India in Primitive Christianity - Transubstantiation
Gibbon on the rites of the Agapae at Alexandria—Professor Horace Hayman Wilson discovers similar rites in the Indian books—The S’ri Ka Chakra in the Devi Rashya—The Sacrifice of the Year-God in the Kâlî Ka Purâna—Its analogy with the Roman Catholic Eucharist—Both sacrifices make-believe—Startling points of contact with the great Mystery-play in Tibet—Description of the "Sacrificial Body of the Dead Year"—Stabbed and cut to pieces—Great scramble for the fragments—New Year as in Alexandria represented by a baby covered with flour.
Mr. Meredith, in his "Prophet of Nazareth," tries to discover the origin of the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. He traces it to the rites of the Agape mentioned by Jude. These had to be modified as time went on. Gibbon thus describes them.
"There were many who pretended to confess or to relate the ceremonies of this abhorred society. It was asserted that a new-born infant entirely covered over with flour was presented like some mystic symbol of initiation to the knife of the proselyte, who unknowingly inflicted many a secret and mortal wound on the innocent victim of his error; that as soon as the cruel deed was perpetrated the sectaries drank up the blood, greedily tore asunder the quivering members, and pledged themselves to eternal secrecy by a mutual consciousness of guilt. It was as confidently affirmed that this inhuman sacrifice was succeeded by a suitable entertainment, in which intemperance served as a provocation to brutal lust, till at the appointed moment the lights were suddenly extinguished, shame was banished, nature was forgotten, and as accident might direct the darkness of the night was polluted by the incestuous commerce of sisters and brothers, of sons and of mothers.
"But the perusal of the ancient apologies was sufficient to remove even the slightest suspicion from the mind of a candid adversary. The Christians, with the intrepid security of innocence, appeal from the voice of rumour to the equity of the magistrates. . . . Nothing, it should seem, could weaken the force or destroy the effect of so unanswerable a justification unless it were the injudicious conduct of the apologists themselves who betrayed the common cause of religion to gratify their devout hatred of the domestic enemies of the church. It was sometimes faintly insinuated and sometimes boldly asserted that the same bloody sacrifices and the same incestuous festivals which were so falsely ascribed to the orthodox believers were in reality celebrated by the Marcionites, by the Carpocrations, and by several other sects of the Gnostics. . . . Accusations of a similar kind were retorted upon the church by the schismatics who had departed from its communion, and it was confessed on all sides that the most scandalous licentiousness of manners prevailed amongst great numbers of those who affected the name of Christians."
Gibbon instances Tertullian who, when he became a Montanist, turned against his former comrades.* Mr. Meredith, enlarging on this difficult question, comes to a conclusion that a doctrine so utterly repugnant to reason as the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation must be a survival of something that once had a logic. He urges that it is a modification of something that had to be softened down. If he had had access to Indian literature, he would have found this view confirmed.
The great Orientalist, Horace Hayman Wilson, was startled to find in the S’ivan books scenes described very like those attributed to the Christian Agapæ. The tântrika rites ought properly to be called the Left-Handed Tantrikas (Vâmâcharîs) when applied to certain rites which the celebrant, as Mr. Wilson puts it, "dare not publicly avow."* In the mysteries of the Durgâ-pûjah, the great festival of nature's powers of reproduction, the Vâmâcharîs had a Bacchantic rite which they called S’rî Ka Chakra (the "Wheel of S’rî"). The upper vests of the women were taken off and put in a basket, and the males present each took one of these, and this accident indicated to him his partner in the coming debauchery. A naked female presided at the great mystery. She was Durgâ in person; and the males were called Bhairavas and the women Bhairavîs. Each in fact was supposed to be S’iva himself, the great giver of life, or his other half.
The Devî Rashya, a Hindu work which treats on the subject, settles that the women must be "a dancing girl, a female devotee, a harlot, a washerwoman or barber's wife, a female of the Brahmanical or Indra tribe, a flower-girl or a milkmaid." The members of the sect were enjoined to preserve their mystery a complete secret. Exactly at the hour of midnight the rampant orgy was to take place.
I will turn to another Indian work. It is called the Sanguinary Chapter of the Kâlî ka Purâna, and a translation of it is given by Mr. Blacquiere in Volume V. of the old "Asiatic Researches." The God S’iva tells in person how the divine favour is to be obtained, and announces that it is "though sacrifices that princes obtain bliss, heaven and victory over their enemies." His wife Kâlî is particular in her tastes, and the animals that she likes are enumerated. Thus the blood of a wild bull gives pleasure for a year; but "a bird whose throat is blue and head red and legs black with white feathers" is quite her favourite. And the Rohita fish gives her pleasure for three hundred years.
But it is when we come to warm human flesh and blood that we see her real sentiments.
"An oblation of blood which has been rendered pure by holy texts is the Ambrosia (amrita)."
One special sacrifice is described at length.
The victim must be willing and must be a person of good appearance. He must be prepared by ablutions and requisite ceremonies such as eating consecrated food the day before. He must be adorned with chaplets of flowers and besmeared with sandal wood. Death should be given with the Chandrahasa, a sort of axe. The sacrificer's face must be towards the North, and the victim's towards the East.
Then the sacrificer is called upon to worship the several deities presiding over the different parts of the victim's body. Let him worship Brahmâ in the victim's Brahmâ Randhra (a cavity in the skull). Let him worship the earth in his nose, saying Medenyaiah Nâmah, and casting a flower; in his ears Akasa, the subtle æther, saying Akasaya Nâmah. Let him worship Fire on his left cheek, Death on his throat, the Moon on his forehead, and the Serpent King in his belly.
Then let him make the following invocation:—
"O best of men! O most auspicious! O thou who art an assemblage of all the deities, and most exquisite! Bestow thy protection on me, save me thy devoted. Save my sons, my cattle and kindred, preserve the state, the ministers belonging to it and all my friends. And as death is unavoidable, part with thy life doing an act of benevolence. Bestow upon me, O most auspicious, the bliss that is obtained by the most austere devotion, by acts of charity and the performance of religious ceremonies; and at the same time, O most excellent, attain supreme bliss thyself. May thy auspices, O most auspicious, keep me secure from Râkshasas, Piśâchas, terrors, serpents, bad princes, and other evils. And death being inevitable, may they charm Bhâgavatî in the last moments by copious streams of blood spouting from the arteries of thy fleshy neck."
It is plain from all this that the victim is an impersonation of S’iva, and this fact is not concealed.
"When this has been done, O my children, the victim is even as myself, and the guardian deities of the ten quarters take care of him. Then Brahmâ and all the other deities assemble on the victim."*
Now if we compare all this with the transubstantiation rites of the Roman Catholic Church, we find a close analogy. In each a God under one aspect of himself sacrifices himself to another aspect of himself, that his faithful followers may drink that mixture of human blood and spirits which the ancients believed to be the meat and drink of immortal life.†
But it might be said that Victim, Priest and God were all united.
Also in each we find that the sacrifice was a make-believe, all the adoration and prayer being made not to the God but the victim.
It seemed to me, too, on first reading the passage from the Kâlî ka Purâna that it was a description of S’iva dying at the end of the year. A perusal of the Great Mystery Play of Tibet fully confirmed me.
In the matter of devil dancing and sorcery, Tibet takes the lead. Witness its great mystery play, which might be called the "Great Apocalypse of Sorcery." Man, according to the Lâmas, is surrounded by hordes of man-eating devils who vex him with diseases and accidents. These demons infest the air, the earth, the water, and are ever seeking to destroy him. Against this endless persecution he can himself do nothing, but the great S’iva benignly comes to his aid and places at his disposal charms, spells, talismans which are wielded by the good spirits or Lâmas; and these aids can be obtained by a proper attention to Lâmaic rites, and above all Lâmaic offerings. In the drama I am considering, millions of fiends battle together, and brief victories occur, to the good sometimes and the bad sometimes, for the effect of Karma or magical energy is transient.
"And only for a time," says Surgeon-Major Waddell, "can this relief from persecution endure for all the exorcisms of all the saints are of little avail to keep back the advancing hordes. The shrieking demons must close in upon the soul again."*
The great "Miracle-play" or "Mystery" of Tibet is called "The Sacrificial Body of the Dead Year;" and it "is acted on the last day of the year by all sects of Lâmas," as Surgeon-Major Waddell tells us.
Strictly analysed it has two parts, and two distinct plots or motifs.
(1) To set forth the importance of Tântrika rites, charms, etc.
(2) To reveal the mighty secret of the old world, immortal life through drinking the blood of S’iva, impersonating the dead year, and being sacrificed for the purpose.
These sections are plainly of different dates; indeed, if you saw the play acted for the first time, your first question would be—"What has all this to do with the dead year, and where is its body?"
The first part is a tedious and overdone battle between demons white, red, and black, who assail one another with charms and magic weapons. The plot is a confused plot telling a local story of the Lama, who assumed the disguise of a "black-hatted devil-dancer" to assassinate King Lan Darma.
Then comes the part that most interests the modern reader.
Four ghouls bring on an object wrapped in a black cloth. These ghouls are called the "Four Cemetery Ghouls." They place the object on the ground, and dance round it "with intricate steps." They raise the cloth and discover a large dough statue of a man. Organs representing the heart, lungs, liver, brain, stomach, intestines, etc., are inserted into it, and the heart and the large blood-vessels and limbs are filled with a red-coloured fluid to represent blood. Plainly in the original version of the play a real man was killed. This is confessed. Cannibalism was an ingredient in the play until the great Tibetan saint, Padma Sambhava, in the ninth century substituted a man of dough for a victim of human flesh.
Then comes a great procession of pantomime gods and devils, naked figures with the heads of tigers, serpents, horses, bulls, with "demoniac Brahmâs" and Vishnus and Indras, and even "demoniac Buddhas," for every being, divine or otherwise, in S’ivism, has two aspects like the divine chief. These are followed by the fiendesses, including the "twelve Tan-ma" under Devî. Tom-toms sound, and cymbals and large trumpets eight or ten feet long, and wooden tambourines, and a portentous and long-drawn whistling "with the fingers on the mouth."
Now comes on the chief fiend, the "Religious King-devil," with the head of a bull, holding in his right hand a dagger and in his left the pas’a or Thug-noose. This character can only be assumed by a monk of the purest morals. The Emperor of China on one occasion rewarded him with a dress of great price. There is no great secrecy in this Mystery about the identity of this Demon King. The more intelligent Lâmas admit that he is S’iva as Mahâkâla,* and that the stage of this mighty drama is S’iva's hell.
Now for the great climax. After more devil-dancing the Demon King draws a sword and stabs and hacks the figure of dough, ringing a bell all the time, assisted by his devils, who tear the figure to pieces. These are collected in a huge silver basin, shaped like a skull and carried in a procession to the Demon King, who eats a small portion and then throws the rest into the air. "They are fought for by the other demons, who throw the pieces about in a frantic manner. Then a sacrifice of apparently the same figure in papier maché is made, with blood and arak in a human skull."
Now if we put this description side by side with that of the victim in the S’ivan mystery, we find that they mutually explain one another. The dough figure in Tibet is the "Sacrificial body of the dead year:" the name explains everything. And so is the Victim described in the Kâlîka Purâna. And the scraps of flesh and the skull with blood and spirit are the immortal food scrambled for by the gods and men in the old mysteries. Tibet in the old days reeked with cannibalism. "At the new year in Tibet," says an ancient Chinese manuscript, deciphered by Dr. Bushell, "the Tibetans sacrifice men, or offer monkeys."†
"Up to the Middle Ages," says Dr. Waddell, "cannibalism is reported, and vestiges survive in the dough images, the sacrifice of which form an essential part of the Lâmaist daily worship." He mentions, too, that so great is the craze for human flesh even now that the Tibetans chew a portion of the human skin when preparing the human thigh bone for a "bone trumpet." Also we learn from him that the neighbours of the Lâmas in the Tsang Po valley are cannibals to this day.*
A minor scene in the great Miracle play must not be omitted. A figure of a child in dough is brought in, and naked skeletons something like S’iva as a skeleton, at Elora, dance round it and make believe to attack it with long spears. Then, to solemn chanting, low music and the swinging of censers, a stately procession comes through the porch of the temple and slowly descends the steps. Under a canopy borne by attendants comes a tall form in beautiful silk robes, wearing a large mask representing a benign and peaceful face. "As he advanced, men and boys dressed as abbots and acolytes of the Church of Rome," prostrated themselves before him and addressed him with intoning and pleasing chanting.† There are doubts whether this figure is Padma Sambhava, a popular local saint and indeed local Buddha, or Buddha himself. The demons flee away with loud shrieks. A more important question arises:—Was this little child the new year? The pontiff covers him with flour to render him safe against the fiends of hell. This reminds one of what was alleged of the Gnostic sects in Alexandria. They, too, covered a child with flour, at the date of the new year. But why was he sacrificed? This seems to have been his fate both in Alexandria and in Tibet. Logically, the big dough figure is the old year and the little dough figure is the new year. What is the white flour? plainly the white ash of the men and gods and systems that remorseless Mahâkâla has swept away.
Mr. Meredith urges that even the phraseology of the Roman Catholic Eucharist bears traces of a real sacrifice. The word "Sacramentum" in old days could only have meant an oath, the oath, in fact, of the early Christians not to reveal their mysteries under the pain of death. Then the word "host" meant a sacrificial victim and not a piece of bread. And what is still called the "altar" must have been a real altar up to the time when the ninth and tenth Canon of the Council of Nice imposed upon the Christian priests degradation if they sacrificed any more."* And the word "mass" from "Ita missa est" was also pagan. Certainly, the Catholic and the Tibetan "mysteries," and their modifications seem to have run on the same lines.
But how terribly important is all this to our special investigation, cannibalism and Bacchantic licentiousness forced into the Holy of Holies of the religion of the blameless, vegetarian, water-drinker S’âkya Muni.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Hinduism and Christianity, Jesus in India
- The Advaita Vedanta - Non Duality
- Introduction to Hinduism - Prakriti
- The Kapila And The Pâtañjala Samkhya Yoga
- Brahman According to Advaita and Dvaita in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
- Solving the Hindu Caste System
- Emptiness or Sunyavada in Buddhism
- Buddhism - A Discourse on Ignorance
- The Working of Maya or Illusion - A Buddhist Perspective
- Buddhism - The Middle Way or the Middle Path
- What Samsara Means in Buddhism
- The Chaos Theory and Nirvana in Buddhism
- Hinduism and Caste System
- Dealing with Chance, Fate and Acts of God
- Death and Afterlife in Hinduism
- What is Hinduism?
- Hinduism and Diversity
- Hinduism and Judaism
- Hinduism and Same-sex Marriage
- Significance of Happiness in Hinduism
- Redirect - Symbolism Hinduism
- The Meaning and Purpose of Yoga
236:* "Decline and Fall," Chapter XVI.
237:* H. H. Wilson, "Asiatic Researches," Vol. XVII.
239:* Blaquiere "Asiatic Researches," Vol. V.
239:† "Himself the Victim and Himself the Priest" is a verse of a hymn based on Heb. vii. 27.
240:* Waddell, "Buddhism in Tibet," p. 523.
242:* Waddell, "Buddhism in Tibet," p. 531.
242:† "Journal R.A. Society's New Series XII.," p. 440.
243:* Waddell, "Buddhism in Tibet," 518.
243:† Waddell, "Buddhism in Tibet," p. 526.
244:* Meredith, "The Prophet of Nazareth," p. 527.
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