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CHAPTER XX
TRINITY MYTHS

"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts."

In very old times, wise men devised a special method for counteracting the dangers of specialization, a standard test by which a student could judge whether his mode of recuperation was suited to the nature of his special dangers. Their method rested on a perception of the fact that man is so organized as to perceive the Divine in three principal modes:—

1. By the study of Nature, of the work of Creation, the most interesting part of which, to early peoples, was the observation of the Starry Heavens. God, as Creator, was called by Indians Brahma, by Semitic peoples Elohim, by Christians God the Father.

2. God is revealed as a Race-Preserver; in the dividing of the animal Creation by lines across which union is infertile, and by other lines across which union is unhealthy; and also, and chiefly, in the singular differences introduced into the human body by diversities of culture, of climate, and of circumstance; and in the danger of too sudden interruptions of ancestral habit. God as Race-Preserver was called by the Indians Vishnu; and in each country by some name special to itself. The idea of the Race Preserver is embodied in the name God of Israël (and perhaps also in Jehovah; said by some to be the tribal God of the pre-Mosaic Hebrews).

3. Persons of sensitive temperament and introspective habits recognize the fact of an actual contact between their souls and the Divine, of a personal inspiration of truth which comes to them in some manner not explicable by reference either to impressions on the senses or to intellectual conclusions. And, as any deep sorrow or strong affection increases the capacity for receiving this poetic inspiration, and as it is often increased also by severe physical suffering, God, as inspirer, was thought of as The Purifier by the Fire of Love and Pain; called by the Indians Siva. This idea is represented by the Jewish word Adonai, and by the "Holy Spirit" of our churches.

The Philosophers perceived that terrible dangers were caused by the divided and over-specialized study of Divine action. The worshippers of Brahma, the Creator, lapse into a cold and immoral contemplation of Nature. Nature contains not only beauty, but also what in man would be cruelties and lust; and those who think of God only as Creator, too often become indifferent to moral order in human life. Moreover, as Nature has many aspects, each branch of Science tends to represent the Creator differently. To the imagination of the mere Geometrician, the infinite means infinite space; to the student of meteoric phenomena, the infinite is represented by mere force; to the arithmetician by mere number. To those of old who specially valued physical strength, God was a Bull; to those who specially valued cunning, a Serpent.

On the other hand, Vishnu, the Race-Preserver, comes to be thought of too much as the preserver of one's own tribe. Each tribe comes to have its own preserver, who fights against the preservers of other tribes. As patriotism degenerates into tyranny over other nations, so religious gratitude for the preservation of one's own race degenerates into contempt for the divine preservers of other races.

But the worst transformation is that which falls on the idea of the inspirer who teaches by the fire of love. Purification by fire degenerates into destruction by fire. The inspirer by love and pain becomes Siva the Destroyer, and then Moloch, who claims as his offering the burning alive of innocent babies. It is found, too, that pain is not the only condition under which the faculty for receiving poetic inspiration is momentarily increased; pleasure also heightens it. Inspiration of a certain sort can be got up by wine; Siva the Inspirer is thought of as Bacchus the wine-god, who is gratified by drunken orgies. The Adonai-idea degenerates into Adonis, the god of beauty of form, and into Aphrodite, the goddess of grace; finally into Cupid, the god of light love-fancies, and Venus the goddess of vicious indulgence.

And the worst thing about all these horrible fables was that they embodied a certain truth; and the attempt to disprove them was futile. Gentile philosophers were driven to distraction by the impossibility of making men disbelieve things which, though so pernicious, were somehow true to human experience.

Down into all this ghastly tangle of great truths and hideous faslehoods came the mighty reformers who organised the Trinity-doctrine. After an exhaustive and masterly study of the process by which good degenerates into evil, they discovered that falsehood comes by the dividedness of truth, and that the unification of all aspects of deity would infallibly purify each. It is hardly too bold a metaphor, if we say that, by the law of the Trinity, the various aspects of deity are to be prevented from slipping down-hill in various directions, by firmly linking them together at the top. The Hebrew Scriptures contain a record of canons, which, if observed, would set philosophy free to develop indefinitely, by forever preventing it from degenerating into debauch or folly.

These canons are binding as long as Judaism or Humanity lasts, being founded on the nature of the human mind. Jesus, when accused of disregarding the law of Moses (because he had taken upon himself to neglect a few minutiae of the technical rules, which he considered interfered with his usefulness), truly replied that heaven and earth must pass away before one jot or tittle of the law should fail.

By the Law of Israël, each aspect or facet of the God-idea is to be clearly presented in its purity.

1. All Creative energies are summed up in the one word Elohim. There is to be no God of Light distinct from the God of darkness; no devil who causes evil contrasted with the deity who gives good; no bull-god or serpent-god, no god of thunder, or god of wind; all natural science is one, and is the worship of Elohim.

2. Homage is to be paid to the Race- Preserver, not by prejudices against other virtuous and pious tribes, but by abstaining, in His honour, from unnatural mixtures and infertile unions. While He is to be worshipped by Jews as the " God of Israël," they are to remember that He cares equally for all the tribes of the earth. The preservation of law and order is not to be a mere cunning device for securing the supremacy of one's own tribe, but a perpetual worship of Jehovah, the God of all the races.

3. But especially is danger from divided and partial worships to be avoided in the direction of the search after inspiration. No devices are to be resorted to, to heighten the sensation of inspiration. Jews are to put themselves en rapport with the Inspirer, only so far as a holy life will attain that end. Not passion or intoxication, but solemnity and abstinence, are to characterize their attempts to approach personally to Adonai. Sacrifices are to be made to Him by fire, in his character of Purifier by Fire; but none of these exhibit any other connection with pain or death than is shown by learning to kill animals for food in the least hardening and most merciful manner possible. Jews are to inflict no needless suffering, either on themselves or on other creatures, for their own excitement or amusement. Adonai is neither Moloch, the pain-giver, nor Adonis, the lust-exciter; but the Inspirer who purifies by love.

But pure and holy as are each of these aspects of deity in the Mosaic conception, still no race could be trusted to preserve them in their purity, unless they were seen to be different aspects of one eternal fact. Hear, O Israël, the deliverer from bondage is One. The same idea is expressed in a lovely old lullaby hymn, in which, five times over, the name Saviour is given to the grouping of the three attributes, "Elohim," "Adonai," and "King" (or Orderer, or Organizer). By some Christian theologians, strange to say, not only are the three aspects of the God-idea made into three individuals,[1] three real personalities, but one of these personalities alone is considered to be the Saviour; and that one was manifested in human shape to avert the wrath of another.

Nothing, however, could be clearer than that each of the three principal facets of the God-idea is distinctly traceable in the Hebrew Scriptures; and Jewish theologians might gracefully make the admission that, in that respect, Christians have seen something in their sacred books which most of themselves have missed. But, though individual rabbis may have failed to detect the use made in the Pentateuch of the old Trinity-Myth, the Synagogue ritual still enshrines it. Not only is the triple Kadosh a recognition of the threefoldness of religious emotion; but each aspect of the God-idea receives its special and appropriate greeting. It would be impossible to convey to Jews, accustomed from infancy to their worship, any notion of the impression made on a Christian visitor by the difference in the tone of the three strains interwoven in it:—The homage of astronomers to the Creator in the greetings at New Year and new Moon; the homage to the Race-Preserver, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the homage to the Eternal Reign of Love the Inspirer, in the oft-recurring anthem: "Adonai reigneth, Adonai hath reigned, Adonai shall reign for ever and ever."

That the startling effect of these three elements of Jewish worship, so contrasted and yet so exquisitely blended, should have driven Christian theologians out of their senses, and into mad raptures of delight and wonder, is intelligible. That they should, in consequence, have written much caressing rhapsody, more poetic than accurate, about the Jewish Scriptures, is pardonable; there are occasions on which it is not to one's credit to be able to keep quite prosaically sane; and one's first contact with the Hebrew religion is one of those occasions. But the creed of Israël is very evidently a caution to avoid the horrible dangers into which the heathen fell by dividing the different facets of divine influence; and the statement that Moses meant Jews to worship more than one Person, passes the legitimate limits of even poetic license.

The true use of the Trinity-doctrine is as a standard whereby to judge whether we are really getting for our own minds the vitalizing influence of the Unity-doctrine. Whatever facet of the God-idea is presented to us by our studies, we should be careful to remember the other aspects when we are preparing for repose. We should remember the essential Unity between the three facets; a Unity such that we cannot keep our minds in a condition to do justice to our own special subject, unless we pay reverence to all three aspects of the Divine when we are preparing ourselves for rest. In this Trinity none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another; but the whole three are co-eternal and co-equal; and he that will be safe must think after this model. So says that marvellous old Credo, in which, in a degene- rate age, well-meaning idolaters enshrined the remnants of an older Philosophy which seemed about to die out.

The Law of Moses is holy as of old, and whoever speaks of it should do so with reverence. Those who disregard it, do just as truly lapse into idolatry as men did three thousand years ago. The mere mathematician conceives of a Space or a Number ; his absorption in the contemplation of which deadens his interest in other forms of truth. The man who deifies natural science often sinks into a mere vivisectionist, who inflicts torture at random, for the gratification of an idle freak of curiosity.

Adonai has his dangers too. Spiritualism and aestheticism each has its own vicious modes of heightening the sense of inspiration. The Catholic worship of Jesus and Mary, by nuns and monks respectively, often degenerates into the worship of Adonis and Aphrodite, under other names; and has sometimes all the more distracting effect on the imagination, for being, nowadays, prevented by conventual regulations from exhaling itself in physical scandals; and the Moloch-form of fire-worship still exists in the belief in an everlasting and non-purifying hell.

As for the second facet or division of the God-idea, Vishnu, how much better would have been the influence of Christian Missionaries had they not sanctioned the heathenish notion that God has given no truth except to European races! They are as essentially worshippers of a tribal God as the savages whom they would convert.

Nor are Jews guiltless of this form of idolatry. No Bismarck or Stoecker could stir up epidemics of anti-Semitism, were the Jews, who fidget over little details of rule, equally true to the essential canons of their faith! The way in which too many Jews trust to "Jehovah" to protect them from the natural consequence of their own actions, is as idolatrous and heathenish as is the trust of a Catholic peasant that his own special saint will keep his family in health, while he neglects common precautions of hygiene and morality. The "God of Israël" which many Jews worship is essentially an eidolon or image of character evolved within the Jewish mind. Some entirely ignore that Jehovah is race-preserver of other races, and that therefore all knowledge of hygienic rules discovered by Gentiles should form part of the religion of Jews. They neglect to worship God as Elohim or Creator, therefore they despise the marvellous new knowledge which He is pouring out, about the effect of the lower creatures on man, and of human beings on each other. And when trouble comes to them, in consequence of such ignorance, if any preacher speak to them of God as Adonai, the purifier by suffering, the inspirer by love, they turn away either in anger or in contempt. Thus they make of themselves what in medical language is called a "foreign body" in the general commonwealth; and their private virtues, and family piety, and loyalty to the tribal God of Israel are unavailing to prevent their being felt to be a danger to the State.

Idolatry, therefore, is not at an end in Europe, among either Jews or Gentiles. Nor is the need for seeking the cure of social ills in the worship of the great Unity less than it was when Israël came out of Egypt. If we were not idolaters, the educationists who are imposing their cruel laws on all types of children alike, would remember that the Law-maker is also a Race-Preserver, and forbids a too rapid change of ancestral habits; the Salvation Army would believe that salvation means, not hysteric tension on one aspect of deity, but reverence for all aspects of that divine Creator, whose laws include a law of reaction after violent nervous action, and a law of hereditary recoil of posterity from the exaggerations of a preceding generation; sensitive and "mediumistic" women would be trained in the knowledge of the orderly Elohim revealed by Science; our luxurious aesthetes who worship Adonis, the Art-Inspirer, will remember that the true Adonai will sooner or later purify all by the fire of pain; thus force would be stored up for the solution of our practical problems, which now is being wasted in the struggle to gain that which cannot satisfy. The wisdom Who came out of Egypt with Moses still cries to us, though few hear her voice: "Hear, O Israël, and hear, O Man; divided Gods make us slaves; the Deliverer from Bondage is Unity."

And every man, when he is about to prepare for rest by worshipping The Inconceivable Unity, should remember that the true God is not a mere reflection of his own personal predilections, but is equally Holy in each of the three aspects under which He reveals Himself to Humanity.

Another form of the Trinity-doctrine is the time-division, past, present, and future. This time-trinity is just touched on in both Hebrew and Christian ritual. Its essence is preserved in the myth of the three Fates, called in the Odin-Legends Urda, Verdendi, and Skelda; or Was, Is-Becoming, and Shall-Be. The student who takes an equal interest in the History of the Past, the development of the Present, and the destinies of the Future, keeps his mind balanced. If any one of them be neglected, the fates become furies who avenge; or Vampires who suck away the student's life-blood and make of him an evil fate to other men. If the balance is duly kept by remembering all three equally in religious meditation, the three Fates become three Graces.

This dual aspect of the three Fates is made more intelligible by reference to the dual form of the Legend of the Birds who feed Seers with wisdom. These birds are now doves, now ravens. They inspire peaceful doctrines, or prompt to deeds of darkness and cruelty, according as the Prophet does, or does not, unify their several inspirations. The true Prophet is he to whose head both birds come.

  1. Persona means a mask, not an individual.