Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/805

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THE MIGRATION OF SYMBOLS.

tive to symbols, that form is not all. It is the intention that makes the symbol, and by this symbolism is dependent upon psychology, at the same time that its history deserves a place by itself in the general picture of the development of human civilization. A word is to be said from this point of view concerning other migrations; those in which a symbol passes, no longer from one country to another, but, upon the same soil, from one religion to the one that succeeds it. In the most frequent case, it is popular pressure that introduces into the new civilization symbols consecrated by long veneration. Sometimes the innovators themselves use the advantages offered by symbolism to disguise the novelty of their doctrine under ancient forms, and, when necessary, to transform into allies emblems or traditions which they are not able to destroy by a direct attack.. Thus Constantino chose as his standard the Labarum, which could be claimed at once by the worship of Christ and by that of the sun. The same policy was attributed to the first king of Norway. According to an old song of the Shetland Islands, Hakon Adalsteinfostri, compelled to drink to Odin at an official banquet, drew the sign of the cross on his cup, and, when his guests reproached him for it, told them that it was the sign of the hammer of Thor. We know, in fact, that in German and Scandinavian countries the cross of Christ was more than once disguised under the form of a two-headed hammer, and that in more than one inscription in Egypt it put on the appearance of the key of life.

Such symbolical adaptations have been especially frequent in Buddhism, which has never been restrained from adopting the symbols and even the rites of anterior or neighboring religions. In some of its sanctuaries it has gone so far as to carve the ceremonies of the worship which natives of India gave to the sun, fire, and serpents, and connect such rites with its own traditions. The solar wheel thus became the wheel of the law; the sacred tree represented the tree of knowledge under which Sakya-Muni attained perfect illumination; the serpent Naza was transformed into a guardian of the footprints of Vishnu, which were afterward attributed to Buddha. Some years ago the remains of a Buddhist sanctuary were discovered at Bharut, in which the bas-reliefs represented emblems and religious scenes, accompanied by inscribed legends. The news gave great joy to the Anglo-Indian archaeologists. They expected to be given interpretations of Buddhist rites and symbols, formulated by the Buddhists themselves one or two centuries before the Christian era. But a closer examination showed that the shrine was only an ancient temple of the sun, which had been taken possession of by the Buddhists. They were satisfied to put over the pictures of solar worship inscriptions connecting them with their own faith.