Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/353

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head, of Deity, was that of a pure theism. "God is perfectly good, and in no one virtue wanting, least of all in what concerns justice and love."[1] This is the ideal of the divine nature to which the Greek intellect attained. On the other hand, Plutarch, a deeply religious man, found the divine beings worshipped "with eating of raw flesh and tearing to pieces of victims, . . . abusive language and other mad doings."[2] He found, too, in the sacred chapters stories of "the rapes, the wanderings, the hidings, and banishments, and servitudes of the gods," and his philosophy was hardly put to it to reconcile his conservative faith and his philosophical certainty. Plutarch, therefore, falls back upon a theory which leaves the temple legends and sacred chapters historically true, while it saves the moral credit of that purely spiritual Being Who "is perfectly good, and in no one virtue wanting."

Plutarch's explanation is that the gods of myth, the gods who "demanded human sacrifices," and were guilty of rapes, and suffered imprisonment and slavery, were merely dæmons. "The tales are not of the gods, but contain the sufferings and vicissitudes of dæmons," he writes.[3] In the same dialogue a speaker avers that "to take those dæmons, . . . and impute to them calamities endured, wanderings imposed by Heaven, and finally to suppose in their case deaths, as if they were mere men, seems to me too bold and uncivilised a theory."

  1. De Cess. Orac., xxiv. (Mr. C. W. King's translation is quoted).
  2. Ibid., xiv., xv.
  3. Ibid., xv.