The Necessity of Atheism (Brooks)/Chapter III
The prophet or seer is a man of strong imaginative powers, which have not been calmed by education. The ideas which occur to his mind often present themselves to his eyes and ears in corresponding sights and sounds. . . . Prophets have existed in all countries and at all times; but the gift becomes rare in the same proportion as people learn to read and write. Winwood Reade.
RELIGIOUS apologists are forever reminding us that we must interpret both the lives and the works of their prophets and recorders in the spirit and meaning of the ages in which they lived. To this I agree; but the apologists have so mutilated the meaning of the words of the seers and built about them such a mass of nonsense, myth, and fable that it becomes nearly impossible after the lapse of centuries to differentiate the actual man from the fabled man. But there are certain facts that do come down to us recorded by disinterested observers from which can be derived finally some conception of their mode of life, and the content and significance of their teachings.
Although time causes great changes in customs and manners, it only effects a negligible variation in the vast majority of diseases which affect the body and mind of man. We know from the examination of the skeletal remains of prehistoric man that the diseases of the bone of thousands of years ago were similar in their manifestations to those same diseases of bone of today. From the writings of the early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman physicians we identify diseases by their symptoms, and recognize that the symptoms of these diseases have not changed throughout the ages. Therefore, with the knowledge of the signs and symptoms of various diseases which we have today, we can safely assert that if an ancient complained of the same group of signs and symptoms (which is now termed a "disease complex"), he was suffering from the same disease which we can identify in modern man.
What applies to physical disease is just as applicable to mental disease. In speaking of mental disease, it is important for the layman to keep in mind a few fundamental principles held by the physician. The physician in speaking of mental disease means a more or less permanent departure from the normal or usual way of thinking, acting, or feeling. In the examination of a patient with mental disease the physician looks for delusions, illusions, and hallucinations.
A delusion is a false belief, concerning which the individual who holds it is unable to admit evidence such as would be admitted by ordinary individuals.
An illusion is a deception of the senses, a misinterpretation of sensory impressions; the normal person can be convinced of this deception. The mirage, for example, is an optical illusion which has a starting point in an external stimulus.
A hallucination is a deception of any of the five senses, in which there is no starting point but it is fabricated in a disordered mind. Illustrations of hallucinations are the hearing of voices when none are present, smelling of odors, the seeing of visions in a vacuum.
With the elementary understanding of fundamental symptoms of mental diseases as a point of departure, let us consider the cases of Mohammed, Jesus, and Moses, three of the most influential prophets in the history of civilization.
Of the three, Mohammed should be considered before the others for- several reasons. First, there is no question regarding the actual existence of Mohammed. We know that he was born at Mecca about 571 A.D. and died at Medina on June 8th, 632 A.D. From the facts of his life and the religion which he founded we are able to see the manner in which legend and superstition were superimposed on its original simple form. The historical records of his life and teachings are easier of access since he is nearer our time than the other two prophets, and we can get a better understanding of his character.
It was Gibbon who said, "It may be expected that I should balance his faults and his virtues, that I should decide whether the title of enthusiast or impostor more properly belongs to that extraordinary man. ... At the distance of twelve centuries, I darkly contemplate his shade through a cloud of incense."
In attempting to peer through this cloud of religious incense we find the following facts: In the city of Mecca, probably in August, in the year 571, Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah, was born. There seems little doubt that he was descended from those lofty Koreish, whose opposition, which at first nearly succeeded in holding his name in perpetual oblivion, eventually caused him to emerge into the light of deathless fame.
His birth was surrounded by all manner of signs and omens, we are told. The labor of his mother, Amina, was entirely painless, earthquakes loosed the bases of mountains and caused great bodies of water, whose names were unfortunately not specified, to wither away or overflow; the sacred fire of Zoroaster which, under the jealous care of the Magi, had spouted ceaseless flames for nearly a thousand years, was extinguished. All the idols in the world except the Kaaba tumbled to earth. Immediately after the babe was born an ethereal light dazzled the surrounding territory, and, on the very moment when his eyes were first opened, he lifted them to heaven and exclaimed: "God is great! There is no God but Allah and I am his Prophet! " All these poetic fancies have been appropriately denounced by Christian scribes, who have claimed that nature would never have dignified the birth of a pagan like Mohammed with such marvelous prodigies as undoubtedly attended the advent of Christ.
However, Mohammed was born shortly after the death of his father. At the age of six his mother died also, and he spent the first ten years among the Bedouins under the care of a foster-mother named Halima. At the age of four it was noticed that the child had signs of convulsive seizures which later commentators thought were of an epileptic nature. He was brought up under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, and his early manhood was spent in caring for the flock and in attending caravan expeditions.
When the prophet was twenty-five years old, his uncle secured for him a position with a caravan owned by a wealthy widow, Khadija. Thanks to Mohammed's keen business sense the caravan was highly successful, and he was induced to personally report his success to Khadija. That lady, a wealthy widow of forty years, and the mother of three children, was highly pleased at Mohammed's story. As she listened to the proof of his business ability and fondly scanned his large, nobly formed head, his curling coal-black hair, his piercing eyes, and his comely form, it naturally occurred to her that this vigorous and handsome young fellow would make an excellent successor to her deceased husband. She had her way and they were married. During the next fifteen years Mohammed led a tranquil life. His future was provided for and he had plenty of leisure to occupy himself as he chose. In these years Mohammed and his wife continued to be conventional worshipers of idols, who nightly performed rites in honor of various gods and goddesses, among whom were Allah and his female consoler Al-Lat. And so, by the year 610, Mohammed, at the age of forty, was nothing more than a respectable but unknown tradesman who had experienced no extraordinary crises, whose few existing utterances were dull and insipid, and whose life seemed destined to remain as insignificant and unsung as any other Arab's.
At this time, he began to retire for days at a time to a cave in the foothills of Mount Hira, a hill several miles north of Mecca. Meanwhile his business languished. As the months passed, he still continued to act in the same incomprehensible manner; it was noticed that little by little certain members of his immediate family attended him to his refuge or gathered with him in some one of their houses. This continued for several years until, it was rumored that Mohammed, the camel driver, was confidently claiming the honor of having made a great discovery; namely that "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet."
By what process of thought had Mohammed come to exalt Allah not merely above all Arabian gods, but above the gods of all times? Furthermore, why was he so certain of his own intimate association with Allah? We can understand this if we consider Mohammed in the light of a victim of mental disease.
One account informs us that as Mohammed was wandering near the cave at Mount Hira, "an angel from the sky cried to him, 'O Mohammed, I am Gabriel!'" He was terrified and hurried home to impart his experience to his wife.
"I see a light," he said to his wife, "and I hear a sound. I fear that I am possessed." This idea was most distressing to a pious man. He became pale, haggard; he wandered about on the hill near Mecca crying for help to God. More than once he drew near the edge of the cliff and was tempted to hurl himself down, and so put an end to his misery at once. He lived much in the open air, gazing on the stars, watching the dry ground grow green beneath the gentle rain. He pondered also on the religious legends of the Jews, which he had heard related on his journeys; and .as he looked and thought, the darkness was dispelled, the clouds disappeared, and the vision of God in solitary grandeur rose within his mind, and there came upon him an impulse to speak of God. There came upon him a belief that he was a messenger of God sent on earth to restore the religion of Abraham, which the pagan Arabs had polluted with idolatry, the Jews in corrupting their holy books. At the same time he heard a Voice, and sometimes he felt a noise in his ears like the tinkling of bells or a low deep hum, as if bees were swarming round his head.
At this period of his life the chapters of the Koran were delivered in throes of pain. The paroxysms were preceded by depression of spirit, his face became clouded, his extremities turned cold, he shook like a man in an ague, and he called for coverings. His face assumed an expression horrible to see, the vein between his eyebrows became distended, his eyes were fixed, his head moved to and fro, as if he was conversing, and then he gave forth the oracle or Sura.
The hitherto mentally and emotionally normal trader, husband, and father was thus suddenly swept off his feet and carried irresistibly away on a mighty tide. His perturbed spirit now soared to the heights of Heaven, now plunged into the chasms of hell. Moments of ethereal bliss would be followed by periods of profoundest melancholy.
"It is related that the Angel Gabriel, who thus far had labored only in the field of Christian endeavor, was chosen by Allah as bearer of the divine revelation to Mohammed. One day, while the trader-poet was wrestling with his doubts among the foothills of Mount Hira, he saw a wondrous apparition floating downward on celestial wings. 'Thou art God's Prophet, and I am Gabriel,' announced the awe-inspiring guest before he departed to receive the blessing of Allah for having so successfully executed the heavenly command. Gabriel was a very valuable ambassador, for through the to-and-fro journeying of this indefatigable messenger Allah was able to remain at ease in heaven, thus keeping up the appearance of intangible, majestic remoteness so necessary for dignified gods. And thus Mohammed came into his own. From that moment Mohammed looked upon himself as Allah's vice regent, through whom Allah's incontestable decrees were to be given to man." (Mohammed — R. F. Dibble.) Mohammed's every doubt had now vanished, his soul was completely at ease, and from his lips there burst the wildly exultant chant, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet."
The obliging Gabriel, he said, had borne him on a winged steed over Medina to the Temple of Jerusalem, and from there he continued his celestial journey until he was carried completely out of this world to those ethereal realms of bliss where the Seven Heavens are. Up and up he flew, while he carefully noted the order of precedence of those prophets, whose model he had proclaimed himself to be. Jesus and John were in the second or third — he was not quite sure which — Moses was in the sixth, while Abraham alone had the supreme distinction of residing in the Seventh Heaven. There, at the apex of indescribable glory, Mohammed had entered the awful presence of his Maker, Who, after some chit-chat, charged him to see that all Moslems should hereafter prostrate themselves in prayer toward the Temple of Solomon five times a day. The truth of this narrative rests upon two solid facts: from that day to this, all devout Moslems have continued to bow themselves five times daily in prayer, and sceptics may still see, upon the rock where stands the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem, the identical print of the Prophet's foot where he leaped upon the Heavenly Charger.
His thoughts, whether conceived in a white heat of frenzy, or with deliberate coolness and sly calculations for the main chance, were probably not written down in any definite manner during his lifetime. It is not even certain whether he could read or write. He delighted in the appellation, "The Illiterate Prophet," possibly on account of his humility and possibly because he knew that inspired ignorance had been the indisputable prerogative of all successful prophets in the past. Indeed, the very fact that he was unlearned was rightly supposed to increase the miraculous nature of his revelations. As he tossed the divine emanations from his lips, they were sometimes recorded by hireling scribes upon palm leaves, leather, stones, the shoulder blades or ribs of camels and goats. But often they were not immediately written down at all; the Prophet would go around spouting forth his utterances to his followers, who, trained from infancy to memorize verses and songs of every sort with infallible precision, would piously commit them to memory. Such is the Koran, and through its instrumentality, Allah the Wise, The Only Wise, revealed his immutable decrees: to the good, the rewards of a Paradise that utterly beggared the Christian Heaven; to the bad, the punishments of a Hell that contained an infinity of such refined tortures of heat, and even of cold as neither the most imaginatively gifted Jew or Christian had yet conceived.
Reinach aptly states, "It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries and that millions of men are still wasting time in absorbing it." Over one hundred and sixty million are adherents of the Koran.
In an objective analysis, excluding the emotional factors of religious bias, Mohammed would as unquestionably be considered a victim of mental disturbances, as an individual living in our own day and manifestng the same symptoms.
Mohammed was the subject of illusions, hallucinations, and delusions. He had suicidal tendencies, and he had alternating periods of exhilaration and depression. To simply assert that he was an epileptic does not explain these symptoms. For epileptics cannot throw a fit at will. However, we know that ten per cent of epileptics develop mental diseases, no particular psychosis but a loss of mental and moral sense.
There are two types of individuals who can produce seizures such as Mohammed was wont to evoke at will. One type is the hysterical, and the other is that degraded individual who for the sake of collecting alms will place a piece of soap in his mouth, enter a crowded street, fall to the ground, and proceed to foam at the mouth and twist and contort himself as an epileptic does. That is the charlatan, the faker, and that brings us to the second aspect of his (Mohammed's) character.
"Outside of Arabia, Paganism was in general disrepute. The dissolute and declining Romans were cracking lewd jokes in the very faces of their gods, the myriad followers of Confucius, Buddha and Zoroaster were, either too remote or too helpless to matter in one way or another. Talmudic Judaism and Oriental Christianity despised idolatry and worshipped the same Jehovah, even though, they disputed with each other, and indeed, among themselves, concerning the various attributes, amorous pursuits, and lineal descendants of the Godhead. Now, to one who chose to regard himself as a prophet, Monotheism had distinct advantages over Polytheism." (Mohammed — R. F. Dibble.)
In the first place, it was rather. confusing to attempt to obey the behests of conflicting deities ; in the second place, the different prophets of Jehovah in Judaism and Christendom had, so far as Mohammed knew, been uniformly successful, for he was familiar with the glorious history of Abraham, Moses, and David, and he always held to the perverse conception that Jesus ,was not crucified. However deep in the dumps prophets may have been on occasion, they have invariably believed one thing: victory for their particular cause would inevitably come. Neither an unbroken series of worldly failures nor the chastisement of his god have ever shaken the faith of a first-class prophet in himself or, as he would doubtless prefer to say, in his Divinity. Arabia, broken, unorganized, inglorious, idolistic Arabia, obviously lacked one Supreme Being whose prerogative was greater than all other Supreme Beings, and that Being, in turn, needed a messenger to exploit His supremacy. The messengers who had served Jehovah had certainly prospered well; but Jehovah Himself appeared to be on the decline. His Unity was steadily disintegrating into a paradoxical Trinity. Why, therefore, not give Allah, the leading icon in Arabia, an opportunity? Such considerations quite probably never entered the head of Mohammed with any definiteness; yet his behavior for the rest of his days seems to indicate that these, or similar conceptions, were subconsciously egging him on.
Of certain facts, moreover, he was definitely aware. He may have had little or no formal education, but his memory was retentive and capacious, and his caravan journeys, together with the scores of conversations he had held at the yearly fairs, as well as at Mecca, with many cultivated strangers, had packed his mind with a mass of highly valuable matter. In these ways he had learned both the strength and the weakness of the Jews and Christians; their fanatical enthusiasm and despairs; their spasmodic attempts to proselytize as well as the widespread defection from their faiths. "Since his conception of religion was largely personal, for he looked upon Moses, Jesus, and the rest of the prophets as merely capable men who had founded and promulgated religions; and since Arabia had no pre-eminent ruler, why should he not seize the reins of power and carry on the great tradition of prophethood? What a magnificent opportunity beckoned, and how fortunate that he had been the first to recognize the call! By keeping only what was best of the Arabic faith, the Kaaba and the Black Stone, and by a judicious selection of the most feasible ideas which lay imbedded in Jewish and Christian precepts, he might establish a code that would supersede all others, and then might dictate to all Arabs alike. What prophets had done, he would also do and do. better." (Mohammed R. F. Dibble.)
Such are the thoughts of a charlatan and a demagogue. If Mohammed actually had such ideas, we can never know; but a study of his further actions and conquests surely shows that he must have had something of the same trend of thought in mind.
His "fits" before the oncoming of a new Sura have been mentioned. Eventually, he so perfected his technique that he could throw a cataleptic fit and produce a message without any previous preparation. He would drum up a crowd with his ludicrous snortings and puffings until the resounding cry, "Inspiration hath descended on the Prophet!" assured him that he had a sufficiently large audience to warrant the out-spurting of a new Sura. While in a room that was obviously empty, he declared that all seats were occupied by angels; he cultivated suave and benign expression; he flattered and astounded his followers by telling them facts which he had presumably acquired through private information; he took the most painstaking care of his person, painting his eyes and perfuming his entire body daily, and wearing his hair long. Ayesha, one of the Prophet's wives, remarked that the Prophet loved three things: women, scent and food, and that he had his heart's content of the first two, but not of the last. In fact, Mohammed, himself, argued that these two innocuous diversions intensified the ecstasy of his prayers. In the Koran's description of heaven so much emphasis was put on food that a jolly Jew objected on the grounds that such continual feasting must of necessity be followed by a purgation. The Prophet, however, swore that it would not even be necessary to blow the nose in Paradise, since all bodily impurities would be carried off by a perspiration "as odoriferous as musk."
When his wife Khadija was dying he comforted her with the assurance that she, together with three other well-known women, the Virgin Mary, Potiphar's wife, and "Kulthum," Moses' sister, would occupy his chamber in Paradise.
On Mohammed's escape to Medina, a long series of holy wars began which, like all holy wars, were characterized by extreme brutality. The Koran of the period contains such pacific doctrines as these: "The sword is the key of Heaven and Hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer; whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven. At the day of Judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim . . . God loveth not the Transgressors; kill them wheresoever ye find them."
Mohammed, no less than many other religiously-minded emperors and tsars, appears to have conducted himself in battle according to the wise principle that a head without a halo is infinitely more desirable than a halo without a head. Yet he was profoundly convinced that the ultimate victory of Islam depended upon the sword. The Koran of this period breathes defiance against the enemies of Islam on almost every page. Its profuse maledictions, once confined to the evildoers of Mecca, now include all unbelievers everywhere. When Mohammed once had captured a fortress inhabited by a tribe of Jews, his judgment was, "The men shall be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, and the spoil divided amongst the army." Then, trenches were dug, some seven hundred men were marched out, forced to seat themselves in rows along the top of the trenches, beheaded, and then tumbled into a long gaping grave. Meanwhile, the Prophet looked on until, tiring of the monotonous spectacle, he departed to amuse himself with a Jewess whose husband had just perished.
He continued these conquests until, at his death, in 632, he was the master of nearly all Arabia and revered almost as a god. Yet, when Omar, his first lieutenant, captured Jerusalem in 636, he ensured the conquered Jews and Christians free exercise of their religion, and the security of their persons and their goods. But when the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, they massacred all the Mohammedans, and burnt the Jews alive. It is estimated that 70,000 persons were put to death in less than a week to 'attest the superior morality of the Christian faith.
The successors of Mohammed, the Caliphs, in less than a century conquered Syria, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Turkestan, Spain, Northern Africa, Sicily, and Southern France. Today, 160,000,000 are followers of Mohammed, a man who began as a humble religious leader, and ended as an adroit politician and powerful general; a man who hid during battles, who often broke faith with friend and foe alike, a charlatan and demagogue of general intellectual incompetency, and a victim of mental disease.
When we come to consider the life of Jesus, a far different and more intricate problem is met with. None but the most illogical and purposely ignorant of religious apologists will admit that the life of Jesus has been misrepresented by his followers to suit their particular aims. Had the followers of the moralist Epictetus or the Rabbi Hillel written lives of these two teachers they would be quite similar to the reputed life of Jesus. The moral sentiments attributed to Christ in the Gospels were borrowed from the Jewish rabbis and the numerous cults that flourished in that age. The birth, death, and resurrection of Christ is quite similar to the myths of that time concerning the savior gods Adonis, Isis, Osiris, Attis, Mithra, and a multitude of others. (For a full exposition of the subject, the reader is referred to E. Carpenter, "Pagan and Christian Creeds")
The evidence for the point of view that Jesus was actually a historic character is so slight that such scholars as J. M., Robertson, Prof. W. B. Smith, Professor Drews, Dr. P. L. Couchoud, and many others deny the historic reality of Christ on the ground that the Gospels are totally unreliable as history, that Paul bears no witness to a human Jesus, and that the pagan and Jewish writers are strangely silent about the Messiah Jesus.
There are in existence only twenty-four lines from Jewish and Pagan writers referring to Jesus. These include a reference in Tacitus' Annals, and brief references by Suetonius and Pliny the Younger. These three references are considered spurious by' many scholars, and even if they were all to be accepted it would mean that the total pagan testimony as to the historicity of Jesus is confined to three very vague and brief references written a century after the reputed time of Jesus. The longest reference to Jesus is in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus. The passage referring to Jesus in his "Jewish Antiquities" has been considered as spurious even by conservative scholars. A group of scholars has always deemed it very probable, however, that this spurious reference may have replaced an unfavorable reference to Jesus in the original. Working on this theory, Dr. Eisler has purged of interpolations this work by a painstaking and scholarly investigation.
However, it must be pointed out that with regard to Jesus' actual existence, what divided the Christians and non-Christians was not the question whether or not Jesus existed; but the vastly more pertinent and essentially different question whether or not the obscure Galilean carpenter, executed by a Roman governor as king pf the Jews, was really a superhuman being who had overcome death, the longed-for-savior of mankind, foretold by the Prophets, the only-begotten Son of God Himself.
To the Jews, Jesus was indeed a heretic and an agitator of the lower orders; to the pagans, he was a magician who through sham miracles and with subversive words had incited the people to rebellion, and as a leader of a gang of desperate men had attempted to seize the royal crown of Judæa, as others had done before and after him. The non-Christian writers referred to Jesus as a wizard, a demagogue, and a rebel.
We are fortunate, at this date, to have brought to our attention a masterful work by Dr. Robert Eisler, a work which will be as revolutionary to the study of Christianity as was Darwin's "Origin of the Species" in the realms of science; and, similarly, the former work will be the basis upon which much progress will be made in a great field. Dr. Eisler unfolds a great mass of hitherto unknown information concerning the life, the actual appearance, and the doings of Jesus. He definitely establishes the proof of Jesus' actual existence, and makes clear many hitherto obscure utterances and deeds of this Prophet.
The descriptions which follow are based on the material in this work of Dr. Eisler, "The Messiah Jesus."
In the complete statement of Josephus on Pilate's governorship, we find, "At that time there appeared a certain man of magical power, if it is permissible to call him a man, whom certain Greeks call a Son of God, but his disciples, the True Prophet, said to raise the dead, and heal all diseases. His nature and his form were human; a man of simple appearance, mature age, small in stature, three cubits high, hunchbacked, with a long face, long nose, and meeting eyebrows, so that they who see him might be affrighted, with scanty hair but with a parting in the middle of his head, after the manner of the Nazarites, and with an undeveloped beard. Only in semblance was. he superhuman for he gave some astonishing and spectacular exhibitions. But again, if I look at his commonplace physique, I, for one, cannot call him an angel. And everything whatsoever he wrought through some invisible power, he wrought through some word and a command. Some said of him, 'Our first law giver is risen again, and displays many healings and magic arts. Others said, 'He is sent from God.' Howbeit in many things he disobeyed the law and kept not the Sabbath according to our fathers' custom.
"And many of the multitude followed after him and accepted his teachings, and many souls were excited, thinking that thereby the Jewish tribes might be freed from Roman hands. But it was his custom most of the time to abide over against the city on the Mount of Olives, and there, too, he bestowed his healings upon the people. And there assembled unto him of helpers one hundred and fifty, and a multitude of the mob.
"Now, when they saw his power, how he accomplished whatsoever he would by a magic word, and when they had made known to him their will, that he should enter into the city, cut down the Roman troops, and Pilate and rule over us, he disdained us not. And having all flocked into Jerusalem, they raised an uproar against Pilate, uttering, blasphemies alike against God and against Cæsar.
"And when knowledge of it came to the Jewish leaders, they assembled together, with the high priests and spake, 'We are powerless and too weak to withstand the Romans. But seeing that the 'bow is bent,' we will go and impart to Pilate what we have heard, and we shall be safe, lest he hear of it from others and we be robbed of our substance and ourselves slaughtered, and the children of Israel dispersed.
"And they went and imparted the matter to Pilate, and he sent and had many of the multitude slain. And he had that wonder-worker brought up, and after instituting an inquiry concerning him, he passed this sentence upon him, 'He is a malefactor, a rebel, a robber thirsting for the crown.' And they took him and crucified him according to the custom of their fathers."
Such is the history of Jesus as contrasted with the myth of Jesus in the New Testament. This description of the actual appearance of Jesus for the first time gives us a clue to the mental and physical characteristics of this Prophet.
It must be borne in mind that at the time that Jesus achieved manhood, his people and his nation were under the complete domination of Rome, and oppressed by a race whom the Jews looked upon as cursed barbarians and idolaters. The country was overrun with religious zealots who stormed over the cities arid villages preaching the immediate destruction of the world and the proximity of the long-awaited coming of the Messiah.
The fact that Jesus had to bear the hard fate of a deformed body may go far in helping to explain this remarkable character. It is common knowledge how frequently weak and deformed children have to suffer from the cruelty and neglect of environment, a factor which cannot but produce a peculiar reaction on the childish mind which has a far-reaching effect in later life. This accounts for Jesus' indifference towards his mother and brothers; of a delicate constitution, he must have suffered from insults a great deal more than the others, which throws some light on the severe punishment demanded by Jesus for comparatively harmless insults. Under such circumstances it is easy to explain how every "neighbor," and next-of-kin, although to the weak naturally an, "enemy," came to be included in the sphere of that all-embracing love which is the nucleus of Jesus' teaching. For the cripple has to face the dilemma either of warping everything into a powerful, misanthropic hatred, or else. to overcome this feeling of revenge for the high moral superiority of a Plato, Mendelssohn, or a Kant. Jesus chose the latter of the two courses, and we may well imagine that it was not at Golgotha that he had the first occasion to cry out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!"
In the case of Jesus, the whole paradoxical thought of his being the vicarious sin-offering and world redeemer can best be understood as the solution, proposed in the Deutero-Isaiah, of the question which had occupied Job—to wit: Why must the innocent suffer? If the maimed in body refuse to consider himself as forsaken by his God, as a sinner punished for some guilt of which he is unconscious, he cannot but assume that there is such a thing as a vocation to suffering, and believe in the inscrutable plan of salvation in which his own life and sufferings are called upon to play some part. Nothing but this conviction of being thus elected can afford him the desired compensation for his depressed and hampered ego.
A repressed nature of this type will, in seeking such a compensation, escape from the harsh reality into the realm of dreams. This is the basis of what the physician recognizes in hysteria, and in the mental disease termed "Dementia Præcox." The glorious daydreams of the millennium, the time of bliss when all strife nd all hate will disappear from the earth, when all the crooked will be made straight, find their best explanation in this peculiarity. They console the suffering and heavy-laden for the bitter reality which, in the light of the old messianic prophecies, appears only as a nightmare, promptly to be chased away by the dawn of a new day, a new, a perfect era. The Davidic Jesus, in spite or rather because of his servile form, feels that he is himself the secret incognito king of that wonderful realm, the monarch whom God some time in the future, nay, right here and before the passing of the present generation, will transform while at the same time "revealing" his kingdom.
It is but natural that in the mental development of such individuals they should seek to be great, glorious, and to achieve the supernatural, since they, themselves, are denied the ordinary satisfactions. If, in addition, such individuals believe that they have had a divine call, if the disability of the body so preys on the mind that the sensitive structure gives way to delusions, then there results an aberration from the normal and usual processes of thought, to be sure not, the rabid, violent form of mental disease, but yet a deviation from the normal manner of thinking. Such was the case with the Prophet Jesus.
Afflicted in body but endowed with a sensitive mind, exposed to an unusual environment of seething unrest and political ferment, and firmly convinced in the current fancies regarding the approaching destruction of the world, the conquest of the Evil Power, and the Reign of God, Jesus became the subject of a delusion that he was the only true Messiah who had been presaged by the prophets of old.
The greatest difficulty encountered in every attempt to present the life and work of Jesus according to the evidence of his own words preserved in the sources is the sharp, irreconcilable contradiction between the socalled "fire and sword" sayings on the one side, and the beatitudes on the peacemakers and the meek, the prohibition to kill, to be angry; to resist wrong, and the command to love one's enemy, contained in the Sermon on the Mount, on the other.
In the early period of his messianic career, the period of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was a thorough quietist. But if we realize that the delusion that he was "The Messiah" had entered his mind so vehemently that he firmly believed that the end of the world was imminent, and that it was his duty to save as many as possible, we can understand his acquiescence to the violence which followed.
Moreover, he was clearly forced to the fatal road by the idea that he must set on foot a movement of hundreds of thousands, the picture of the exodus from Egypt with the fantastic figures given in the Old Testament. The Messianic rising he was to initiate could not be regarded as realized if he left the country with a band of some hundred elect. If he wished, however, to put at least two-fifths of the population in motion, the method of sending out messengers had proved altogether unsatisfactory. He must try the effect of his own words in a place where, and at a time when, he was sure to reach the greatest multitude of his people. That could only be in Jerusalem, at the time of the great pilgrimage at the feast of the Passover. Moreover, the desired result could only be, obtained of course. if he openly proclaimed himself to be the Messiah.
Then it was that the Prophet of quiet reversed his words and armed his disciples. Jesus was fully aware of the illegality of this arming of his disciples and of his own direction to purchase a weapon ; none the less, he saw no escape from this bitter necessity. The prediction of the prophet must be fulfilled, according to which the righteous servant of the Lord must be numbered among the lawless transgressors. True it is that he did not lead the revolt himself, but tarried with his disciples at the Last Supper at a house near by the fighting. When he becomes aware that his secret hiding place on the Mount of Olives has been betrayed, Jesus hopes for a miracle from God up to the last. Captured, he is led away to the palace of the high priest's family on the Mount of Olives, where, while Jesus is questioned by the high priest, Peter, unrecognized, warms himself at the fire in the courtyard and thrice denies his master. He was then taken to the Roman governor's court-martial, where sentence was passed and he was led off to the place of execution and there deserted by all his followers except a few Galilean women. Then was heard the last despairing cry of the desolate, dying martyr, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Thus ended the career of this deformed Prophet with the sensitive deluded mind; a martyr who attempted only to effect reforms amongst his own people, in his own small locality.
With regard to the life, the deeds, and the words of the Prophet Moses we have no history; only myth and legend. The existence of Moses is not demonstrated by the Biblical books which are falsely ascribed to him, yet we cannot be certain that such a character did not exist. In any event, we must judge his character from the writings ascribed to him.
The legend of the child cast upon the waters is to be found in the folklore of all nations. This legend, concerning Moses, relates that one day Pharaoh's, daughter, while bathing with her maids in the Nile, found a Hebrew child exposed on the waters in obedience to a new decree. She adopted the boy, gave him an Egyptian name, and brought him up in her palace as a prince. She had him educated and the fair inference is that he was schooled in the culture of the Egyptians. The royal lady made of the Hebrew slave-child an Egyptian gentleman.
Yet, although his face was shaved, and outwardly he appeared to be an Egyptian, at heart he remained a Hebrew. One day, when he was grown, Moses went slumming among his own people to look at their burdens, and he spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. He was so overcome by passion at this scene that he killed the man on the spot. The crime became known, there was a hue and cry raised, and the king had a search made for Moses with the intention of slaying him. With all hope of a career in Egypt ended. Moses escaped to the Peninsula of Sinai, and entered the family of an Arab sheik.
The Peninsula of Sinai lies clasped between two arms of the Red Sea. It is a wilderness of mountains covered with a thin, almost transparent coating of vegetation which serves as pasture to the Bedouin flocks. Among the hills that crown the high plateau there is one which at the time of Moses was called the "Mount of God." It was holy ground to the Egyptians, and also to the Arabs, who ascended as pilgrims and drew off their sandals when they reached the top. Now is it strange that Sinai should have excited reverence and dread? It is indeed a weird land. Vast and stern stand the mountains, with their five granite peaks pointing to the sky. Avalanches like those of the Alps, but of sand, not of snow, rush down their naked sides with a clear tinkling sound. A peculiar property resides in the air, the human voice can be heard at a surprising distance and swells out into a reverberating roar, and sometimes there rises from among the hills a dull booming sound like the distant firing of heavy guns.
Let us attempt to realize what Moses must have felt when he was driven out of Egypt into such a harsh and rugged land. Imagine this man, the adopted son of a royal personage, who was accustomed to all the splendor of the Egyptian court, to the busy turmoil oi the streets of the metropolis, to reclining in a carpeted gondola or staying with a noble at his country house. In a moment all is changed. He dwells in a tent, alone on the mountainside, a shepherd with a crook in his hand. He is married to the daughter of a barbarian; his career is at an end.
He realizes that never again will he enter that palace where once he, was received with honor, where now his name is uttered only with contempt. Never again will he discourse with grave and learned men in his favorite haunts, and never again will he see the people of his tribe whom he loves and for, whom he endures this miserable fate. They will suffer but he will not help them; they will mourn, but he will not hear them. In his dreams he hears and sees them. He hears the whistling of the, lash and the convulsive sobs and groans. He sees the poor slaves toiling in the fields and sees the daughters of Israel carried off to the harem with struggling arms and streaming hair. He sees the chamber of the woman in labor, the seated, shuddering, writhing form, the mother struggling against maternity, dreading her release, for the king's officer is standing by the door, ready, as soon as a male child is born, to put it to death.
The Arabs who gave him shelter were also children of Abraham, and they related to him legends of the ancient days. They told him of the patriarchs who lay buried in Canaan with their wives; they spoke of the God whom his fathers had worshiped. Then, as one who returns to a long lost home, the Egyptian returned to the faith of the desert, to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As he wandered on the mountain heights, he looked to the west and saw a desert; beyond it lay Canaan, the home of his ancestors, a land of peace and soon to be a land of hope. For now, new ideas rose tumultuously within him. He began to see visions and to dream dreams. He heard voices and beheld no form; he saw trees which blazed with fire and yet were not consumed. He became a prophet and entered into the ecstatic stage. That is, he began to have illusions and hallucinations.
Dwelling on the misery and suffering of his people, his mind becomes deluded with the idea that he has been chosen by his new-found God to liberate his people from the tyranny of their oppressors.
Meanwhile the king had died, and a new Pharaoh had ascended the throne. Moses returns to Egypt to carry out the great designs which he had formed. He announces to the elders of his people, to the heads of the houses, and the sheiks of the tribes that the God of Abraham had appeared to him in Sinai and had revealed his true name. It was Jehovah. He had been sent by Jehovah to Egypt to bring away his people, to lead them to Canaan.
In company with his, brother, Aaron, Moses asked Pharaoh to liberate the children of Israel, but after several vain attempts to dazzle Pharaoh with his skill as a magician, he was met with an obstinate refusal. Moses before Pharaoh descends to the level of a vulgar sorcerer, armed with a magic wand, whose performances only draw our smiles. This charlatanry having been unsuccessful, the wizard connives with his accomplice Jehovah to have inflicted upon the Egyptians the ten plagues. Then the loving and kind Father, having killed innumerable Egyptians, as the story relates, so terrorizes the minds of his other children in Egypt, that Pharaoh is finally convinced that he must allow the Chosen People to leave his domain. The Israelites quitted Egypt carrying away with them the gold and silver of their oppressors. They then entered the desert.
The magic art of Moses enabled them to pass dryfooted through the Red Sea, whereas the Pharaoh who was pursuing them was engulfed with his whole army. Again the Chosen People are liberated by means of the death of multitudes of Egyptians. Truly, Jehovah at that time must have loved them well, or did some other Deity form the Egyptians? It matters not that the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh are romantic incidents, not only unknown to the Egyptian texts, but even to the earliest of Hebrew prophets. It. matters not, for the story is the important thing, even though it is an inspired story, inspired by the Jehovah who tortured and killed the Egyptians to show how well he loved his people.
This Wild West story, with its multitudes of slaughters, proceeds to the wilderness of Sinai; and there again, the Prophet Moses goes into a secret seance and finally announces that God had delivered laws to him, which had been issued from the clouds.
What a great showman was this Prophet! Barnum must have been a devoted admirer of Moses, for Moses was the first to create the two-ring circus; for these laws given by Jehovah are described in two places, and the circus varies in both places. Exodus XX and Exodus XXXIV are the two texts which differ considerably.
To further convince the Children of Israel, Moses tells them the story of how he had cajoled Jehovah into allowing him to see what no man had hitherto seen, the form of Jehovah, for it appears that Jehovah was so pleased with this murderer, charlatan, and wizard that he allowed him to glimpse His hind quarters. At least, Jehovah had a sense of humor!
What a bag of tricks this Prophet had at his command! The Prophet waves his arms and tugs at his gown, and lo and behold! The Lord has spoken! The following is a specimen of the revelations which the Lord is supposed to have dictated to Moses. (Leviticus XIV, 25.)
"The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, and the priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord."
Surely, it must have been a God with a superior mentality who dictated this, for it surpasses our feeble comprehension. And we can well imagine Jehovah's wrath when the priest confuses his right and left.
Twirling his arms again, Moses gives forth this oracle (Numbers XV, 37-41): "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 'Speak unto the Children of Israel, and bid them that they make them a fringe upon the corner of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of each corner a cord of blue, etc., etc."
Jehovah chooses Blue as the divine color. Royal Purple. Divine Blue. Then there is the familiar myth of the Prophet's tapping of the rock to bring forth water in the desert; the story of the manna; the tale of the doves.
Thus can the fabled life of Moses be divided into two stages, the early period of illusions, hallucinations, and delusions, and the later stage of wizardry, charlatanry, and demagoguery. Neither must we think that we moderns are the first to peer through this sham, for what the Israelites thought of these laws appears from the bitter criticism of Moses and Aaron, which the Haggadah put into the mouth of the rebel Korah.
"When we were given the ten commandments, each of us learnt them directly from Mount Sinai; there were only the ten commandments and we heard no orders about 'offering cake' or 'gifts to priests' or 'tassels.' It was only in order to usurp the dominion for himself and to impart honor to his brother Aaron, that Moses added all this."
Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed — these prophets whose adherents number hundreds of millions, about whom there has been built up those vast systems of theology, — what is there of the divine in their characters? What supernatural in their deeds? What wisdom poured forth from their lips which did not come from other philosophers? What immense structures have been founded on these shifting sands, on this morass of ignorance and childish fable? How long can these structures endure, aided by the bolstering up of the theologists, and how long must it be before the light of reason will pierce these foundations of blindness and force them to topple over? How much longer before humanity can begin to build on a sound foundation?
Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed; revolutionists three. Moses at the head of a weak, squabbling, and disgruntled group of Hebrew desert marauders. Jesus sanctioning the insurrection against Rome. Mohammed at the head of his Arabian marauders.
If the freethinkers firmly believe, that in them dwell the hope for a better humanity, for an exhilarated progress, for universal freedom and liberty for all mankind, and emancipation from fear and superstition, then they, too, must destroy. They must first undo the wrong before they can proceed to build on a right foundation. They must build on the corner stone that all religion is human in its origin, erroneous in its theories, and ridiculous in its threats and rewards. Religion is the greatest impediment to the progress of human happiness.