Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner


THE History of Philosophy is the exposition of philosophical opinions and of systems and schools of philosophy. It includes the study of the lives of philosophers, the inquiry into the mutual connection of schools and systems of thought, and the attempt to trace the course of philosophical progress or retrogression. The nature and scope of philosophy furnish reasons for the study of its history. Philosophy does not confine its investigation to one or to several departments of knowledge; it is concerned with the ultimate principles and laws of all things. Every science has for its aim to find the causes of phenomena; philosophy seeks to discover ultimate causes, thus carrying to a higher plane the unifying process begun in the lower sciences. The vastness of the field of inquiry, the difficulty of synthesizing the results of scientific investigation, and the constantly increasing complexity of these results necessitated the gradual development of philosophy. To each generation and to each individual the problems of philosophy present themselves anew, and the influences, personal, racial, climatic, social, and religious, which bear on the generation or on the individual must be studied in order that the meaning and value of each doctrine and system be understood and appreciated. Such influences are more than a matter of mere erudition; they have their place in the praenotanda to the solution of every important question in philosophy; for, as Coleridge says, "the very fact that any doctrine has been believed by thoughtful men is part of the problem to be solved, is one of the phenomena to be accounted for." Moreover, philosophical doctrines, while they are to be regarded primarily as contributions to truth, are also to be studied as vital forces which have determined to a large extent the literary, artistic, political, and industrial life of the world. To-day, more than ever, it is clearly understood that without a knowledge of these forces it is impossible to comprehend the inner movements of thought which alone explain the outer actions of men and nations.

The dangers to be avoided in the study of the history of philosophy are Eclecticism, which teaches that all systems are equally true, and Scepticism, which teaches that all systems are equally false. A careful study of the course of philosophical speculation will result in the conviction that, while no single school can lay claim to the entire truth, certain schools of thought have adopted that world-concept which can be most consistently applied to every department of knowledge. False systems of philosophy may stumble on many important truths, but a right concept of the ultimate meaning of reality and a correct notion of philosophic method are the essentials for which we must look in every system; these constitute a legitimate standard of valuation by which the student of the history of philosophy may judge each successive contribution to philosophical science.

The method to be followed in this study is the empirical, or a posteriori, method, which is employed in all historical research. The speculative, or a priori, method consists in laying down a principle, such as the Hegelian principle that the succession of schools and systems corresponds to the succession of logical categories, and deducing from such a principle the actual succession of schools and systems. But, apart from the danger of misstating facts for the sake of methodic symmetry, such a procedure must be judged to be philosophically unsound; for systems of philosophy, like facts of general history, are contingent events. There are, indeed, laws of historical development; but such laws are to be established subsequently, not anteriorly, to the study of the facts of history.

The historian of philosophy, therefore, has for his task: (1) To set forth the lives and doctrines of philosophers and systems and schools of philosophy in their historical relation. This, the recitative or narrative portion of the historian's task, includes the critical examination of sources. (2) To trace the genetic connection between systems, schools, and doctrines, and to estimate the value of each successive contribution to philosophy. This, the philosophical portion of the historian's task, is by far the most important of his duties: Potius de rebus ipsis judicare debemus, quam pro magno de hominibus quid quisque senserit scire.{1}

The sources of the history of philosophy are: (1) Primary sources, namely, the works, complete or fragmentary, of philosophers. It is part of the historian's task to establish, whenever necessary, the authenticity and integrity of these works. (2) Secondary sources, that is, the narration or testimony of other persons concerning the lives, opinions, and doctrines of philosophers. In dealing with secondary sources the rules of historical criticism must be applied, in order to determine the reliability of witnesses.

The division of the history of philosophy will always be more or less arbitrary in matters of detail. This is owing to the continuity of historical development: the stream of human thought flows continuously from one generation to another; like all human institutions, systems and schools of philosophy never break entirely with the past; they arise and succeed one another without abrupt transition and merge into one another so imperceptibly that it is rarely possible to decide where one ends and another begins. The more general divisions, however, are determined by great historical events and by obvious national and geographical distinctions. Thus, the coming of Christ divides the History of Philosophy into two parts, each of which may be subdivided as follows:



General Bibliography. -- The following works treat of the History of Philosophy as a whole: Erdmann, History of Philosophy, trans. by Hough (3 vols., London, 1890); Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, trans. by Morris (2 vols., New York, 1872); Weber, History of Philosophy, trans. by Thilly (New York, 1896); Windelband, History of Philosophy, trans. by Tufts (second edition, New York, 1901); Stöckl, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie (2 Bde., 3. Aufl., Mainz, 1888), trans. in part from the second edition by Finlay (Dublin, 1887).

For the history of parts of philosophy, consult Prantl, Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande (4 Bde., Leipzig, 1855 ff.); Siebeck, Geschichte der Psychologie (Gotha, 1880-1884); Sidgwick, History of Ethics (third edition, London, 1892); Bosanquet, History of AEsthetics (London, 1892).

Consult also Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus (3 Bde., Braunschweig, 1894-1897), and Lange, History of Materialism, trans. by Thomas (3 vols., London, 1878-1881).

For complete bibliography, cf. Weber, op. cit., pp. 13 ff.



IN the doctrines by means of which the Babylonians, Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, and other Oriental peoples sought to formulate their thoughts concerning the origin of the universe and the nature and destiny of man, the religious element predominates over the natural or rational explanation. An adequate account of these doctrines belongs, therefore, to the History of Religions rather than to the History of Philosophy. While, however, this is so, and while the task of separating the religious from the philosophical element of thought in the Oriental systems of speculation is by no means easy, some account of these systems must be given before we pass to the study of Western thought.

Sources. The most important collection of primary sources is The Sacred Books of the East, edited by Max Müller (Oxford, 1879 ff.). For a complete list of secondary sources and recent studies on the religious systems of the East, consult Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, von P. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye, Bd. II (2. Aufl., Freiburg im B., 1897). Consult also Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, trans. by Morris (New York, 1872), Vol. I, pp. 15, 16.


When, probably about the year 3800 B.C., the Semites conquered Babylonia, they found there a civilization which is commonly called that of the Accadians and Sumerians, and is by many regarded as the source of all the civilizations of the East. The religion of the Accadians was originally Shamanistic: every object, every force in nature, was believed to possess a spirit (Zi) who could be controlled by the magical exorcisms of the Shaman, or sorcerer-priest.{3} Gradually certain of these spirits had been elevated to the dignity of gods, as, for instance, Anu (the sky), Mul-ge, or Enum (the earth), and Hea (the deep). It was not, however, until the time of Assurbanipal (seventh century B.C.) that this primitive system of theogony began to develop into a system of cosmogony based on the idea that the universe arose out of a chaos of waters. Before that time, there prevailed in Accadia a vague traditional belief that the present cosmic system was preceded by an anarchical chaos in which there existed composite creatures, -- men with the bodies of birds and the tails of fishes, -- Nature's first attempts at creation. With this creationist legend was associated an equally vague belief in a gloomy Hades, or underworld, where the spirits of the dead hover like bats and feed on dust.

From the earliest times the Accadians devoted attention to the observation of the heavenly bodies, and it may be said that among them Astronomy found its first home. Their crude attempts at astronomical observations were, however, connected with astrological practices, so that the Chaldaeans became famous among the ancients as adepts in the magic arts: Chaldaeos ne consulito. In like manner, the first efforts at numerical computation and notation were made subservient to the demands of the magician.

It was through the Phoenicians, who inaugurated the trade of western Asia, that the civilization of the Assyrians influenced the religious and artistic life of the Greeks and of the other nations of the Mediterranean.


Up to the present time Egyptologists have failed to reach an agreement as to what was the primitive form of religious belief in ancient Egypt. In the first place, the chronological difficulties have hitherto proved to be insurmountable; and in the next place, the diversity of religious systems in the different nomes, provinces, into which ancient Egypt was divided, renders difficult every attempt at forming a theory as to what, if any, was the one religion which prevailed throughout Egypt at the dawn of history. Historians are content with dating the period the seventh century B.C. by dynasties rather than by years, the first dynasty being placed about the fifty-fifth century B.C. Menes, who established the first dynasty, found already a hierarchical system of deities, to each of whom some city was dedicated. But what was the primitive religion Egypt, from which this hierarchical system of gods was evolved? Monotheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, Henotheism, Totemism, Sun-Worship, Nature-Worship, -- these are the widely different answers which modern Egyptologists have given to question.{5} Scholars are equally at variance as to the origin and significance of Animal-Worship among the Egyptians. When, however, we come to the period of the great gods, chief whom were Ra (the sun), Nut (heaven), and Set, or Typhon (the earth), and to the legends of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, there seems to be very little room for doubt as to the essentially naturalistic character of these divinities. "The kernel of the Egyptian state religion was solar."{6}

With regard to the speculative elements of thought contained in the mythological conceptions of the Egyptians, mention must be made of the doctrine that everything living, whether it was a god, a man, or an animal, possessed a Ka, or "shadow," which was in each case more real and permanent than the object itself. This notion was present in the practice of animal worship; for, although there is by no means a unanimity of opinion among scholars in favor of reducing animal worship to mere symbolism, there is no doubt that the Egyptian mind was dominated by the idea that every Ka must have a material dwelling place. Similarly, when the abstract notion of the divinity presented itself to the Egyptian mind and was identified with each god in turn, and when, at a later time, there appeared the notion of a pantheistic divinity in whom all the great gods were merged, the dominant idea was always that of the Ka or soul, whose dwelling place was the individual god or the universe. Another conception which may be traced very far back in the history of Egyptian civilization is that of the magical virtue of names.

The idea of "shadow" and the belief in the magical virtue of names determined the Egyptian cult of the dead and the doctrine of immortality. From the monuments and the relics of ancient Egyptian literature, especially from the Book of the Dead,{7} it is clear that deep down in the popular mind was the belief that the continued existence of a person after death depended some how on the preservation of his name and on the permanence of the dwelling place which was to harbor his Ka, or shadow. Hence, the Egyptians considered that the houses of the living were merely inns, and that the tombs of the dead are eternal habitations. In the philosophical traditions of the priestly caste there grew up a more rational doctrine of the future life. According to this doctrine, man consists of three parts, the Khat, or body, the Khu, or spirit, which is an emanation from the divine essence, and the soul, which is sometimes represented as a Ka dwelling in the mummy or in the statue of the deceased, and sometimes as a Ba, or disembodied soul, which ultimately returns to its home in the lower world.{8} It is this Ba, or disembodied soul, which after death appears before Osiris and the forty-two judges, and is weighed in the balance by Horus and Anubis while Thoth records the result. The souls of the blessed are eventually admitted to the happy fields of Aalu, there to be purified from all earthly stain and made more perfect wisdom and goodness. The souls of the wicked are condemned either to the various torments of hell, or to wanderings long and arduous through the regions between heaven and earth, or to transmigration into the bodies of various animals, or, finally, to annihilation. The fate of the soul is determined partly by the good and evil which it wrought during life and partly by the amulets, prayers, and gifts by which it secured the favor of the gods. But whatever may be the immediate fate of the soul, it will ultimately return to its body, and on the great day of resurrection soul, body, and spirit shall be once more united.

From the chapter on Judgment in the Book of the Dead and from the Ethical Maxims of Kakimma (third dynasty) and Ptah-Hotep (fifth dynasty) it appears that the ideal of conduct among the ancient Egyptians was practical, of a high order of purity, and essentially religious. In these documents charity, benevolence, prudence, chastity, social justice, clemency, and the love of intellectual pursuits are ranked among the foremost virtues. And not only external morality is inculcated but also be morality of thought and desire.


When, about 2000 years B.C., the Chinese first appeared in the light of history, they already possessed social, political, and religious institutions and a material and intellectual civilization of a high order. It was not, however, until the sixth century B.C. that the sacred books were collected and arranged, although some of them, especially the Y-king, were assigned by tradition to the learned princes and kings who, long before the historical period, had invented the art of writing. The sacred or authoritative books were:

I. The Five Classics, namely, the Y-king, or Book of Changes (divination); the Shu-king, or Book of History; the Shi-king , or Book of Poetry; the Le-ke, or Record of Rites; and the Chun-tsew, Spring and Autumn, a Book of Annals, composed by Confucius.

II. The Four Books, namely, Lun-yu, or Conversations of the Master; Chun-yung, or Doctrine of the Mean; Ta-heo, or Great Learning; and Meng-tse, or Teachings of Mencius.

The Five Classics were collected, arranged, and edited by Confucius (with the exception of the last, which was written by him), and it is impossible to say to what extent the editor introduced into the text doctrines and opinions of his own. The Four Books were composed by disciples of Confucius.

Before the time of Confucius there existed a national or state religion in which the principal objects of worship were heaven, and spirits of various kinds, especially the spirits of dead ancestors. Heaven (Thian) is the supreme lord (Shang-ti), the highest object of worship.{10} The deity carries on its work silently and simply, yet inexorably, in the order and succession of natural phenomena, in the rain and the sunshine, the heat and the cold, etc. With this natural order are closely connected the social, political, and moral orders of the world; or rather, all order is essentially one, and perfection and prosperity in moral life and in the state depend on maintaining the order which is not only heaven's first law, but heaven itself. With the worship of heaven was connected the worship of spirits (Shan). These are omnipresent throughout nature; they are not, however, addressed as individuals, but as a body or aggregation of individuals, as, for example, celestial spirits, terrestrial spirits, and ancestral spirits. The last are the object of private as distinct from official worship. The Chinese, always inclined to look towards the past rather than towards the future, thought less of personal immortality in the life after death than of the continuation of the family life by which the actions of the individual were reflected back and made to ennoble a whole of line ancestors.

The qualities which characterized the religious thought of from the beginning -- its eminently practical nature, the complete absence of speculation, and the almost complete exclusion of mythological elements -- reappear in the writings of the great religious teacher Confucius (Kong-tse, 551-478 B.C.). Confucius was no innovator; he appeared, rather, as the collector of the sacred literature of the past and the restorer of the old order. He inculcated the strict observance of the traditional forms of worship, discouraged speculation in matters theological, and while he taught the supreme importance of moral duties, he grounded all his moral precepts on the general order of the world and the long-established tradition of the Chinese people. He insisted on man's political and domestic duties and emphasized especially the importance of filial piety.

Lao-tse, a Contemporary of Confucius (born about 604 B.C.), and author of the Tao-te-king, introduced into China the first system of speculative thought, the philosophy of Tao (Reason, Way), which many scholars consider to be of Hindu origin.{11} Lao-tse did not, however, attempt to overthrow the traditional ideals of his countrymen, and, while the importance which he attaches to speculation places him in sharp contrast with Confucius, the doctrines of the two great teachers have many points in common. For Tao, the fundamental concept of the Tao-te-king, does not mean Reason in the abstract, but Nature, or rather, the Way, -- the order of the world, the impersonal method which all men must observe if they are to attain goodness and success. Ultimately, then, both Lao-tse and Confucius teach that conduct is to be guided by a knowledge of the unalterable, discriminating, intelligent order of heaven and earth; but while Confucius refers his disciples to the study of the writings and institutions of antiquity, Lao-tse refers them to the speculative contemplation of Tao: the former encourages study, the latter advocates contemplation, as a means of acquiring a knowledge of the eternal order on which morality depends. Hence, the tendency of Taoism towards quietism and self-abnegation. "Recompense injury with kindness," said Lao-tse; to which Confucius is said to have answered, "Recompense kindness with kindness, but recompense injury with justice."

To the fifth century B.C. belong Yang-tse and Nih-tse (or Mak). The former preached a kind of Epicureanism: man should enjoy the present and cheerfully accept death when it comes; virtue is but a name; good reputation is a shadow; the sacrifice of self is a delusion. The latter maintained that one should love all men equally, that the practice of universal love is a greater benefit to the state than the study of antiquity and the preservation of ancient customs.{12}

Lih-tse and Chwang-tse appeared during the fifth and the first half of the fourth centuries B.C. as representatives of Taoism. They were opposed by the distinguished exponent of Confucianism, Meng-tse or Mencius (371-288). In his dialogues, which were collected in seven books by his disciples, he gives a more compact exposition of Confucianism than that found in the isolated sayings of the master. He insists on filial piety, on political virtue, and on the proper observance of religious and other ceremonial rites. He reduces the cardinal virtues to four: Wisdom, Humanity, Justice, and Propriety.


The Veda, or collection of primitive religious literature of the Hindus, consists of books of sacred hymns, the Rig-Veda, the Sâma-Veda, the Yagur-Veda, and the Atharva- Veda. In each it is usual to distinguish the Mantras, or hymns, the Brâhmanas, or ritualistic commentaries, and the Upanishads, or philosophical commentaries.{14}

The Vedic hymns, which are the oldest portion of the Veda (1500 B.C. being the date to which conservative scholars assign the earliest of them), consist of songs of praise and prayer directed to Agni (fire), Soma (the life-awakening, intoxicating juice of the soma-plant), Indra (the god of the wars of the elements, of thunder and rain), Varuna (the great, serene, all-embracing heaven), and other deities, all of whom possess more or less definitely the twofold character of gods of nature and gods of sacrifice. The gods of the Vedic hymns are styled Devas (shining divinities) and Asuras (lords). There is, in the poems, no evidence of a sustained attempt to trace the genealogy of these deities or to account by means of mythogical concepts for the origin of the universe.

In the Brâhmanas, or ritualistic commentaries, appears the concept of a god distinct from the elemental deities, a personification of the act of sacrifice, -- Brahmanaspati. From this concept the monotheistic and pantheistic speculation of the Hindus may be said to have started, although it is undeniable that even in the hymns there is expressed at least "a yearning after one supreme deity, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that in them is," -- a yearning to which expression was given in the name Pragâpati (the lord of all creatures), applied successively to Soma and other divinities. Of more importance, however, than the name Pragâpati is the expression Tad Ekam (that One) which occurs in the poems as the name of the Supreme Being, of the First Origin of all things. Its neuter form indicates, according to Max Müller, a transition from the mythological to the metaphysical stage of speculation. With regard to the word Brahman which succeeded Tad Ekam: as the name of the Supreme One, Max Müller refers it to the root brih (to grow) and asserts that while the word undoubtedly meant prayer, it originally meant "that which breaks forth." It "was used as a name of that universal force which manifests itself in the creation of a visible universe."{15} The word Âtman, which was also a name of the deity, is referred by the same distinguished scholar to the root âtma (breath, life, soul) and is translated as Self. There grew up, he says, in the hymns and Brâhmanas of the Veda the three words Pragâpati, Brahman, and Âtman, "each of which by itself represents in nuce a whole philosophy, or a view of the world. A belief in Pragâpati, as a personal god, was the beginning of monotheistic religion in India, while the recognition of Brahman and Âtman, as one, constituted the foundation of all the monistic philosophy of that country."{16}

In the Upanishads, or speculative commentaries, we find the first elaborate attempts made by India to formulate a speculative system of the universe and to solve in terms of philosophy the problems of the origin of the universe and of the nature and destiny of man. It must, however, be remembered that probably until the fourth century B.C. the Upanishads, in common with the other portions of the Veda, did not exist in writing, being handed down from one generation to another by oral tradition. The Sûtras, or aphorisms, therefore, which we possess of the six systems of Indian philosophy do not represent the first attempts at philosophical speculation. The men whose names are associated with these Sûtras, and are used to designate the six systems, are not, in any true sense, the founders of schools of philosophy: they are merely final editors or redactors of the Sûtras belonging to different philosophical sects, which, in the midst of a variety of theories, and in a maze of speculative opinions, retained their individuality during an inconceivably long period of time.

Before we take up the separate study of the six systems of philosophy it will be necessary to outline the general teaching of the Upanishads. This teaching belongs to no school in particular, although each of the six schools is connected with it in more than one point of doctrine. The Upanishads teach:

1. The identity of all being in Brahman, the Source, or Âtman, the Self, which is identical with Brahman.

2. The existence of mâyâ (illusion), to which is referred everything which is not Brahman.

3. The worthlessness of all knowledge of things in their isolated existence, and the incomparable excellence of the knowledge of all things in Brahman or Âtman. This latter, the only true knowledge, is difficult of attainment; still it is attainable even in this life. It is this knowledge which constitutes the happiness of man by uniting him with Âtman. "In the bee's honey one can no longer recognize the taste of the single flowers; the rivers which emanate from the one sea and again return to it lose meanwhile their separate existences; a lump of salt dissolved in water salts the whole water and cannot be grasped again: so the true being can nowhere be grasped. It is a subtle essence which lies at the foundation of all phenomena, which are merely illusions, and is again identical with the ego."{17}

4. The immortality of the soul. "The idea," writes Max Müller, "of the soul ever coming to an end is so strange to the Indian mind that there seemed to be no necessity for anything like proofs of immortality, so common in European philosophy."{18} Equally self-evident to the Hindu mind was the samsâra, or transmigration of the soul. In some systems, however, as we shall see, it is the subtle body which migrates, while, during the process of migration, the soul, in the sense of self, retaining its complete identity, remains as an onlooker.

With the idea of immortality is associated that of the eternity of karman (deed), namely, the continuous working of every thought, word, and deed through all ages. If a man were, once in a thousand years, to pass his silken handkerchief across the Himalayan mountains and thus at last succeed in wiping them out, the world would, indeed, be older at the end of such a long space of time, but eternity and reality would still be young and the deed of to-day would still exist in its results. At a late period in the development of Vedic speculation the immensity of the duration of Brahman was given popular expression in the doctrine of kalpas (aeons), or periods of reabsorption (pralaya) and creation.

5. Mysticism and deliverance from bondage. All the Indian systems of philosophy recognize the existence of evil and suffering and concern themselves with the problem of deliverance by means of knowledge. From the rise of Buddhism (fifth century B.C.) date a clearer perception of the reality of suffering and a more emphatic assertion of the importance of freeing the soul from the bondage which suffering imposes. It is to be remarked that, even in the Upanishads, existence is referred to as an evil, transmigration is presented as something to be avoided, and the final goal of human endeavor is proclaimed to be a union with Âtman, in which all individual existence is merged in the general Self, and individual consciousness is quite extinguished.

Turning now to the six great historical systems of Indian philosophy, we meet at the very outset the vexed question of chronological order. Many of the Sûtras, or aphorisms, in which these systems are formulated are of very great antiquity, ranking with the Upanishads in point of age. Besides, the athors of these Sûtras are more or less vaguely historical or altogether mythical persons. It is hopeless, therefore, to attempt to arrange the systems in chronological order. The order followed will represent rather the fidelity with which the systems (all of which were considered orthodox) adhere to the doctrines described as the common teaching of the Upanishads.

1. The Vedânta, or Uttara-Mîmâmsâ,{19} is first in importance among the systematic expositions of the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. It is contained in Sûtras composed by Bâdarâyana, who is sometimes identified with Vyâsa, the author of the Mahâbhârata (one of the great epics of India), and in commentaries composed by Samkara (about A.D. 900).

The fundamental doctrines of the Vedânta are those of the Upanishads. The Vedânta insists on the monistic concept of reality: "In one half verse I shall tell you what has been taught in thousands of volumes: Brahman is true, the world is false, the soul is Brahman and nothing else." "There is nothing worth gaining, there is nothing worth enjoying, there is nothing worth knowing but Brahman alone, for he who knows Brahman is Brahman."{20} More emphatically still is the unity of all being in Brahman asserted in the famous words Tat tvam asi (Thou art that), which Max Müller styles "the boldest and truest synthesis in the whole history of philosophy." But, if the individual is Brahman, how are we to account for the manifold "thous" and for the variety of individuals in the objective world? The Vedânta-Sûtras answer that the view of the world as composed of manifold individuals is not knowledge but nescience, which the Vedânta philosophy aims at expelling from the mind. This nescience (avidyâ) is inborn in human nature, and it is only when it is expelled that the mind perceives Brahman to be the only reality. Samkara, the commentator, admits, however, that the phenomenal world, the whole objective world as distinct from the subject (Brahman), while it is the result of nescience, is nevertheless real for all practical purposes. Moreover, it is clear that phenomena, since they are Brahman, are real: only the multiplicity and distinction of phenomena are unreal (mâyâ).

With regard to the origin of the universe: the universe, since it is Brahman, cannot be said to originate. And yet Brahman is commonly represented as the cause of the universe. The Hindus, however, regarded cause and effect as merely two aspects of the same reality: the threads, they observed, are the cause of the cloth, yet what is the cloth but the aggregate of threads?{21}

Since the finiteness and individual distinctions of things are due to nescience, it is clear that the road to true freedom (moksha ) from the conditions of finite existence is the way of knowledge. The knowledge of the identity of Atman with Brahman, of Self with God, is true freedom and implies exemption from birth and transmigration. For, when death comes, he who, although he has fulfilled all his religious duties, shall have failed to attain the highest knowledge, shall be condemned to another round of existence. The subtle body, in which his soul (âtman) is clothed, shall wander through mist and cloud and darkness to the moon and thence shall be sent back to earth. But he who shall have attained perfect knowledge of Brahman shall finally become identified with Brahman, sharing in all the powers of Brahman except those of creating and ruling the universe. Partial freedom from finite conditions is, even in this life, a reward of perfect knowledge. The Vedântists, however, did not neglect the inculcation of moral excellence; for knowledge, they taught, is not to be attained except by discipline.

II. The Pûrva-Mîmâsâ is a system of practical philosophy and is contained in twelve books of Sûtras attributed to Gaimini. Here the central idea is that of duty (Dharma), which includes sacrificial observances and rests ultimately on the superhuman authority of the Veda.

III. The Sâmkhya philosophy may be described as a toning down of the extreme of the Vedanta. It is contained in the Sâmkhya-Sûtras or Kapila-Sûtras. These, at least in their present form, date from the fourteenth century after Christ, although the sage, Kapila, to whom they are ascribed lived certainly before the second century B.C. Of greater antiquity than the Sûtras are the Sâmkhya-Kârikâs, or memorial verses, in which the philosophy of Kapila was epitomized as early as the first century B.C. A still older and more concise compilation The Sâmkhya philosophy is found in the Tattva-Samâsa, which reduces all truth to twenty-five topics. This latter compendium is taken by Max Müller as the basis of his exposition of the teachings of Kapila.{22}

The Samkhya philosophy is essentially dualistic. It does not, like the Vedânta, assume that the objective world, as distinct from Brahman, is mere illusion or ignorance; it accepts the objective world as real and calls it prakriti, or nature in the sense of matter-containing-the-possibilities-of-all-things. This principle is of itself lifeless and unconscious, and rises into life and consciousness only when contemplated by the soul (purusha). What we call creation is, therefore, the temporary union of nature with soul, -- a union which arises from a lack of discrimination. How then is the soul to be freed from the bondage of finite existence? This is for the Sâmkhya, as it was for the Vedanta, the chief problem of practical philosophy. But, while the Vedanta found deliverance in the recognition of the identity of the soul with Brahman, the Sâmkhya finds it in the recognition of the difference between the soul and nature. This recognition confers freedom; for nature, once it is recognized by the soul as distinct, disappears together with all limitation and suffering: "Prakritri, once recognized by Purusha, withdraws itself so as not to expose itself for a second time to the danger of this glance." The assertion of the individuality of the soul as opposed to nature implies the multiplicity of souls. And this is another point of contrast between the Vedânta and the Sâmkhya: the former asserted the oneness of Âtman; the latter affirms the plurality of purushas.

IV. The Yoga philosophy is contained in the Sûtras ascribed to Patañgali, who is supposed to have lived during the second century B.C. In these Sûtras we find practically all the metaphysical principles of the Sâmkhya and, in addition, certain doctrines in which the theistic element is insisted upon. Kapila had denied the possibility of proving the existence of Îsvara, the personal creator and ruler: Pata&ntiled;gali insists on the possibility of such proof. Of course, Îsvara is not conceived as creator in our sense of the word, but merely as the highest of the purushas, all of which may be said to create inasmuch as they, by contemplating nature, cause nature to be productive. Among the means of deliverance practised by the Yogins were the observance of certain postures, meditation, and the repetition of the sacred syllable Om.

V. The Nyâya philosophy is contained in the Nyâya-Sûtras. The founder of the system was Gotama, or Gautama. According to this system, the supreme resignation, or freedom, in which man's highest happiness consists, is to be attained by a knowledge of the sixteen great topics of Nyâya philosophy. These topics (padârthas) are means of knowledge, objects of knowledge, doubt, purpose, instance, established truth, premises, reasoning, conclusion, argumentation, sophistry, wrangling, fallacies, quibbles, false analogies, and unfitness for arguing. Taking up now the first of these, namely, the means of knowledge, we find that there are, according to the Nyâya philosophy, four kinds of right perception: sensuous, inferential, comparative, and authoritative. In order to arrive at inferential knowledge (anumâna), we must possess what is called vyâpti, or pervasion, that is to iay, a principle expressing invariable concomitance. So, for example, if we wish to infer that "this mountain is on fire," we must possess the principle that smoke is pervaded by, or invariably connected with, fire. Once in possession of this principle, we have merely to find an instance, as, "this mountain smokes," whence we immediately infer that "it has fire." But, while this is the comparatively simple means of acquiring inferential iowledge, we cannot impart this knowledge to others except by the more complicated process including: (1) Assertion, "The mountain has fire"; (2) Reason, "Because it smokes"; (3) Instance, "Look at the kitchen fire"; (4) Application, "So too the mountain has smoke"; and (5) Conclusion, "Therefore it has fire." The process, in both cases, bears a close resemblance to the syllogism of Aristotelian logic; and it is by reason of the prominence given to this means of knowledge that the Nyâya philosophy came to be regarded as a system of logic. Yet the Nyâ ya philosophy is far from being merely a systematic treatment of the laws of thought; for the syllogism is but one of the many means by which the soul or self (Âtman) is to attain true freedom, a state in which all false knowledge and all inferior knowledge shall disappear, and all individual desire and personal love and hatred shall be extinguished.

VI. The Vaisheshika philosophy, founded by Kanâda, is contained in the Vaisheshika-Sûtras, which, according to Max Müller, date from the sixth century of the Christian era, although the Vaisheshika philosophy was known in the first century B.C. The system is closely related to the Nyâya philosophy, even its most characteristic doctrine, that of atomism, being found in undeveloped form in the philosophy of Gotama.{23} Here, as in the Nyâya, supreme happiness is to be attained by the knowledge of certain padârthas, or quasi-categories, namely: substance, quality, action (karman), genus or community, species or particularity, inhesion or inseparability, and (according to some) privation or negation. The substances are earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, self (Âtman), and mind (manas). The qualities are color, taste, number, etc. These are called gunas , a word which occurs in the Upanishads and is a common term in all the six systems.

The four substances, earth, air, water, and light, exist either in the aggregate material state or in the state of atoms (anus). The single atom is indivisible and indestructible; its existence is proved by the impossibility of division ad infinitum. Single atoms combine first in twos and afterwards in groups of three double atoms; it is only in such combinations that matter becomes visible and liable to destruction.

To these six great historical systems, which were orthodox in so far as they recognized the supreme authority of the Veda, were opposed the heterodox systems of the heretics (Nâstikas) who, like the Buddhists, the Jainas, and the Materialists, rejected the divine authority of the sacred writings.

Buddhism, as is well known, was a distinctively religious system: it recognized suffering as the supreme reality in life, and devoted little or no attention to questions of philosophic interest, except in their relation to problems of conduct. "To cease from all wrong-doing, to get virtue, to cleanse one's own heart," -- this, according to the celebrated verse, "is the religion of the Buddhas."{24} The four truths on which Buddhism is built are: (1) that suffering is universal; (2) that the cause of suffering is desire; (3) that the abolition of desire is the only deliverance from suffering; and (4) that the way of salvation is by means of certain practices of meditation and active discipline. In connection with the second and third of these truths arises the problem of the meaning of karma and nirvâna. In the Upanishad speculations karman, as we have seen, meant deed, and its eternity meant the continuous working of every thought, word, and work throughout all ages. In Buddhistic speculation the substantial permanence and identity of the soul are denied, and the only bond between the skandhas, or sets of qualities, which succeed each other in the individual body and soul, is the karma, the result of what man is and does in one existence or at one time being inevitably continued into all subsequent existences and times. The body is constantly changing, the qualities or states of the soul are constantly replaced by other qualities and states; but the result of what a man is and does remains, -- that alone is permanent. With regard to nirvâna, scholars are not agreed as to whether it meant total annihilation or a state of painlessness in which positive existence is preserved. Max Müller and Rhys-Davids may be cited favor of the latter interpretation.{25} Rhys-Davids defines nirvâna as "the extinction of that sinful, grasping condition of mind and heart, which would otherwise, according to the mystery of Karma, be the cause of renewed individual existence."

Jainism, like Buddhism, was a religious system. The only important speculative doctrine in which it differs from Buddhism is that of the substantial reality and permanence of the soul. Accordingly, the Jainas taught that nirvâna is the freedom of the soul from the conditions which cause finiteness, suffering, and ignorance. In this respect they approach very closely to the speculation of the Upanishads.


The religion of ancient Persia and that of ancient India sprang from the same origin, namely, the ideas and usages which were shared alike by the Iranian and the Hindu branches of the original Aryan family. There are, indeed, traces of a civilization which existed in Persia prior to the Aryan invasion, and which closely resembled the Shamanism of the Accadians of ancient Chaldea. Little, however, is known of pre-Aryan Persia. All that can be said with certainty is that the Aryan invaders found already existing in Bactria and the neighboring regions a system of polytheism, which they replaced by a religion monotheistic in its tendency and similar in many respects to the religion of the Hindus of the Vedic period. The heaven god, known in India as Varuna, became the principal deity of the Iranians. Soma was also worshiped under the title Homa, and the distinction between Devas and Asuras ("shining ones" and "lords") was employed in Persia as well as in India to designate two important classes of divinities. Gradually, however, a change was introduced: a tendency towards dualism became more and more strongly marked; the Devas came to be recognized as evil deities, and the Ahuras (transliteration of Asuras) came to be looked upon as divinities friendly to man. "The conflict between these opposites assumed a moral form in the minds of the Iranian wanderers; the struggle between night and day, between the storm and the blue sky, of which the Vedic poets sang, was transformed into a struggle between good and evil. In place of the careless nature worshipers of the Panjab, a race of stern and earnest Puritans grew up among the deserts and rugged mountains of Ariana."{27}

This dualistic conception of the universe, this antithesis between good and evil, was already in possession when Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, the great religious reformer, appeared, about the middle of the seventh or the beginning of the sixth century B.C.{28} To him, according to Parsee tradition, is to be ascribed the inspired authorship of a portion, at least, of the Avesta, or sacred literature of the Persians. This collection consists of five Gathas, or hymns, written in an older dialect than that of the rest of the collection, the Vendidad, or compilation of religious laws and mythical tales, and the Zend, or commentary. The first two portions constitute the Avesta proper, that is to say, "law" or "knowledge." In addition to the Avesta-Zend, there existed the Khorda Avesta, or Small Avesta, which was a collection of prayers. Zoroaster's share in the composition of these books is a matter which it is impossible, in the present condition of our knowledge, to determine. It is, however, beyond dispute that the sacred literature of the Persians reflects the beliefs which existed before the time of Zoroaster as well as those which Zoroaster introduced.

The religious reform effected by Zoroaster consisted in reducing to two more or less vague principles the good and evil elements in the universe. For him, as for his ancestors, the world is a vast battlefield, in which the forces of good and evil meet in a mighty conflict. But, instead of representing the contending forces as independent principles, manifold, yet capable of being classified as good and evil, he reduces all the conflicting powers to two, the good and the evil, of which the individual forces are derivatives. The good principle is called Ahura-mazda (Ormuzd, or Ormazd), and the evil principle is called Anra-mainyu (Ahrimân). The former is conceived as light and day, the latter as darkness and night. From the former proceed the Ahuras, or living lords (who were afterwards called Yazatas, or angels), and in general all that is good and beneficial to man: from the latter proceed the Devas, who opposed the Ahuras in the original conflict between day and night and who became the "demons" of latter Mazdeism, and, in general, from Ahrimân comes all that is evil and injurious to man.

It is man's duty to worship Ormazd (fire, being the sacred symbol, is also to be honored) by prayer, sacrifice, and the oblation of Homa (the juice of the sacred plant). It is also his duty to cultivate the soil and in other ways to promote the life and growth of the creatures of Ormazd, to destroy the works of Ahrimân, to kill all venomous and noxious things, and to rid the earth of all creatures injurious to man.

At the end of twelve thousand years the present cosmic period will come to an end. Ormazd will finally triumph, for, although Ahrimân is not inferior in power to Ormazd, he fights blindly and without adequate knowledge of the results of his actions; therefore, he and his works will come to an end, and, after the final struggle, storm and night will cease, calm and sunshine will reign, and all will be absorbed in Ormazd. In this universal absorption in Ormazd the human soul will be included.

Mazdeism (the religion of Ormazd) in its later development attached great importance to the worship of Mithra, the sun god. In this form it appeared in Rome and was among the first of the Oriental religions to gain ascendency over the minds of the Romans. Zoroastrianism was introduced as a heresy into the Christian Church by Manes, the founder of the Manichean sect.

Retrospect. In the systems of thought which flourished among the great historical nations of the East, there is, as has been observed, an almost complete lack of the rational element. In some of them, however, and especially in the Indian systems, there is abundance of speculation. Living in a country where there was practically no struggle for life, where the means of subsistence were produced without much effort on the part of the tillers of the soil, and where for thousands of years war was unknown save the war of extermination waged against the original dwellers in the land, the Hindus gave themselves up unreservedly to the solution of the problems, Whence are we come? Whereby do we live? and Whither do we go?

In solving these problems, however, the Hindus, while they succeeded better than other Oriental peoples in separating the speculative from the mythological, failed to develop the rational or dialectical phase of thought. Their speculative systems are positive rather than argumentative. It was in Greece that philosophy as a dialectical, argumentative science found its first home.

There can be no doubt that the systems which have just been sketched exercised some, if only an indefinite, influence on the speculative efforts of the first philosophers of Greece. The geographical contiguity and the commercial intercourse of the Hellenic colonies with the countries of the interior of Asia render such a supposition probable. It was not, however, until Greek philosophy had run its practically independent course of national development, that the religious systems of the Orient were finally united with the great current of Greek thought, East and the West pouring their distinctive contributions into the common stream of Greco-Oriental theosophy.

{1} St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIX, 3.

{2} For bibliography, cf. De la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, I, 163; cf. also Manual of the Science of Religion, by De la Saussaye, trans. by B. Colyer Ferguson (London, 1891), pp. 458 ff. The latter is a translation of the first volume of the first edition of the Lehrbuch. To De la Saussaye's list add Jastrow, The Religion of Assyria and Babylonia (Boston, 1898).

{3} Cf. Sayce, The Ancient Empires of the East (New York, 1896), pp. 145 ff.

{4} For bibliography, cf. De la Saussaye, op. cit., I, 88, and the Manual above referred to, pp. 374 ff.

{5} Cf. De la Saussaye, Manual, p. 396.

{6} Sayce, The Ancient Empires of the East, p. 58.

{7} For texts, date, etc., cf. Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians (New York, 1897), p. 244.

{8} Mention is also made of Osiris, or that part of man's immortal nature which has such close resemblance to the god Osiris as to be called by his hame. Wiedemann (op. cit., p. 244) maintains that in the different designations, Ka, etc., we have to do with different conceptions of an immortal soul, which had arisen in separate places in prehistoric times and were ultimately combined into one doctrine, "the Egyptians not daring to set any aside for fear it should prove to be the true one."

{9} Cf. translations of Chinese Classics by Dr. Legge, in Sacred Books of the East, Vols. III, XVI, XXVII, XXVIII. For bibliography, cf. De la Saussaye, Lehrbuch, I, 50. Consult also R. K. Douglas, Confucianism and Taouism (London, 1879).

{10} According to Mgr. De Harlez, "there is every reason for affirming that Shang-ti is not identical with Heaven, is not Heaven animized, but a personal being, the supreme Spirit governing the world from the height of the empyrean," New World (December, 1893), Vol. II, p. 652. {11} Cf. Douglas, op. cit., p. 219. {12} Cf. De La Saussaye, Manual, p. 367.

{13} For bibliography, cf. De la Saussaye, Lehrbuch, II, 4, and Manual, p. 497. Consult Max Muller, The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy (London, 1899), and Deussen, Das System des Vedanta (1883), and Allg. Gesch. der Philosophie (1899).

{14} Cf. Hopkins, The Religions of India (Boston, 1898), pp. 7 ff.

{15} Six Systems, p. 60.

{16} Op. cit., pp. 95, 96.

{17} De la Saussaye, Manual, p. 538; cf. Khandogya Upanishad, trans. in S.B.E., Vol. I, pp.92 ff.

{18} Op. cit., p. 143.

{19} Mîmâmsâ means investigation. The Uttara-Mîmâmsâ (later investigation) called because it is regarded by the Hindus as later than the Pûrva or prior investigation. The designations are maintained even by those who do not admit the posteriority of date, since the Pûrva-Mîmâmsâ refers to first, or practical, while the Uttara-Mîmâmsâ refers to the second, or speculative portion of the Veda.

{20} Quoted by Max Müller, Six Systems, pp. 159, 160.

{21} cf. Vedânta-Sûtras, II, i, 15; S.B.E., XXXIV, p. 331.

{22} Six Systems, pp. 328 ff.

{23} Nyâya-Sûtras, IV, 2 cf. Six Systems, p. 584.

{24} Quoted by Rhys-Davids, Buddhism (London, 1894), p. 62.

{25} cf. Max Müller, Buddkaghosha's Parables, p. xli; Rhys-Davids, op. cit., p. 111. Max Mü ller, however, admits that in a later and purely philosophical signification nirvâna meant complete annihilation. cf. Six Systems, p. 489.

{26} For bibliography, cf. De la Saussaye, LehrAuch, II, 151. For original sources, cf. S.B.E., Vols. IV, XXIII, XXXI. Consult Catholic University Bulletin (July, 1897), Vol. III, pp. 243 ff.

{27} Sayce, The Ancient Empires of the East, p. 257.

{28} For the date of Zoroaster and the question of his historical reality, cf. Jackson, Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iran (London and New York, 1899), pp. 3 and 14, and Appendixes I and II.

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