Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/803

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of their time. Of a higher order of ideas was the symbol adopted by the Brahmanists of the New-Dispensation—the BrahmoSomaj—who presumed to fuse all the existing sects of India into a new religion, founded exclusively on conscience and reason. The pediments of their temples bear a design in which the mystic syllable of the Brahmans, Aum, is interlaced with the Mussulman crescent, the Sivaite trident, and the Christian cross. It also frequently happens that this confusion of symbols is not at all systematic. By virtue of reproducing certain forms, the eye and the hand seem to be assimilated to them to such a degree that they are not able to rid themselves of the obsession when they attack new themes. There is a symbol of this kind, engraved on Phoenician gems or painted on Cypriote vases, which recalls the winged disk of Asia, the sacred tree of the Assyrians, and some of the Greek thunderbolts. One can not turn the leaves of the description of the Buddhist bas-reliefs of Boro Boudour, in the island of Java, published under the direction of the Dutch Government, without being struck, at almost every page of the Atlas, by the appearance of some curious figure which presents at once reminiscences of the Hindoo lotus, the Assyrian horns, the Greek thunderbolt, the Buddhist fig-tree, and the Egyptian globe with the Uræus. Such heteroclite mixtures have, moreover, been customary in Oriental symbolism. Sir George Birdwood, an author among the best versed in the industrial arts of modern India, has recently shown that in the Hindoo art, in which all the details have a symbolical bearing, certain decorative themes are combined and exchanged with the disorder of a dream, without regard to the distinction of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, or of the organic and inorganic worlds.

In most of the examples that I have cited it is easy to discover by what ways the symbol was transmitted from one people to another. Under this relation the migration of symbols rises directly from what may be named the history of commercial relations. Whatever may be the resemblance of form and signification between two symbolical figures, found among peoples of distinct origin, it is proper, before asserting relationship, to determine the probability, or at least the possibility, of international relations that may have served as a vehicle for them. This point fixed, it remains to be determined which has been the borrower and which the lender. Thus, why was it not the Hindoos who communicated the thunderbolt to Mesopotamia, the Phœnicians who received the caduceus from Greece? Here our advantages over preceding generations appear. There was a time when we might indistinctly place in India the origin of the gods, myths, and symbols that are scattered all over the world; another when it would have had a bad air not to give Greece credit for