by very great scholars, and have been the subjects of controversy. This has been a great advantage to me, as by this means I have been enabled to see every thing which could be said on the respective points in dispute, and my conclusions may be considered as the summing up of the evidence on both sides. As the results of my inquiries will sometimes depend upon the meaning of the words, the subjects of these discussions, I have found it necessary to enter, in several instances, into a close and critical examination of their meaning, as I have just said; in which, without care and patience, the reader unlearned in Hebrew will not be able to follow me. But yet I flatter myself that if he will pass over a very few examples of this kind, which he finds too difficult, and go to the conclusion drawn from them, he will, in almost every instance, be able to understand the argument. If, as I believe, the foundations of the ancient mythoses are only to be discovered in the most ancient roots of the languages of the world, it is not likely that such an inquiry into them could be dispensed with.
The letters of the old Synagogue Hebrew language are nearly the same as the English, only in a different form. They are so near that they almost all of them may be read as English, as any person may see in Sect. 46, p. 10, by a very little consideration of the table of letters, and the numbers which they denote. In order that an unlearned reader may understand the etymological conclusions, nearly throughout the whole world every Hebrew word is followed by correspondent letters in English italics, so that a person who does not understand the Hebrew may understand them almost as well as a person who does. Half an hour's study of the table of letters, and attention to this observation, I am convinced is all that is necessary.
In great numbers of places, authors will be found quoted as authority, but whose authority my reader may be inclined to dispute. In every case, evidence of this kind must go for no more than it is worth. It is like interested evidence, which is worth something in every case, though, perhaps, very little. But in many cases, an author of little authority, quoted by me as evidence in favour of my hypothesis, will be found to have come to his conclusion, perhaps, when advocating doctrines directly in opposition to mine, or in absolute ignorance of my theory. In such cases, his evidence, from the circumstance, acquires credibility which it would not otherwise possess: and if numerous instances of evidence of this kind unite upon any one point, to the existence of any otherwise doubtful fact, the highest probability of its truth may be justly inferred. If a fact of the nature here treated of be found to be supported by other facts, and to dovetail into other parts of my system, or to remove its difficulties, its probability will be again increased. Thus it appears that there will be a very great variety in the evidence in favour of different parts of the system, which can only be correctly judged of by a consecutive perusal of the whole. [And, above all things, my reader must always bear in mind, that he is in search of a system, the meaning of which its professors and those initiated into its mysteries haste constantly endeavoured in all ages and nations to conceal, and the proofs of the existence of which, the most influential body of men in the world, the priests, have endeavoured, and yet endeavour, by every honest and dishonest means in their power, to destroy.]
The following work will be said to be a theory: it is given as a theory. But what is a Theory ? Darwin says, "To theorise is to think." The peculiar nature of the subject precludes me from founding my thinkings or reasonings like the modern natural philosopher; but I endeavour to do this as far as is in my power. I found them on the records of facts, and on quotations from ancient authors, and on the deductions which are made by writers without any reference to my theory or system. A casual observation, or notice of a fact, is often met with in an author which he considers of little or no consequence, but which, from that very circumstance, is the more valued by me, because it is the more likely to be true.
This book is intended for those only who think that the different histories are yet involved in darkness and confusion: and it is an attempt to elucidate the grounds on which the former were founded, and from which they have risen to their present state. It is evident that, if I have succeeded, and if I have discovered the original principles, although, perhaps, trifling circumstances or matters may be erroneously stated, yet new discoveries will every day add new proof to my system, till it will be established past all dispute. If, on the contrary, I be wrong, new discoveries will soon expose my errors, and, like all preceding theories, my theory will die away, as they are dying away, and it will be forgotten.
I have just said that this work is a theory, and professes, in a great measure, to arrive at probabilities only. I am of opinion that, if ancient authors had intended more to the latter, we should have been better informed than we now are upon everything relating to the antiquities of nations. The positive assertions, false in themselves, yet not meant to mislead, but only to express the opinions of some authors, together with the intentional falsities of others, have accumulated an immense mass of absurdities, which have rendered all ancient history worse than a riddle. Had the person first named only stated their opinion that a thing was probable, but which, in composition, it is exceedingly difficult to do, as I have constantly found, their successors would not have been misled by their want of sense or judgment. Every succeeding generation has added to the mass of nonsense, until the enormity is beginning to cure itself, and to prove that the whole, as a system, is false: it is beginning to convince most persons that some new system must be had recourse to, if one can be devised, which may at least have the good quality of containing within itself the possibility of being true, a quality which the present old system most certainly wants. Now I flatter myself that my new system, notwithstanding many errors which it may contain, will possess this quality; which it accounts, and without which system their existence cannot be accounted for, I contend that I shall render it very probable that my system is true. The whole force of this observation will not be understood till the reader comes to the advanced part of my next volume, wherein I shall treat upon the system of the philosophic Niebuhr respecting the history of the ancient Romans.
Of whatever credulity my reader may be disposed to accuse me, in some respects, there will be no room for any charge of this kind, on account of the legends of bards or monks, or the forgeries of the Christian priests of the middle ages; as for fear of being imposed on by them, I believe I have carried my caution to excess, and have omitted to use materials, in the use of which I should have been perfectly justified. I may name the works of Mr. Davis of Wales, and General Vallancey, both of which contain abundance of matter which supports my doctrines; but even of these, I have used such parts only as I thought could not well be the produce of the frauds of the priests or bards. I endeavour, as far as lies in my power, to regulate my belief according to what I know is the rule of evidence in a British court of law. Perhaps it may be said, that if I am not credulous in this respect of the monks and priests, I am in respect of the ancient monuments. But these ancient unsculptured stones or names of places, are not like the priests, though with many exceptions in all sects, regular, systematic liars, lying from interest, and boldly defending the practice on principle—a practice brought down from Plato, and continued to our own day. Witness the late restoration of the annual farce of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, and the fraudulent title to what is called the Apostles' Creed in our Liturgy.
Some years ago a fraud was attempted by a Brahmin on Sir William Jones and Major Wilford. These two gentlemen being totally void of any suspicion were deceived, but in a very little time the latter detected the fraud, and instantly published it to the world in the most candid and honourable manner. This has afforded a handle to certain persons, who dread discoveries from India, to run down every thing which Wilford wrote, not only up to that time, but in a long and industrious life afterward. I have been careful, in quoting from his works, to avoid what may have been fraudulent; but so far from thinking that Wilford's general credit is injured, I think it was rather improved by the manner in which he came forward and announced the fraud practised on him. There was no imputation of excessive credulity previously cast upon him, and I consider it likely that this instance made him more cautious than most others against impostures in future. I cannot help suspecting, that this fraud was the cause of much true and curious matter being rendered useless.
It has been said, that the more a person inquires, the less he generally believes. This is true; and arises from the fact that he soon discovers that great numbers of the priests in every age and of every religion, have been guilty of frauds to support their systems, to an extent of which he could have had no idea until he made the inquiry. Many worthy and excellent men among our priests have been angry with me, because I have not more pointedly excepted the ORDER in the British empire from the general condemnation expressed in my CELTIC DRUIDS, though I there expressly stated that I did except many individuals. The fraudulent title of the Apostles' Creed, which I have just named, would alone justify me.
The following rational account of the corruption of religion is given by the cool and philosophical Basnage:* "Divines complain that the people have always a violent propensity to sensible objects and idolatry; and I do not deny it; but in the mean time divines of all ages have been more to blame than the people, since they conducted them to the adoration of creatures: that they might be able to discourse longer, and to distinguish themselves from the crowd, they have disguised religion with obscure terms, emblems and symbols; and have dressed them up like men and women. This has trained up and encouraged the people in their carnal notions. They thought that they might devote themselves to the symbols, which were furnished with a wondrous efficacy, and treated of more than the Deity himself. Whereas they ought to give the people the simplest ideas of God, and talk soberly of him: they embellish, they enrich, and magnify their ideas of him, and this is what has corrupted religion in all ages, as is manifest from the instance of the Egyptians. By veiling religion under the pretence of procuring it respect, they have buried and destroyed it."
* Bk. iii. Ch. xix. p.217
Though the labour which I have gone through in the production of this volume of my work has been very great, yet it has been sweetened by many circumstances, but by none so much as the conviction, that in laying open to public view the secret of the mythoses of antiquity, I was performing one of the works the most valuable to my fellow-creatures which was ever completed,—that it was striking the hardest blow that ever was struck at the tyranny of the sacerdotal order,—that I was doing more than any man had ever done before to disabuse and enlighten mankind, and to liberate them from the shackles of prejudice in which they were bound.
Another thing which sweetened the labour was, the perpetual making of new discoveries,—the whole was a most successful voyage of discovery.
No doubt, in order to prevent females from reading the following work, it will be accused of indecency. Although I have taken as much care as was in my power to remove any good grounds for the charge, it is certainly open to it, in the same way as are many works on comparative anatomy. But these, in fact, are indecent only to persons of indecent and filthy imaginations—to such persons as a late Lord Mayor of London, who ordered the Savoyard statue-dealers out of the city, until they clothed their Venus de Medicis with drapery.
In all cases brevity, as far as clearness of expression would admit, has been my object; and I can safely say, though the reason for many passages may not be obvious to a reader who has not deeply meditated on the subject as I have done, yet I believe scarcely one is inserted in the book which has not appeared to me at the time to be necessary to elucidate some subject which was to follow.
It has been observed, that persons who write a bad style, generally affect to despise a good one. Now whatever may be thought of mine, I beg to observe, that I regret it is not better; I wish I had been more attentive to it in early life; but I must freely confess, that my mind bas been turned to the discovery of truth almost to the entire neglect of style.
I fear some repetitions will be found which would not have occurred had I been better skilled in the art of bookmaking; but in many cases I do not know how they could have been avoided, as a new consequence will often be shown to flow from a statement formerly made for a different purpose. However, I justify myself by the example of the learned and popular Bryant, who says,
"As my researches are deep and remote, I shall sometimes take the liberty of repeating what has preceded, that the truths which I maintain may more readily be perceived. We are oftentimes, by the importunity of a persevering writer, teazed into an unsatisfactory compliance and yield a painful assent: but upon closing the book, our scruples return; and we lapse at once into doubt and darkness. It has, therefore, been my rule to bring vouchers for every thing which I maintain; and though I might, upon the renewal of my argument, refer to another volume and a distant page; yet I many times choose to repeat my evidence, and bring it again under immediate inspection. And if I do not scruple labour and expense, I hope the reader will not be disgusted by this seeming redundancy in my arrangement. What I now present to the public, contains matter of great moment, and should I be found in the right, it will afford a sure basis for a future history of the world. None can well judge either of the labour or utility of the work, but those who have been conversant in the writings of chronologers and other learned men upon these subjects, and seen the difficulties with which they are embarrassed. Great undoubtedly must have been the learning and perspicacity of many who have preceded me. Yet it may possibly be found at the close, that a feeble arm has effected what those prodigies in science have overlooked."*
* Bryant, Anal. Pref. p.vii
I conceive the notice which I have taken of my former work cannot be considered impertinent, as it is, indeed, the foundation on which this is built. The original habitation of the first man, and the merging of nearly all ancient written languages into one system, containing sixteen letters, which in that work I have shewn and proved, pave the way for the more important doctrines that will be here developed, and form an essential part of it. The whole taken together, will, I trust, draw aside the veil which has hitherto covered the early history of man,—the veil, in fact, of Queen Isis, which she, I hope erroneously, boasted should never be withdrawn. If, in this undertaking, it prove that I have spent many years, and bestowed much labour and money in vain, and have failed, Mr. Faber may then have to comfort himself that his failure is not the last. I think it no vanity to believe that I have succeeded better than he has done, because I have come to the task with the benefit of the accumulated labours of Mr. Faber, and of all my predecessors. So that if there be merit in the work, to them, in a great degree, it must be attributed. I have the benefit both of their learning and of their errors.
In the fifth book a number of astronomical calculations are made. But everything like scientific parade and the use of technical terms, to which learned men are generally very partial, are studiously avoided; and I apprehend that even the little knowledge of astronomy which any well educated schoolgirl may possess, will be sufficient for understanding these calculations. Close attention to the argument will doubtless be required; but, with less than this, my reader will not expect to solve the problem which has hitherto set at defiance the learning and talent of all scientific inquirers. When my reader comes to this part of my work he will find, that to make my calculations come right, I have constantly been obliged to make a peculiar use of the number 2160, and in many cases to deduct it. For this he will find no quite satisfactory reason given. But though I could not account for it, the coincidence of numbers was so remarkable, that I was quite certain there could, in the fact, be no mistake. In the second volume this will be satisfactorily accounted for; and I flatter myself it will be found to form, not a blemish, but the apex, necessary to complete the whole building.
How I may be treated by the critics on this work, I know not; but I cannot help smiling when I consider that the priests have objected to admit my former book, the Celtic Druids, into libraries, because it was antichristian; and it has been attacked by Deists, because it was superfluously religious. The learned deist, the Rev. R. Taylor, has designated me as the religious Mr. Higgins. But God be thanked, the time is come at last, when a person may philosophise without fear of the stake. No doubt the priests will claim the merit of this liberality. It is impossible, however, not to observe what has been indiscreetly confessed by them a thousand times, and admitted as often both in parliament and elsewhere by their supporters, that persecution has ceased, not because the priests wished to encourage free discussion, but because it is at last found, from the example of Mr. Carlile and others, that the practice of persecution, at this day, only operates to the dissemination of opinion, not to the secreting of it. In short, that the remedy of persecution is worse than the disease it is meant to cure.
On the subject of criticism Cleland has justly observed, "The judging of a work, not by the general worth of it, but by the exceptions, is the scandal of criticism and the nuisance of literature; a judgment that can dishonour none but him who makes it."* In most cases where I have known the characters of the priests who have lost their temper, and taken personal offence at what I have said against the order, in that world I have thought I could discover a reason for it which they did not assign. As the subjects there treated of may be considered to be continued here, the objections of my opponents will be found to be refuted without the odious appearance of a polemical dispute. As for those attacks which were evidently made by the priests merely for the purpose, as far as possible, of preventing their followers from reading the Celtic Druids, and not for the purpose of refuting that work, they are of no consequence. Although it was published in great haste, I am happy to have it in my power to state, that no error of any importance has been pointed out, some few overlooked errors of the press excepted. Various attacks upon it are characterised by the obvious vexation and anger of my opponents, rather than by argument. But the attack of one gentleman I think it right to notice.
* Preface to Specimens, p.xi
The Rev. Hugh James Rose, B.D., Christian Advocate of Cambridge, has honoured it with his notice; but it is gratifying to me to be able to say, that except one proverbial expression, in toto cælo PERHAPS, improperly used, and a mistake in writing Plato for Herodotus, and Herodotus for Plato, which, in a great part of the impression, was corrected with the pen, and in all was ordered to be so corrected with it, before the book left the printer's, and a mistake in writing pa exochg instead of cat exochg, he has not found any other fault, though I think he has shewn no want of inclination. With respect to the latter error, as I certainly never discovered the gross and shocking inadvertency until a great part of this work was printed, I should not be at all surprised if somewhere, as I wrote for Greek pa exochg instead of cat exochg, I should have written for French kat’ excellence instead of par excellence
A writer in the Bishop's review accuses me of being in a rage with priests. I flatter myself I am never in a rage with any thing; but, I never have scrupled and never shall scruple to express my detestation of an order which exists directly in opposition to the commands of Jesus Christ—which in no case is of use to mankind, but which has produced more demoralisation and misery in the world than all other causes put together. With this conviction it would be base in me to withhold my opinion, and not even the fear of the auto-da-fé shall prevent me from expressing it.
As long as the art of writing and reading was a secret confined to a few select persons, priests might be thought to be wanted to say the prayers for the ignorant; but as most persons can read now, they are no longer necessary; and the prayer which Jesus Christ taught is so very short and simple, that no person, above the class of an idiot, can be in any difficulty about it; and there can be little doubt that Jesus Christ taught that simple and short form that priests might no longer be necessary.
Matthew vi. 5, 6, 7, 9, makes Jesus say, "When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the Hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues [they go in great form to church and have their pew made with high walls and lined with crimson cloth], and in is the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men;" [attend Bible and Missionnary meetings;] "verily they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. After this manner, therefore, pray ye," &c.
Here priesthoods and priests, vipers as Jesus often called them, are expressly forbidden. In giving directions what a person is to do when he prays, he directly countermands every other mode of proceeding. In strict keeping with this, not a single word of his can be pointed out in any one of the gospels, which can be construed into even a toleration of priests; and in the vain repetitions liturgies are evidently implied.
In the prayer which Jesus gave, he gave a liturgy and directions for the use of it, and no human being who has learned to repeat this prayer can ever want any priest or other apparatus.
Had Jesus considered any symbol or confession of faith necessary, he would have given one. As he has not given one, and as he did take upon himself to legislate in the case, on every principle of sound reasoning it must be held, that he did not think a belief in this or in that faith, as it is called, (which his profound wisdom well knew never can be a merit or demerit,) was necessary to salvation. This justifies its name, the poor man's religion. The poor man's whole duty to God is contained in this prayer, and the whole moral part of his duty to man is contained in the direction to every one to do to his neighbour as he would wish his neighbour to do to him. Its founder left nothing in writing, because the poor man's religion does not require it.
This great simplicity makes the pure, unadulterated Christian religion the most beautiful religion that ever existed. Restore it to this pure and simple state, and ninety-nine out of every hundred of all the philosophers in the world will be its friends, instead of its enemies. In the accounts which we read of Jesus' preaching, he is made to say, that if they believed on him they should be saved. In order to find some pretext for their own nonsense, the priests, by a gross, fraudulent mistranslation, have made him talk nonsense and say, if ye believe ON ME, instead of IN ME, or in my words, ye shall be saved. On this they found the necessity of faith in their dogmas. Some persons will think this a merely trifling critical emendation; but so far is it from being trifling, that it is of the very greatest importance, and on it some most important doctrines depend. All this tends to support the doctrines of the celebrated Christian philosopher Ammonias Saccas, of which I shall Wave much to say in the following work.
But it is necessary to observe, that this simple view of the religion leaves untouched every dogma of every sect. It shews that the religion damns no person for an opinion. It leaves every one to enjoy his own opinions. It censures or condemns the opinions of no one; but I fear that it will be liked almost by no one, because it prevents every one from condemning the opinion of his neighbour. If Jesus can be said to have established any rite, it will be found in the adoption of the very ancient ceremony of the Eucharistia, the most beautiful of all the religious ceremonies ever established, and of which I shall often have to treat in the course of my work. Jesus Christ was put to death, if the four gospel histories can be believed, merely for teaching what I have no doubt he did teach, that Temples, Priests, Mysteries, and Cabala, were all unnecessary. Mohamed, by about fishing priests, liturgies, and symbols, and by substituting a simple hymn in praise of the Creator, was a much more consistent Christian than the modern Paulite; and this, and nothing but this, was the religion of Mohamed. The Koran was none of his.
The priest to whom I lately alluded has called me misosierist. This he may do as long as he pleases.* How is it possible for a person who, like me, is a sincere friend of religion, not to be indignant at an order which has, by its frauds, rendered the history of all religions, and of every thing connected with them, doubtfully frauds systematically practised in all ages, and continued even to the present day, and in our own country ?
* My work called The Celtic druids has never been noticed in any way which can be called a review, except in the fifth and sixth numbers of the Southern Review of North America, printed in Charleston. In that periodical it is reviewed by a very learned man, with whom I first became acquainted in consequence of his critique.
I consider that when the Bisbop's review called me a misosierist, it paid me the greatest of compliments. To be called a misosierist is the same as to be called Philanthropist. I am proud of the epithet.
I have been accused of being fond of paradox. The word Paradox means, beyond common opinion. When common opinion tells me to believe that God, the Supreme First Cause, walked in the garden, or that he, as Jupiter, carried Io away on his back to Crete, I am not afraid of being paradoxical or doing wrong in adopting the opinion of all the first fathers of the church, and in seeking some meaning which the original words do not literally possess.
If the priests can refute the doctrines which I teach, they will not lose a moment in doing it; if they cannot, they will have recourse to turning selected passages and parts of arguments into ridicule. To this they are welcome. I shall rejoice in the proof of my victory.
I have come to one resolution—never to attempt to vindicate myself from any unfounded charge of ignorance or misquotation in this book; but, only to notice such real errors in the work, as may be pointed out, and to correct them, of whatever kind they maybe.
Like my learned friend Eusebe de Salverte, I shall be accused of rationalism.* I, beforehand, plead guilty to the charge. I can be of no religion which does not appear to be consistent with sound reason, and I cannot stoop, with the advocates of priestcraft and idiotism, to lend my hand to continue the degradation of my fellow-creatures. Since the priests and their abettors have thought proper to convert the exercise of the highest gift of God to man reason into a term of reproach—rationalism—I know not how to return the compliment, though I do not like to render evil for evil, better than by designating their attempted opposition to reason, idiotism.
* Foreign Quarterly Review, No.XII
To guard myself against being accused of the disgusting practice of using abusive epithets, I beg that the term devotee, which will often occur, as of course it conveys no meaning against any one's moral character, may not be considered to mean a bigot, but merely a person very much, or rather more than usually religious, which is its true and correct meaning. I leave the use of abusive language, such as infidel, to persons who, feeling that their arguments are weak, try to strengthen them by violence.
In the execution of this work I have endeavoured to place myself above all religions and sects, and to take a bird's-eye view of them all; and, as I have favoured none, I know I shall be favoured by none. A few and very few persons, those persons who are really philosophers will read it. The generality of mankind will read no further than to that part where it begins to touch their own prejudices or their own religion; then they will throw it down. It is very seldom indeed that a religious person is capable of reasoning respecting matters connected with his religion. This is the cause why, on this subject, no two persons scarcely ever agree. And I beg my reader to recollect, that if he take the opinion of a religious person on any matter connected with such a work as this, as there are numbers of religions, the chances are very great, that in some part it must have attacked the religion of the person whose opinion he takes; whence it follows that the chances are in proportion to the whole numbers of religions which exist to one, that he depends on a prejudiced person, and is deceived. AlI this will operate against the book; but how can I expect any better ?—for the immediate effect of my theory, if universally received, would be, to render obsolete nine-tenths of all the literature of the world, and to overthrow almost every prevailing system of historic chronology, and religion. But founding my opinion on a thorough conviction that I have solved the great problem and have discovered the long-lost truths of antiquity which have been so long sought for in vain, I feel no doubt that the time will come when my discovery will be adopted, when the errors in the work or in the system will be corrected, and the truth it contains will be duly appreciated, and that, if I have succeeded in developing the origin of religions, nations, and languages, it will by degrees make its way. Besides, the schoolmaster is abroad. Tempora mutantur, et veritas prævalebit.
I shall be found frequently to express a suspicion; as for instance, I have a suspicion or I have a strong suspicion. I think it right to apprise my reader, that when I use these words, I really mean that I suspect or conjecture, and that however numerous may be the proofs which I produce, I yet admit a doubt, and by no means intend to place the credit of my work upon the absolute truth of the doctrines so doubtfully advanced by me. Of course among such an innumerable number of references contained in the notes, errors would have been found, even if my eyes had not begun to fail me, and to verify them it is impossible to travel again over all the libraries from Glasgow to Naples. I shall be thankful for any corrections.
In many places the explanations of words will be found to be given in numbers. This has been generally treated by the learned with contempt. I think it right to give notice to the reader, that before this work is finished, this buffoonery, as it has been called by those who did not understand it, and who were too idle or too proud to inquire what could be the cause that the most learned of the ancients used such a practice, will be found of the very first importance, and to be any thing but buffoonery.
It is also necessary to observe, that if an observation or notice of an ancient custom should sometimes appear, which may be thought to be introduced without good cause, it is not therefore to be concluded that all persons will be of that opinion. I think it right to warn my reader, that there are more passages than one in the book, which are of that nature, which will be perfectly understood by my masonic friends, but which my engagements prevent my explaining to the world at large.
My masonic friends will find their craft very often referred to. I believe, however, that they will not find any of their secrets betrayed; but I trust they will find it proved, that their art is the remains of a very fine ancient system, or, perhaps, more properly, a branch of the fine and beautiful system of WISDOM which, in this work, I have developed.
In the latter part of the work many facts are stated and observations made which ought to have had a place in the earlier parts of it; this arose from the fact, that when I commenced printing, I thought I had finished my first volume: but, as it proceeded, I continued my researches, and in consequence met with many new circumstances tending to complete or strengthen my system. Was I to leave them unnoticed ? This would have been a kind of infanticide. Their late introduction may injure the work; but my object is not to make a book, but to develop great truths, respecting ancient Language, Religion, and the Origin of Nations.
Sometimes a quotation will be found to contain bad grammar, as for instance, in Book X. Chapter VI. Sect. 11, pp. 716, 717; but t have thought it better to leave it as I found it, than run the risk of making an author say what he did not intend, by my correction. Schoolmasters think such things of consequence. They are certainly better avoided. It is a common practice of our scholars to endeavour to tie down inquirers to the niceties which the old languages acquired when they had arrived at their highest state of perfection, prohibiting any licence, and making no allowance for their uncertain state before grammars or lexicons were written. For instance, Buddha and Buda, between which they now make some very nice distinctions; saying, one is the Planet Mercury, and the other is Wisdom, a distinction adopted evidently in later times. This is the counterpart of the Sun and the planet Mercury of the Greeks, both of which, I shall shew, meant the Sun and the Planet also. The same is the case with the Greek words Erwj and Eroj, one of which I shall be told means hero and the other Love; but which I shall prove must have been originally the same, and each must have had both meanings, before the later Greeks fixed the meaning of every word in their language. These puny criticisms are calculated for nothing but the concealment of truth, and are founded upon a total forgetfulness or ignorance of the principles or history of all languages. This will be discussed much at large in my second volume, but I have thought it right thus slightly to notice it here, in order to assuage the anger of those small critics, in the mean time.
I think it right to make an observation upon an effect of prejudice, which has operated for the concealment of truth in modern times more than almost any other cause whatever, and it is this: it constantly happens that circumstances are met with, to all appearance closely connected with the history of the Jews, and yet in places so remote from Judea, and so unconnected with it, that our inquirers have not been able to admit even the possibility of any connexion having existed between them; and, in order that they might not expose themselves to ridicule for what has appeared even to themselves to be absurd credulity, they have, without any dishonest motive, disguised and corrupted words without number. Thus we find, instead of Solomon,* Soleimon and Suleimon; instead of David, Daoud, and, as the learned Dr. Dorn calls it, Davudze; and instead of Jacob, Yucoob, when the name was clearly meant, in the original, to be what we call Jacob.
* It is true that, properly speaking, neither person ought to have been called Solomon; but, as the same name of a person was originally meant in both case, they ought both to be represented by the same letters.
In a similar manner, in Hamilton’s Gazetteer, the word which, in old maps, is properly called Adoni, is changed by him into Adavani, and Salem into Chelam. Vide Book x. Chap.vii. Sec.8, p.758.
Another evil consequence has arisen out of this union of ignorance and prejudice, which is, that many words, because they contain passages relating to matters which have been thought to be comparatively modern, have hastily been decided to be modern forgeries, and cast away. The force of this argument my reader cannot now estimate, but he will understand it as he advances in the work; on this account the question respecting the genuineness of almost every writing which has been deemed spurious deserves reconsideration. Now I would produce, as examples of this, some of the books of the Apocrypha, and, for one, the book of Jesus, the son of Sirach. Something which has caused them to be thought modern, will be found respecting this personage in my next volume. The fact, as my reader will see, is rather a proof of the genuineness of that book at least. The effect of this prejudice has been totally to prevent any approximation towards the truth. The discoveries which I have made have been effected by pursuing a course diametrically opposite. If not merely as much care had been taken to discover the truth as has been taken to conceal it, but only a fair and impartial care had been taken, the true character of the ancient histories and mythologies would have been discovered long since. This I beg my reader always to bear in mind. It is of the very first importance. When I began my inquiries, I was the dupe of this superstition. This is an example of the many things which I have stated that I found so difficult to unlearn.
For a very long time, and during the writing of the greater part of my work, I abstained from the practice of many etymologists, of exchanging one letter for another, that is, the letter of one organ for another of the same organ; such, for instance, as Pada for Vada, (p.739,) or Beda for Veda, in order that I might not give an opportunity to captious objectors to say of me, as they have said of others, that by this means I could make out what I pleased. From a thorough conviction that this has operated as a very great obstacle to the discovery of truth, I have used it rather more freely in the latter part of the work, but by no means so much as the cause of truth required of me. The practice of confining the use of a language while in its infancy to the strict rules to which it became tied when in its maturity, is perfectly absurd, and can only tend to the secreting of truth. The practice of indiscriminately changing ad libitum a letter of one organ for another of the same organ, under the sanction of a grammatical rule,—for in-stance, that B and V are permutable, cannot be justified. It cannot, however, be denied, that they are often so changed; but every case must stand upon its own merits. The circumstances attending it must be its justification.
I have no doubt that the professed Oriental scholars will nearly all unite to run down my work. The moment I name Irish literature and several other subjects, they will curl up the corner of the lip, as they have often done before. Oriental scholars are no ways different from the remainder of mankind, and it is not likely that they should receive with pleasure the rude shock which this work will give to many of their prejudices. It is not likely that they will hear with pleasure, that in all their researches into the history of antiquity they have been in the wrong track. All this is natural, and I find no fault with it—it is what I ought to expect,—it is what has happened in almost every case where an individual has attacked old prejudices. Was it not the case with Locke ? Was it not the case with Newton ? some of whose best works did not go to a second edition in less than thirty years ! If these master minds were so treated, would it not be absurd in me to hope to escape without illiberal attacks or censures ? But there is one thing of which I must complain in Orientalists,—they always appear to speak on the subjects to which they have directed their studies with authority, as if they did not admit of any doubt. But if a person will carefully attend to them, he will find, nevertheless, that scarcely any two of them agree on a single point.
I must also make another observation which I fear will give offence. Some of them, I think, prize too highly the knowledge of the ancient Oriental dead languages—they seem to think that these once acquired, all wisdom is acquired also as a necessary consequence. They seem to forget that the knowledge of these languages is of no other value than as a key to unlock the treasuries of antiquity. I wish to recall this to their recollection, and to remind them of the story of the Chameleon, that others can see as well as themselves. In making these observations, I hope they will not consider that I wish to depreciate their Oriental learning; far from it. I think it has not been so much appreciated as it deserves by their countrymen, and though I think they cannot pretend to compete in learning with the Jesuits or the priests of the propaganda, whose whole lives were spent in the acquisition of Oriental learning, and almost in nothing else; yet I think that the proficiency which great numbers of them have made in the learning of the East, in the midst of the performance of numerous arduous labours of civil or military life, is above all praise, and has laid their countrymen under the greatest obligation to them.
Before I conclude, I feel myself bound to acknowledge my obligations to my Printer, ,Mr. Smallfield, not only for his punctuality and attention, but for many orthographical and other suggestions, which have greatly improved the work. It would have been still more worthy of the reader's perusal, if, like the monies in their works, I could have called a brotherhood to my assistance, or if, like Mr. Bryant,* I could have had a learned and confidential friend to advise and assist me.
After having spent many years upon this work, I have long doubted, as I have already intimated, whether I should make it public or not. I will not deny that I feel cowardly. I flatter myself that I am esteemed by many valuable friends, some of whom I may probably lose by my publication. What shall I gain by it? Nothing.—Posthumous fame? Perhaps so. Is this worth having? Pliny and Cicero so thought. Is the work worth publishing ? I flatter myself the answer may be in the affirmative. Is it calculated to do good ? Is it calculated to reduce the power and influence of priests, and to enlighten mankind? It surely is. The discussion alone, supposing I am mistaken, must tend to elicit and to establish truth; and truth is good. Supposing that I believe the publication to be for the good of mankind, am I justified in suppressing it ? In this case, am I doing to the rest of mankind as I would wish them to do to me ? A sentiment of the great and good Epictetus is so appropriate to my situation and circumstances, that I think I cannot do better than conclude with his words, except, indeed, it be humbly to imitate their author, and to endeavour, as far as lies in me, to profit by his example.
* Vide his Preface to the third Volume of the 4th edition.
"If you resolve to make wisdom and virtue the study and business of your life, you must be sure to arm yourself beforehand against all the inconveniences and discouragements that are likely to attend this resolution. I imagine that you will meet with many scoffs and much derision; and that people will upbraid you with turning philosopher all on the sudden. But be not you affected or supercilious; only stick close to whatever you are in your judgment convinced is right and becoming: and consider this as your proper station, assigned you by God, which you must not quit on any terms. And remember, that if you persevere in goodness, those very men who derided you at first will afterward turn your admirers. But if you give way to their reproaches, and are vanquished by them, you will then render yourself doubly and most deservedly ridiculous." (Stanhope.) Yes, indeed, I am resolved I will endeavour to imitate thee, immortal slave, and will repeat the words of the modern poet,
"Steadfast and true to Virtues sacred laws,
Unmoved by vulgar censure of applause,
Let the world talk, my friends; that world, we know,
Which calls us guilty, cannot make us so.
With truth and justice support Nature’s plan,
Defend the cause, or quit the name of man."
SKELLOW GRANGE, NEAR DONCASTER
May 1, 1833
Link to Volume I - Book I.