The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, , at sacred-texts.com
'It seems as if Ossian's was a premature return. To-day he might find comrades come back from Tir-na-nog for the uplifting of their race. Perhaps to many a young spirit standing up among us Cailte might speak as to Mongan, saying: "I was with thee, with Finn."'--A. E.
Re-birth and Otherworld--As a Christian doctrine--General historical survey--According to the Barddas MSS.; according to ancient and modern authorities--Reincarnation of the Tuatha De Danann--King Mongan's re-birth--Etain's birth--Dermot's pre-existence--Tuan's re-birth--Re-birth among Brythons--Arthur as a reincarnate hero--Non-Celtic parallels--Re-birth among modern Celts: in Ireland; in Scotland; in the Isle of Man; in Wales; in Cornwall; in Brittany--Origin and evolution of Celtic Re-birth Doctrine.
HOWEVER much the conception of the Otherworld among the ancient Greeks may have differed from that among the Celts, it was to both peoples alike inseparably connected with their belief in re-birth. Alfred Nutt, who studied this intimate relation more carefully perhaps than any other Celtic folk-lorist, has said of it:--'In Greek mythology as in Irish, the conception of re-birth proves to be a dominant factor of the same religious system in which Elysium is likewise an essential feature.' Death, as many initiates have proclaimed in their mystical writings, is but a going to that Otherworld from this world, and Birth a
coming back again; 1 and Buddha announced it as his mission to teach men the way to be delivered out of this eternal Circle of Existence.
Among ourselves the doctrine may seem a strange one, though among the great nations of antiquity--the Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, and Celts--it was taught in the Mysteries and Priest-Schools, and formed the corner-stone of the most important philosophical systems like those of Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, the Neo-Platonists, and the Druids. The Alexandrian Jews, also, were familiar with the doctrine, as implied in the Wisdom of Solomon (viii. 19, 20), and in the writings of Philo. It was one of the teachings in the Schools of Alexandria, and thus directly shaped the thoughts of some of the early Church Fathers--for example, Tertullian of Carthage (circa A. D. 160-240), and Origen of Alexandria (circa A. D. 185-254). It is of considerable historical importance for us at this point to consider at some length if Christians in the first centuries held or were greatly influenced by the re-birth doctrine, because, as we shall presently observe, the probable influence of Christian on pagan Celtic beliefs may have been at a certain period very deep and even the most important reshaping influence.
As an examination of Origen's De Principiis proves, Origen himself believed in the doctrine. 2 But the theologians who created the Greek canons of the Fifth Council
disagreed with Origen's views, and condemned Origen for believing, among other things called by them heresies, that Jesus Christ will be reincarnated and suffer on earth a second time to save the daemons, 1 an order of spiritual beings regarded by some ancient philosophers as destined to evolve into human souls. Tertullian, contemporary with Origen, in his De Anima considers whether or not the doctrine of re-birth can be regarded as Christian in view of the declaration by Jesus Christ that John the Baptist was Elias (or Elijah), the old Jewish prophet, come again:--'And if ye are willing to receive it (or him), this (John the Baptist) is Elijah, which is to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' 2 Tertullian concludes, and modern Christian theologians frequently echo him (upon comparing Malachi iv. 5), that all the New Testament writers mean to convey is that John the Baptist possessed or acted in 'the spirit and power' of Elias, but was not actually a reincarnation of Elias, since he did not possess 'the soul and body' of Elias. 3 Had Tertullian been a mystic and not merely a theologian with a personal bias against the mystery teachings, which bias he shows throughout his De Anima, it is quite evident that he would have been on this doctrinal matter in agreement with Origen, who was both a mystic and a theologian, 4 and, then, probably with such an agreement of these two eminent .Church Fathers on record before the time when Christian councils
met to determine canonical and orthodox beliefs, the doctrine of re-birth would never have been expurgated from Christianity. 1
In the Pistis Sophia, 2 an ancient Gnostic-Christian work, which contains what are alleged to be some of Jesus Christ's esoteric teachings to his disciples, it is clearly stated (contrary to Tertullian's argument, but in accord with what we may assume Origen's view would have been) that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elias. 3 The same work
further expounds the doctrine of re-birth as a teaching of Jesus Christ which applies not to particular personages only, like Elias, but as a universal law governing the lives of all mankind. 1
As our discussion has made evident, during the first centuries the re-birth doctrine was undoubtedly well known to Alexandrian Christians. Among other early Christian theologians and philosophers who held some form of a rebirth doctrine, were Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais (circa 375-414), Boethius, a Roman (circa 475-525), and Psellus, a native of Andros (second half of ninth century). In addition to the many Gnostic-Christian sects, the Manichaeans, who comprised more than seventy sects connected with the primitive Church, also promulgated the re-birth doctrine. 2 Along with the condemnation of the Gnostics and Manichaeans as heretical, the doctrine of re-birth was likewise condemned by various ecclesiastical bodies and councils. This was the declaration by the Council of Constantinople in 553:--'Whosoever shall support the mythical doctrine of the pre-existence of the Soul, and the consequent wonderful opinion of its return, let him be anathema,' And so, after centuries of controversy, the ancient doctrine ceased to be regarded as Christian. 3 It is very likely, however
ever, as will be shown in due order, that a few of the early Celtic missionaries, always famous for their Celtic independence even in questions touching Christian theology and government, did not feel themselves bound by the decisions of continental Church Councils with respect to this particular doctrine.
During the mediaeval period in Europe, the re-birth doctrine continued to live on in secret among many of the alchemists and mystical philosophers, and among such
[paragraph continues] Druids as survived religious persecution; and it has come down from that period to this through Orders like the Rosicrucian Order--an Order which seems to have had an unbroken existence from the Middle Ages or earlier--and likewise through the unbroken traditions of modern Druidism. In our own times there is what may be called a renaissance of the ancient doctrine in Europe and America--especially in England, Germany, France, and the United States--through various philosophical or religious societies; some of them founding their teachings and literature on the ancient and mediaeval mystical philosophers, while others stand as the representatives in the West of the mystical schools of modem India, which, like modern Druidism, claim to have existed from what we call prehistoric times. 1 To-day in the Roman Church eminent theologians have called the doctrine of Purgatory the Christian counterpart of the philosophical doctrine of re-birth; 2 and the real significance of this opinion will appear in our later study of St. Patrick's Purgatory which, as we hold, is connected more or less definitely with the pagan-Irish doctrines of the underworld of the Sidhe-folk and spirits, as
well as shades of the dead, and with the Celtic-Druidic Doctrine of Reincarnation.
Scientifically speaking, as shown in the Welsh Triads of Bardism, the ancient Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth represented for the priestly and bardic initiates an exposition of the complete cycle of human evolution; that is to say, it included what we now call Darwinism--which explains only the purely physical evolution of the body which man inhabits as an inheritance from the brute kingdom--and also besides Darwinism, a comprehensive theory of man's own evolution as a spiritual being both apart from and in a physical body, on his road to the perfection which comes from knowing completely the earth-plane of existence. And in time, judging from the rapid advance of the present age, our own science through psychical research may work back to the old mystery teachings and declare them scientific. (See chap. xii.)
With this preliminary survey of the subject we may now proceed to show how in the Celtic scheme of evolution the Otherworld with all its gods, fairies, and invisible beings, and this world with all its visible beings, form the two poles of life or conscious existence. Let us begin with purely philosophical conceptions, going first to the Welsh Barddas, 1 where it is said 'There are three circles of existence: the circle of Ceugant (the circle of Infinity), where there is neither animate nor inanimate save God, and God only can traverse it; the circle of Abred (the circle of Re-birth), where the dead is stronger than the living, and where every
principal existence is derived from the dead, and man has traversed it; and the circle of Gwynvyd (the circle of the white, i. e. the circle of Perfection), where the living is stronger than the dead, and where every principal existence is derived from the living and life, that is, from God, and man shall traverse it; nor will man attain to perfect knowledge, until he shall have fully traversed the circle of Gwynvyd, for no absolute knowledge can be obtained but by the experience of the senses, from having borne and suffered every condition and incident'. 1 . . . 'The three stabilities of knowledge: to have traversed every state of life; to remember every state and its incidents; and to be able to traverse every state, as one would wish, for the sake of experience and judgement; and this will be obtained in the circle of Gwynvyd.' 2
Thus Barddas expounds the complete Bardic scheme of evolution as one in which the monad or soul, as a knowledge of physical existence is gradually unfolded to it, passes through every phase of material embodiment before it enters the human kingdom, where, for the first time exercising freewill in a physical body, it becomes responsible for all its acts, The Bardic doctrine as otherwise stated is 'that the soul commenced its course in the lowest water-animalcule, and passed at death to other bodies of a superior order, successively, and in regular gradation, until it entered that of man. Humanity is a state of liberty, where man can attach himself to either good or evil, as he pleases'. 3 Once in the human kingdom the soul begins a second period of growth altogether different from that preceding--a period of growth toward divinity; and with this, in our study, we are chiefly concerned. It seems clear that the circle of Gwynvyd finds its parallel in the Nirvana of Buddhism, being, like it, a state of absolute knowledge and felicity in which man becomes a divine being, a veritable god. 4 We
see in all this the intimate relation which there was thought to be between what we call the state of life and the state of death, between the world of men and the world of gods, fairies, demons, spirits, and shades. Our next step must be to show, first, what some other authorities have had to say about this relation, and then, second, and fundamentally, that gods or fairy-folk like the Sidhe or Tuatha De Danann could come to this world not only as we have been seeing them come as fairy women, fairy men, and gods, at will visible or invisible to mortals, but also through submitting to human birth.
First, therefore, for opinions; and we may go to the ancients and then to the moderns. Here are a few from Julius Caesar:--'In particular they (the Druids) wish to inculcate this idea, that souls do not die, but pass from one body to another.' 1 'The Gauls declare that they have all sprung from their father Dis (or Pluto), and this they say was delivered to them by the Druids.' 1 And the testimony of Caesar is confirmed by Diodorus Siculus, 2 and by Pomponius Mela. 3 Lucan, in the Pharsalia, 4 addressing the Druids on their doctrine of re-birth says:--'If you know what you sing, death is the centre of a long life.' And again in the same passage he observes:--'Happy the folk upon
whom the Bear looks down, happy in this error, whom of fears the greatest moves not, the dread of death. Hence their warrior's heart hurls them against the steel, hence their ready welcome of death, and the thought that it, were a coward's part to grudge a life sure of its return.' 1 Dr. Douglas Hyde, in his Literary History of Ireland (p. 95), speaking for the Irish people, says of the re-birth doctrine:--'. . . the idea of re-birth which forms part of half a dozen existing Irish sagas, was perfectly familiar to the Irish Gael. . . .' According to another modern Celtic authority, D'Arbois de Jubainville, two chief Celtic doctrines or beliefs were the return of the ghosts of the dead and the re-birth of the same individuality in a new human body here on this planet. 2
We proceed now directly to show that there was also a belief, probably widespread, among the ancient Irish that divine personages, national heroes who are members of the Tuatha De Danann or Sidhe race, and great men, can be reincarnated, that is to say, can descend to this plane of existence and be as mortals more than once. This aspect of the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth has been clearly set forth by the publications of such eminent Celtic folk-lorists as Alfred Nutt and Miss Eleanor Hull. Miss Hull, in her study of Old Irish Tabus, or Gesa, 3 referring to the Cuchulainn Cycle of Irish literature and mythology, writes thus:--'There is no doubt that all the chief personages of this cycle were regarded as the direct descendants, or it would be more correct to say, as avatars or reincarnations of the early gods. Not only are their pedigrees traced up to the Tuatha De Danann, but there are indications in the birth-stories of nearly all the principal personages that they are looked upon simply as divine beings reborn on the human plane of
life. These indications are mysterious, and most of the tales which deal with them show signs of having been altered, perhaps intentionally, by the Christian transcribers. The doctrine of re-birth was naturally not one acceptable to them. . . . The goddess Etain becomes the mortal wife of a king of Ireland. . . . Conchobhar, moreover, is spoken of as a terrestrial god; 1 and Dechtire, his sister, and the other of Cúchulainn, is called a goddess. 2 In the case of Cúchulainn himself, it is distinctly noted that he is the avatar of Lugh lamhfada (long-hand), the sun-deity 3 of the earliest cycle. Lugh appears to Dechtire, the mother of Cúchulainn, and tells her that he himself is her little child, i.e. that the child is a reincarnation of himself; and Cúchulainn when inquired of as to his birth, points proudly to his descent from Lugh. When, too, it is proposed to find a wife for the hero, the reason assigned is, that they knew "that this re-birth would be of himself" (i. e. that only from himself could another such as he have origin).' 4 We have in this last a clue to the popular Irish belief regarding the re-birth of beings of a god-like nature. D'Arbois de Jubainville has shown, 5 also, that the grandfather of Cuchulainn, son of Sualtaim, was from the country of the Sidhe, and so was Ethné Ingubé, the sister of Sualtaim. And Dechtire, the mother of Cuchulainn, was the daughter of the Druid Cathba and the brother of King Conchobhar. Thus the ancestry of the great hero of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster is both royal and divine. And Conall Cernach, Cuchulainn's comrade and avenger, apparently from a tale in the Cóir Anmann (Fitness of Names), composed probably during the twelfth century, was also a reincarnated Tuatha De Danann hero. 6
Practically all the extant manuscripts dealing with the ancient literature and mythology of the Gaels were written by Christian scribes or else copied by them from old manuscripts, so that, as Miss Hull points out, what few Irish re-birth stories have come down to us--and they probably but remnants of an extensive re-birth literature like that of India--have been more or less altered. Yet to these scholarly scribes of the early monastic schools, who kept alive the sacred fire of learning while their own country was being plundered by foreign invaders and the rest of mediaeval Europe plunged in warfare, the world owes a debt of gratitude; for to their efforts alone, in spite of a reshaping of matter naturally to be expected, is due almost everything recorded on parchments concerning pagan Ireland.
We have preserved to us a remarkable re-birth story in which the characters are known to be historical. 1 It concerns a quarrel between the king of Ulster, Mongan, son of Fiachna--who, according to the Annals of Ireland by The Four Masters (i. 245), was killed in A. D. 620 by Arthur, son of Bicor--and Forgoll, the poet of Mongan. 2 The dispute between them was as to the place of the death of Fothad Airgdech, a king of Ireland who was killed by Cailte, one of the warriors of Find, in a battle whose date is fixed by the Four Masters in A. D. 285. 3 Forgoll pretended that Fothad
had been killed at Duffry, in Leinster, and Mongan asserted that it was on the river Larne (anciently Ollarba) in County Antrim. Enraged at being contradicted, even though it were by the king, Forgoll threatened Mongan with terrible incantations; and it was agreed that unless Mongan proved his assertion within three days, his queen should pass under the control of Forgoll. Mongan, however, had spoken truly and with certain secret knowledge, and felt sure of winning.
When the third day was almost expired and Forgoll had presented himself ready to claim the wager, there was heard coming in the distance the one whom Mongan awaited. It was Cailte himself, come from the Otherworld to bear testimony to the truthfulness of the king and to confound the audacious presumptions of the poet Forgoll. It was evening when he reached the palace. The king Mongan was seated on his throne, and the queen at his right full of fear about the outcome, and in front stood the poet Forgoll claiming the wager. No one knew the strange warrior as he entered the court, save the king.
Cailte, when fully informed of the quarrel and the wager, quickly announced so that all heard him distinctly, 'The poet has lied!' 'You will regret those words,' replied the poet. 'What you say does not well become you,' responded Cailte in turn, 'for I will prove what I say.' And straightway Cailte revealed this strange secret: that he had been one of the companions in arms under the great warrior Find, who was also his teacher, and that Mongan, the king before whom he spoke, was the reincarnation of Find:--
'We were with thee,' said Cailte, addressing the king. 'We were with Find.' 'Know, however,' replied Mongan, 'that you do wrong in revealing a secret.' But the warrior continued: 'We were therefore with Find. We came from Scotland. We encountered Fothad Airgdech near here, on the shores of the Ollarba. We gave him furious battle. I cast my spear at him in such a manner that it passed through his body, and the iron point, detaching itself from the staff, became fixed in the earth on the other side of
[paragraph continues] Fothad. Behold here [in my hand] the shaft of that spear. There will be found the bare rock from the top of which I let fly my weapon. There will be found a little further to the east the iron point sunken in the earth. There will be found again a little further, always to the east, the tomb of Fothad Airgdech. A coffin of stone covers his body; his two bracelets of silver, his two arm-rings, and his neck-torque of silver are in the coffin. Above the tomb rises a pillar-stone, and on the upper extremity of that stone which is planted in the earth one may read an inscription in ogam: Here reposes Fothad Airgdech; he was fighting against Find when Cailte slew him.'
And to the consternation of Forgoll, what this warrior who came from the Otherworld declared was true, for there were found the place indicated by him, the rock, the spear-head, the pillar-stone, the inscription, the coffin of stone, the body in it, and the jewellery. Thus Mongan gained the wager; and the secret of his life which he alone had known was revealed--he was Find re-born 1; and Cailte, his old pupil and warrior-companion, had come from the land of the dead to aid him 1:--'It was Cailte, Find's foster-son, that had come to them. Mongan, however, was Find, though he would not let it be told.' 1 But not only was Mongan an Irish king, he was also a god, the son of the Tuatha De Danann Manannan Mac Lir: 'this Mongan is a son of Manannan Mac Lir, though he is called Mongan, son of Fiachna.' 2 And so it is that long after their conquest the People of the Goddess Dana ruled their conquerors, for they took upon themselves human bodies, being born as the children of the kings of Mil's Sons.
There are other episodes which show very clearly the relationship between Mongan incarnated in a human body and his divine father Manannan. Thus, 'When Mongan was three nights old, Manannan came for him and took him with him to bring up in the Land of Promise, and vowed
that he would not let him back into Ireland before he were twelve years of age.' And after Mongan has become Ulster's high king, Manannan comes to him to rouse him out of human slothfulness to a consciousness of his divine nature and mission, and of the need of action: Mongan and his wife were frittering away their time playing a game, when they beheld a dark black-tufted little cleric standing at the door-post, who said:--'"This inactivity in which thou art, O Mongan, is not an inactivity becoming a king of Ulster, not to go to avenge thy father on Fiachna the Black, son of Deman, though Dubh-Lacha may think it wrong to tell thee so. . . ." Mongan seized the kingship of Ulster, and the little cleric who had done the reason was Manannan the great and mighty.' 1
In the ancient tale of the Voyage of Bran--probably composed in its present form during the eighth, possibly the seventh, century A. D.--there is another version of the Mongan Re-birth Story, which, being later in origin and composition than the Voyage itself, was undoubtedly clumsily inserted into the manuscript, as scholars think. 2 Therein, Mongan as the offspring of Manannan by the woman of Line-mag--quite after the theory of the Christian Incarnation--is described as 'a fair man in a body of white clay'. This and what follows in the introductory quatrain show how early Celtic doctrines correspond to or else were originated by those of the Christians. And the transcriber seeing the parallels, glossed and altered the text which he copied by introducing Christian phraseology so as to fit it in with his own idea--altogether improbable--that the references are to the coming of Jesus Christ. The references are to Manannan and to the woman of Line-mag, who by him was to be the mother of Mongan--as Mary the wife of Joseph was the mother of Jesus Christ by God the Father:--
A noble salvation will come
From the King who has created us,
A white law will come over seas,
Besides being God, He will be man. p. 374
This shape, he on whom thou lookest,
Will come to thy parts;
'Tis mine to journey to her house,
To the woman in Line-mag.
For it is Moninnan, the son of Ler,
From the chariot in the shape of a man,
. . . . . . .
He will delight the company of every fairy-knoll,
He will be the darling of every goodly land,
He will make known secrets--a course of wisdom--
In the world, without being feared.
To him is attributed the power of shape-shifting, which is not transmigration into animal forms, but a magical power exercised by him in a human body.
He will be throughout long ages
An hundred years in fair kingship
. . . . . .
Moninnan, the son of Ler
Will be his father, his tutor.
[paragraph continues] At his death
The white host (the angels or fairies) will take him under a wheel (chariot) of clouds
To the gathering where there is no sorrow. 1
Another clear example of one of the Tuatha De Danann being born as a mortal is recorded in the famous saga of the Wooing of Etain. Three fragments of this story exist in the Book of the Dun Cow. The first tells how Etain Echraide, daughter of Ailill and wife of Midir (a great king among the Sidhe people) was driven out of Fairyland by the jealousy of her husband's other wife, and how after being wafted about on the winds of this world she fell invisibly into the drinking-cup of the wife of Etar of Inber Cichmaine, who was an Ulster chieftain. The chieftain's wife swallowed her; and, in due time, gave birth to a girl:--
[paragraph continues] 'It was one thousand and twelve years from the first begetting of Etain by Ailill to the last begetting by Etar.' Etain, retaining her own name, grew up thence as an Irish princess. 1
One day an unknown man of very stately aspect suddenly appeared to Etain the princess; and as suddenly disappeared, after he had sung to her a wonderful song designed to arouse in her the subconscious memories of her past existence among the Sidhe:--
So is Etain here to-day.
Among little children is her lot.
It is she was gulped in the drink
By Etar's wife in a heavy draught.
[paragraph continues] The scribe ends this part of the story by letting it be known that Midir has struck off the head of his other wife, Fuamnach, the cause of all Etain's trouble.
The second section of the tale introduces Etain as queen of Eochaid Airem, high king of Ireland, and the most curious and important part of it shows how she was loved by Ailill Aenguba. Ailill, so far as blood kinship went, was the brother of Eochaid, though apparently either an incarnation of Midir or else possessed by him: Etain acceded to his love, but he was under a strange love-weakness; and on two occasions when he attempted to advance his desires an over-powering sleep fell on him, and each time Etain met a man in Ailill's shape--as though it were his 'double '--bemoaning his weakness. On a third occasion she asked who the man was, and he declared himself to be Midir, and besought her to return with him to the Otherworld. But her worldly or human memory clouded her subconscious memory, and she did not recognize Midir, yet promised to go with him on gaining Eochaid's permission. After this event, curiously enough, Ailill was healed of his strange love-malady.
In the third part of the story, Midir and Eochaid are
playing games. Midir loses the first two and with them great riches, but winning the third claims the right to place his arms about Etain and kiss her. Eochaid asked a month's delay. The last day of the month had passed. It was night. Eochaid in his palace at Tara awaited the coming of his rival, Midir; and though all the doors of the palace had been firmly closed for the occasion, and armed soldiers surrounded the queen, Midir like a spirit suddenly stood in the centre of the court and claimed the wager. Then, grasping and kissing Etain, he mounted in the air with her and very quickly passed out through the opening of the great chimney. In consternation, King Eochaid and his warriors hurried without the palace; and there, on looking up, they saw two white swans flying over Tara, bound together by a golden chain. 1
With a difficult task before him, Dermot--as was the case with Mongan--is reminded of his pre-existence as a hero in the Otherworld with Manannan Mac Lir and Angus Oge:--'Now spoke Fergus Truelips, Finn's ollave, and said: "Cowardly and punily thou shrinkest, Dermot; for with most potent Manannan, son of Lir, thou studiedst and wast brought up, in the Land of Promise and in the bay-indented coasts; with Angus Oge, too, the Daghda's son, wast most accurately taught; and it is not just that now thou lackest even a moderate portion of their skill and daring, such as might serve to convey Finn and his party up this rock or bastion." At these words Dermot's face grew red; he laid hold on Manannan's magic staves that he had, and, as once again he redly blushed, by dint of skill in martial feats he with a leap rose on his javelin's shafts and so gained his two
soles' breadth of the solid glebe that overhung the water's edge.' 1
Tuan, as the son of Starn, lived one hundred years as the brother of Partholon, the first man to reach Ireland; and then, after two hundred and twenty years, was re-born as the son of Cairell. This story in its oldest form is preserved in the Book of the Dun Cow, and seems to have been composed during the late ninth or early tenth century. 2
Such then are the re-birth stories of the Gaels. Among the Brythons the same ancient doctrine prevailed, though we have fewer clear records of it. Of the Brythonic Rebirth Doctrine as philosophically expounded in Barddas, mention has already been made.
In the ancient Welsh story about Taliessin, Gwion after many transformations, magical in their nature, is re-born as that great poet of Wales, his mother being a goddess, Caridwen, who dwells beneath the waters of Lake Tegid. In its present mystical form this tale cannot be traced further than the end of the sixteenth century, though the transformation incidents are presupposed in the Book of Taliessin, a thirteenth-century manuscript. 1 Besides being the re-birth of Gwion, Taliessin may be regarded as a bardic initiate high in degree, who is possessed of all magical and druidical powers. 1 He made a voyage to the Otherworld, Caer Sidi; and this seems to indicate some close connexion between ancient rites of initiation and his occult knowledge of all things. 2 Like the Irish re-birth and Otherworld tales,
it also suggests the relation between the world of death or Faerie and the world of human embodiment.
From his harrying of Hades, the Brythonic Gwydion secured the Head of Hades' Cauldron of Regeneration or Re-birth; and when corpses of slain warriors are thrown into it they arise next day as excellent as ever, except that they are unable to speak; which circumstance may be equal to saying that the ordinary uninitiated man when re-born is unable to speak of his previous incarnation, because he has no memory of it. This Cauldron of Re-birth, like so many objects mentioned in the ancient bardic literature, is evidently a mystic symbol: it suggests the same correspondences, as propounded in the modern Barddas, between the dead and the living, between death and re-birth; and Gwydion having been a great culture hero of Wales probably promulgated a doctrine of re-birth, and hence is described as being able to resuscitate the dead. 1
Judging from substantial evidence set forth above in chapter v, the most famous of all Welsh heroes, Arthur, equally with Cuchulainn his Irish counterpart, can safely be considered both as a god apart from the human plane of existence, and thus like the Tuatha De Danann or Fairy-Folk, and also like a great national hero and king (such as Mongan was) incarnated in a physical body. The taking of Arthur to Avalon by his life-guardian, the Lady of the Lake, and by his own sister, and by two other fairy women who live in that Otherworld of Sacred Apple-Groves, is sufficient in itself, we believe, to prove him of a descent more divine than that of ordinary men. And the belief in his return from that Otherworld--a return so confidently looked for by the Brythonic peoples--seems to be a belief (whether recognized as such or not) that the Great Hero will be reincarnated as a Messiah destined to set them free. In Avalon, Arthur lives now, and 'It is from there that the Britons of England and of France have for a long time
awaited his coming'. 1 And Malory expressing the sentiment in his age writes 2:--'Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life.' If we consider Arthur's passing an expected return, as many do, in a purely mythological aspect, we must think of him for the time as a sun-god, and yet even then cannot escape altogether from the re-birth idea; for, as a study of ancient Egyptian mythology shows, there is still the same set of relations. 3 There are the sun-symbols always made use of to set forth the doctrine of re-birth, be it Egyptian, Indian, Mexican, or Celtic:--the death of a mortal like the passing of Arthur is represented by the sun-set on the horizon between the visible world here and the invisible world beyond the Western Ocean, and the re-birth is the sunrise of a new day.
As a non-Celtic parallel to what has preceded concerning the Otherworld of the Celts and their Doctrine of Re-birth, we offer the second of the Stories of the High-priests of Memphis, as published by Mr. F. L. Griffith from ancient manuscripts. 4 It is a history of Si-Osiri (the son of Osiris), whose father was Setme Khamuas. This wonderful divine son when still a child took his human father on a journey to see Amenti, the Otherworld of the Dead; and when twelve years of age he was wiser than the wisest of the scribes and unequalled in magic. At this period in his life there arrived in Egypt an Ethiopian magician who came with the
object of humbling the kingdom; but Si-Osiri read what was in the unopened letter of the stranger, and knew that its bearer was the reincarnation of 'Hor the son of the Negress', the most formidable of the three Ethiopian magicians who fifteen hundred years before had waged war with the magicians of Egypt. At that time the Egyptian Hor, the son of Pa-neshe, had defeated the great magician of Ethiopia in the final struggle between White and Black Magic which took place in the presence of the Pharaoh. 1 And 'Hor the son of the Negress' had agreed not to return to Egypt again for fifteen hundred years. But now the time was elapsed, and, unmasking the character of the messenger, Si-Osiri destroyed him with magical fire. After this, Si-Osiri revealed himself as the reincarnation of Hor the son of Pa-neshe, and declared that Osiris had permitted him to return to earth to destroy the powerful hereditary enemy of Egypt. When the revelation was made, Si-Osiri 'passed away as a shade', going back again, even as the Celtic Arthur, into the realm invisible from which he came.
As in ancient Ireland, where many kings or great heroes were regarded as direct incarnations or reincarnations of gods or divine beings from the Otherworld, so in Egypt the Pharaohs were thought to be gods in human bodies, sent by Osiris to rule the Children of the Sun. 2 In Mexico and Peru there was a similar belief. 3 In the Indian Mahâbhârata, Râma and Krishna are at once gods and men. 4 The celebrated philosophical poem known as the Bhagavadgîtâ also asserts Krishna's descent from the gods; and the same view is again enforced and extended in the Hari-vansa and especially in the Bhagavata Purâna. 4 The Indian Laws of Manu say that 'even an infant king must not be despised from an idea that he is a mere mortal; for he is a great
deity in human form'. 1 In ancient Greece it was a common opinion that Zeus was reincarnated from age to age in the great national heroes. 'Alexander the Great was regarded not merely as the son of Zeus, but as Zeus himself.' And other great Greeks were regarded as gods while living on earth, like Lycurgus the Spartan law-giver, who after his death was worshipped as one of the divine ones. 2
Among the great philosophers, the ancient doctrine of rebirth was a personal conviction: Buddha related very many of his previous reincarnations, according to the Gâtakamâlâ; Pythagoras is said to have gone to the temple of Here and recognized there an ancient shield which he had carried in a previous life when he was Euphorbus, a Homeric hero. 3 From what Plato, in his Meno, quoted from an old poet, it seems very probable that there may be some sort of relationship between legends mentioning the Rites of Proserpine, like the legend of Aeneas in Virgil, and certain of the Irish Otherworld and Re-birth legends among the Gaels, as we have already suggested:--'For from whomsoever Persephone hath accepted the atonement of ancient woe, their souls she sendeth up once more to the upper sun in the ninth year. From these grow up glorious kings and men of swift strength, and men surpassing in poetical skill; and for all future time they are called holy heroes among men.' Among modern philosophers and poets in Europe and America the same ideas find their echo: Wordsworth in his Ode to Immortality definitely inculcates pre-existence; Emerson in his Threnody, and Tennyson in his De Profundis, seem committed to the re-birth doctrine, and Walt Whitman in his Leaves of Grass without doubt accepted it as true. Certain German philosophers, too, appear to hold views in harmony with what is also the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, e.g. Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Idea, J. G. Fichte, in The Destiny of Man, and Herder, in
[paragraph continues] Dialogues on Metempsychosis. The Emperor of Japan is still the Divine Child of the Sun, the head of the Order of the Rising Sun, and is always regarded by his subjects as the incarnation of a great being. The Great Lama of Thibet is believed to reincarnate immediately after death. 1 William II of Germany seems to echo, perhaps unconsciously, the same doctrine when he claims to be ruling by divine right. 2
That the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth is a direct and complete confirmation of the Psychological Theory of the nature and origin of the belief in fairies is self-evident. Could it be shown to be scientifically plausible in itself, as well-educated Celts consider it to be--and much evidence to be derived from a study of states of consciousness, e. g. dreams, somnambulism, trance, crystal-gazing, changed personality, subconsciousness, and so forth, indicates that it might be shown to be so--it would effectively prove the theory. Fairies would then be beings of the Otherworld who can enter the human plane of life by submitting to the natural process of birth in a physical body, and would correspond to the Alcheringa ancestors of the Arunta. In chapter xii following, such a proof of the theory is attempted.
One of the chief objects of this chapter is to show that the Re-birth Doctrine of the Celts, like most beliefs bound up with the Fairy-Faith, still survives; thus further proving that Celtic tradition is an unbroken thing from times prehistoric until to-day. We shall therefore proceed to bring forward the following original material, collected by ourselves, as evidence on this point:--
In Ireland I found two districts where the Re-birth Doctrine has not been wholly forgotten. The first one is in
the country round Knock Ma, near Tuam. After Mrs.------ had told me about fairies, I led up to the subject of re-birth, and the most valuable of all my Irish finds concerning the belief was the result. For this woman of Belclare told me that it was believed by many of the old people, when she was a girl living a few miles west of Knock Ma, that they had lived on this earth before as men and women; but, she added, 'You could hardly get them to talk about their belief. It was a sort of secret which they who held it discussed freely only among themselves.' They believed, too, that disease and misfortune in old age come as a penalty for sins committed in a former life. 1 This expiatory or purgatorial aspect of the Re-birth Doctrine seems to have been more widespread than the doctrine in its bare outlines; for the Belclare woman in speaking of it was able to recall from memories of forty-five or fifty years ago what was then a popular story about a disease-worn man and an eel-fisherman:--
The diseased man as he watches the eel-fisherman taking up his baskets, contrasts his own wretched physical condition with the vigour and good health of the latter, and attributes the misfortune which is upon himself to bad actions in a life prior to the one he is then living. And here is the unhappy man's lamentation:--
Fliuch, fuar atâ mo leabaidh;
Atâ fearthâinn agus geur-ghaoith;
Atâim ag îoc na h-uaille,
A's tusa ag faire do chliaibhîn.
(Wet, cold is my bed;
There is rain and sharp wind;
I am paying for pride,
And you watching your [eel-] basket.)
The teller of the story insisted on giving me these verses in Irish, for she said they have much less meaning in English, and I took them down; and to verify them and the story in which they find a place, I went to the cottage a second time. There is no doubt, therefore, that the legend is a genuine echo of the religion of pre-Christian Ireland, in which reincarnation appears to have been clearly inculcated and was probably the common belief.
I once asked Steven Ruan, the Galway piper, if he had ever heard of such a thing as people being born more than once here on this earth, seeing that I was seeking for traces of the old Irish Doctrine of Re-birth. The answer he gave me was this:--'I have often heard it said that people born and dead come into this world again. I have heard the old people say that we have lived on this earth before; and I have often met old men and women who believed they had lived before. The idea passed from one old person to another, and was a common belief, though you do not hear much about it now.'
A highly educated Irishman now living in California tells me of his own knowledge that there was a popular and sincere belief among many of the Irish people throughout Ireland that Charles Parnell, their great champion in modern times, was the reincarnation of one of the old Gaelic heroes. This shows how the ancient doctrine is still practically applied. There is also an opinion held by certain very prominent Irishmen now living in Ireland, with whom I have been privileged to discuss the re-birth doctrine, that both Patrick and Columba are likewise to be regarded as ancient Gaelic heroes, who were reincarnated to work for the uplifting of the Gael. 1
A legend concerning Lough Gur, County Limerick, indicates that the sleeping-hero type of tale is a curious aspect of an ancient re-birth doctrine. In such tales, heroes and their warrior companions are held under enchantment, awaiting the mystic hour to strike for them to issue forth and free their native land from the rule of the Saxon. Usually they are so held within a mysterious cavern, as is the case of. Arthur and his men, according to differently localized Welsh stories; or they are in the depths of magic hills and mountains like most Irish heroes. The heroes under enchantment with their companions are to be considered as resident in the Otherworld, and their return to human action as a return to the human plane of life. The Lough Gur legend is about Garret Fitzgerald, the Earl of Desmond, who rebelled against Queen Elizabeth. Modern folk-tradition regards him as the guardian deity of the Lough, and as dwelling in an enchanted palace situated beneath its waters. As Count John de Sails, whose ancestral home is the Lough Gur estate, assures me, the peasants of the region declare themselves convinced that the earl once in seven years appears riding across the lake surface on a phantom white horse shod with shoes of silver; and they believe that when the horse's silver shoes are worn out the enchantment will end. Then, like Arthur when his stay in Avalon ends, Garret Fitzgerald will return to the world of human life again to lead the Irish hosts to victory. 1
Dr. Alexander Carmichael, author of Carmina Gadelica, who as a folk-lorist has examined modern peasant beliefs throughout the Highlands and Islands more thoroughly than any other living Scotsman, informs me that apparently there was at one time in the Highlands a definite belief in the ancient Celtic Rebirth Doctrine, because he has found traces of it there, though these traces were only in the vaguest and barest outline.
In the Isle of Man
Mr. William Cashen, keeper of Peel Castle, reported as follows with respect to a re-birth doctrine in the Isle of Man:--'Here in the Island among old Manx people I have heard it said, but only in a joking way, that we will come back to this earth again after some thousands of years. The idea wasn't very popular nor often discussed, and there is no belief in it now to my knowledge. It seems to have come down from the Druids.'
This is Mr. William Oates' testimony, given at Ballasalla:--'Some held a belief in the coming back (re-birth) of spirits. I can't explain it. A certain Manxman I knew used to talk about the transmigration of spirits; but I shall not give his name, since many of his family still live here on the Island.'
Mr. Thomas Kelley, of Glen Meay, had no clear idea about the ancient Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, though he said:--'My grandfather had a notion that he would be back here again at the Resurrection to claim his land.' This undoubtedly shows how the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection and the Celtic one of Re-birth may have blended, both being based on the common idea of a physical post-existence.
In the Pentre Evan country where I discovered such rich folk-lore, I found my chief witness from there not unfamiliar with the ancient Celtic belief in Re-birth. One day I asked her if she had ever heard the old folk say that they had lived before on this earth as men and women. Somewhat surprised at the question, for to answer it would reveal half secret thoughts of which, as it proved, not even her own nephew or niece had knowledge, she hesitated a moment, and, then, looking at me intently, said with great earnestness, 'Yes; and I often believe myself that I have lived before.' And because of the unusual question, which seemed to reveal on my part familiarity with the belief, she added, 'And I think you must be of the same opinion as to yourself.' She explained then that the belief was a rare one now, and
held by only a few of the oldest of her old acquaintances in that region, and they seldom talk about it to their children for fear of being laughed at.
Mr. J. Ceredig Davies, the well-known folk-lorist of Llanilar, near Aberystwyth, speaking of the Welsh Re-birth Doctrine, said he remembers, while in Patagonia, having discussed Druidism with a friend there, the late John Jones, originally of Bala, North Wales, and hearing him remark, 'Indeed, I have a half-belief that I have been in this world before.'
Mr. Jones, our witness from Pontrhydfendigaid, offers testimony of the highest value concerning Druidism and the doctrine of re-birth in Central Wales, as follows 'Taliessin believed in re-birth, and he was the first to interpret the Druidic laws. He believed that from age to age he had been in many human bodies. He believed that he possessed the same soul as Enoch and Eli, that he had been a judge sitting on the case of Jesus Christ--"I was a judge at the Crucifixion," he is reported as saying--and that he had been a prisoner in bonds at the Court of Cynfelyn, not far from Aberystwyth, for a year and a day. Two hundred years ago, belief in re-birth was common. Many still held it when I was a boy. And even yet here in this region some people are imbued with the ancient faith of the Druids, and firmly believe that the spirit migrates from one body to another. It is said, too, that a pregnant woman is able to determine what kind of a child she will give birth to.' 1
Mr. Jones's use of the phrase 'migrate from one body to another' led us to suspect that it might refer to transmigration, i.e. re-birth into animal bodies, which Dr. Tylor in
[paragraph continues] Primitive Culture 4 (ii. 6-11, 17, &c.) shows is a distorted or corrupted interpretation of what he calls the reasonable and straightforward doctrine of re-birth into human bodies only. But when we questioned Mr. Jones further about the matter he said:--'The belief I refer to is re-birth into human bodies. I have heard of witches being able to change their own body into the body of an animal or demon, but never heard of men transmigrating into the bodies of animals. Some people have said that the Druids taught migration of this sort, but I do not think they did--though Welsh poets seem to have made use of such a doctrine for the sake of poetry.'
In order to gain evidence concerning the Re-birth Doctrine as concrete as possible from so important a witness as Mr. Jones, we asked him further if he could recall the names of one or two of his old acquaintances who believed in it; paid he said:--'One old character named Thomas Williams, a dyer by trade, nearly believed in it, and Shôn Evan Rolant firmly believed in it. Rolant was the owner of Old Abbey Farm on the Cross-Wood Estate, and originally was a well-to-do and respectable farmer, but in consequence of mortgages on the estate he lost his property. After being dispossessed and badly treated, he used to recite the one hundred and ninth Psalm, to bring curses upon those who worked against him in the dispossession process; and it was thought that he succeeded in bringing curses upon them.'
The Rev. T. M. Morgan, Vicar of Newchurch parish, near Carmarthen, who has already offered valuable evidence concerning the Tylwyth Teg (see pp. 149-51) contributes additional material about the Doctrine of Re-birth in South Wales:--'My father said there used to be expressed in Cardiganshire before his time, a belief in re-birth. This was in accord with Druidism, namely, that all human beings formerly existed on the moon, the world of middle light, and the queen of heaven; that those who there lived a righteous life were thence born on the sun, and thence onward to the highest heaven; and that those whose moon life had been unrighteous
were born on this earth of suffering and sin. Through right-living on earth souls are able to return to the moon, and then evolve to the sun and highest heaven; or, through wrong. living on earth, souls are born in the third condition, which is one of utter darkness and of still greater suffering and sin than our world offers. But even from this lowest condition souls can work upwards to the highest glory if they strive successfully against evil. The Goddess of Heaven or Mother of all human beings was known as Brenhines-y-nef. I am unable to tell if she is the moon itself or lived in the moon. On the other hand, the sun was considered the father of all human beings. According to the old belief, every new moon brings the souls who were unfit to be born on the sun, to deposit them here on our earth. Sometimes there are more souls seeking embodiment on earth than there are infant bodies to contain them. Hence souls fight among themselves to occupy a body. Occasionally one soul tries to drive out from a body the soul already in possession of it, in order to possess it for itself. In consequence of such struggling of soul against soul, men in this world manifest-madness and tear themselves. Whenever such a condition showed itself, the person exhibiting it was called a Lloerig or "one who is moon-torn"--Lloer meaning moon, and rhigo to notch or tear; and in the English word lunatic, meaning "moon-struck", we have a similar idea.' 1
Mr. David Williams, J.P., of Carmarthen, who has already. told us much about Welsh fairies (see pp. 151-3), offers equally valuable information about the 'Three Circles of Existence' and the Druidic scheme of soul-evolution, as follows:--'According to the Druids, there are three Circles through which souls must pass. The first is Cylch y Ceugant, the second Cylch Abred, the third Cylch y Gwynfyd. The name of each circle refers to a special kind of spiritual training, and if in reaching the second circle you do not gain its perfection by completing all its provisions [probably in due
order and time], you must begin again in Circle One; but if you reach the perfection of Circle Two you go on to Circle Three. In Circle One, which is unlocated, the soul has no condition of bodily existence as in Circle Two. The second Circle appears to be a state something like the one we are in now--a mixture of good and evil. The third Circle is a state of perfection and blessedness. In it the soul's environments correspond to all its wishes and desires, and there is contact with God.' At this point I asked if there was loss of individuality in Circle Three, and Mr. Williams replied:--'No, there is not loss of individuality.' Hence, as we suggest, Cylch y Gwynfyd is the Druidic parallel to the Nirvana of Indian metaphysics--being like it, a state of perfect and unlimited self-consciousness which man never knows in earth-life. And, finally, Mr. Williams said in relation to re-birth--'About the years 1780--1820 there lived an old bard in Glamorganshire who was actually a Druid, though he professed to be a Christian as well, and he believed fully in re-birth. His common name was Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg); and he [with Owen Jones and William O. Pughe] edited the famous Archaiology of Wales.'
Mr. Henry Maddern, F.I.A.S., our very important witness from Penzance, testifies as follows concerning a re-birth doctrine in Cornwall:--'Belief in reincarnation was very common among the old Cornish peoples. For example, it was believed when an incantation had been pronounced in the proper way at the Newlyn Tolcarne, that the Troll who inhabited it could embody the person who called him up in any state in which that person had existed during a former age. You had only to name the age or period, and you could live your past life therein over again. My nurse, Betty Grancan, and an old miner named William Edwards, both believed in re-birth, and told me about it. I have heard them relate stories to one another to the effect that a person can go back into the memory of past lives. They said that the sex always remains the same from life to life.
[paragraph continues] I have never heard of any belief in transmigration of humans into animals, but in human re-birth only.' 1
In chapter ii, p. 216, M. Z. Le Rouzic, keeper of the Miln Museum at Carnac, says that there is now among his Breton countrymen round Carnac a general and profound belief that spirits incarnate as men and women; and he has told me that this belief exists also in other regions of the Morbihan. And I myself found there in this Carnac country of which M. Le Rouzic speaks, that the doctrine of the reincarnation of ancestors, which, as he agrees, is the same thing as the incarnation of spirits, is quite common, though as a rule only talked about among the Bretons themselves.
M. Le Rouzic restated the belief as he knows it round Carnac, as follows:--'It is incontestable that the belief in the reincarnation of spirits is general in our country; and it is believed that the spirits embodied now are the spirits of the people of former times.'
After Louis Guézel, of the village of St. Columban, a mile from Carnac, had related to me certain legends of the dead, I asked him if he had ever heard that the dead may be born again as men and women here on this earth. Contrary to my expectations, the question caused no surprise whatever; and I was at once given the impression that the ancient Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth is a thoroughly familiar one to him and to many Bretons about the Carnac district. As we conversed about the doctrine, he said emphatically, 'C'est La vérité' (It is the truth); and in illustration told the following anecdotes:--'A woman in a cemetery one evening saw the spirits of many dead children begging of her life, and reincarnation. A son of my son resembles my grandfather, especially in his mental traits and general character, and the family believe that this son is my grandfather reincarnated.' (Recorded at St. Columban, Brittany, August 1909.)
Professor Anatole Le Braz, in a letter-preface to Carnac, Légendes, Traditions, Coutumes et Contes du Pays (Nantes, 1909), by M. Z. Le Rouzic, makes this poetical reference to his friend, its author, and thereby admirably echoes the ancient Breton Doctrine of Re-birth:--'You, your eyes, your ears are elsewhere: you are a seer and a hearer of the lower regions; you perceive the floating images and you discern the hollow sounds of the people of the manes; on live, literally, among them. What am I saying? Under the form and appearance of a man of to-day, you are in reality one of them, ascended to the day and reincarnated.' Again speaking of the Alignements of Menec, Professor Le Braz adds concerning his friend:--'You have been one of the priest-builders who worked at its erection; you have officiated among its myriads of columns, presided amid the pomp of great funerals in its cyclopean caverns, sprinkled its sepulchral mounds, shaped like tents, with the blood of oxen and of heifers now dear to St. Comely. And this also you confess to me yourself: these unfathomable epochs remain for you actual and present.'
In considering briefly what non-Celtic doctrines could conceivably have shaped the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, two chief streams of influence are open to examination. One stream has its source in re-birth doctrines like those set forth by Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and similar orientally-derived philosophies; while the other arises out of primitive Christianity, wherein, as literary and historical evidence suggests, re-birth may have been an equally important doctrine; or, at all events, there was a decided tendency, later condemned as heretical, to synthesize the Alexandrian philosophy and the Jewish (which to some extent influenced the Alexandrian) with early Church doctrines. This tendency is clearly shown by Origen, and by Clemens Alexandrinus, another eminent Father.
We have a better check on the second stream than on the
first, because Christianity has a later and more definite origin than any of the orientally-derived philosophies. Some of the Druids, chiefly of Scotland and Wales, who are known to have held the re-birth doctrine before conversion, and probably after conversion, as was the case with a modern Druid, an editor of the Archaiology of Wales (see p. 391, above), accepted the New Faith as a purer form of Druidism and Jesus Christ as the Greatest of Druids. This ready and full acceptance would most likely not have been possible had their cardinal re-birth doctrine been thereby condemned. It would seem, therefore, that a primitive Christian re-birth doctrine may have been openly held by certain of the early Celtic missionaries. These latter, during the centuries when Ireland was the university for all Europe, had good opportunities for knowing much about the earliest traditions of Christianity, and they, with their own half-pagan instincts, would have given approval to such a doctrine without consulting Rome, just as Church Fathers like. Tertullian condemned it on their own personal authority and Origen believed it. Further, if we hold in mind that the doctrine of the Incarnation even now inculcates that the Son pre-existed and united Himself with a human soul in the act of conception, and that it may originally and by some Irish saints have been thought of as applying to all mankind in a more humble and less divine way, we seem to see in the Mongan re-birth story, which Christian transcribers have glossed, evidently with such ideas in mind, a proof that on this doctrinal point Christian and Celtic beliefs coalesced. 1 But
the Christian beliefs did not originate the Celtic, for scholars have shown that the germ of the Mongan re-birth story, as well as that of the Cuchulainn re-birth episode, is pre-Christian, and that the Etain birth-story dates from a time when Irish myth and history were entirely free from Christian influence. 1 The same original pagan character is shown in the re-birth episodes existing in Brythonic literature. 2 And, finally, from the testimony of several ancient authorities, e.g. Julius Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, Pomponius Mela, and Lucan, who wrote, respectively, about 50 B.C., 40 B.C., A. D. 44, and A. D. 60 to 65, that the Celts already held the re-birth doctrine, it is certain that any possible influence from the Christian stream instead of originating the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth could merely have modified it.
The question remaining, Would the classical or oriental doctrines of re-birth have originated or fundamentally shaped the Celtic re-birth doctrine? is a very difficult one. At present it cannot be answered with certainty either negatively or positively. We may suppose, however, as we did in the case of the parallel Christian re-birth doctrine, a possible contact and amalgamation, brought about in various ways, e. g. through Oriental merchants like the Phoenicians, and travellers who visited Britain in pre-Christian times, but chiefly through the continental Celts, who had direct knowledge of Greek and Roman culture, meeting their insular brethren beyond the Channel and
[paragraph continues] Irish Sea. All such ancient contracts push the problem further and further back in time; and our easiest and safest course is to state--as we may of the similar problem of the origin of the Celtic Otherworld belief--that available facts of comparative religion, philosophy, and myth, indicate clearly a prehistoric epoch when there was a common ancestral stock for the Mediterranean and pan-Celtic cultures. This may have had its beginnings in the Danube country, or in North Europe, as many authorities in ethnology now hold, or, as others are beginning to hold, in the lost Atlantis--the most probable home of the dark pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Britain, Southern and Western Europe, and North Africa, who with the Aryans are the joint ancestors of the modern Celts. Both branches of this common Celtic ancestral stock held the re-birth doctrine. And at last from their Aryan ancestors it seems to have been inherited by the Celts of or that race, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, or Celtic, as the case may be, is alone the originator of this or any other particular belief is as useless and as absurd as to attempt proof that the Gael has no racial affinity with the Brython. One of the greatest services now being performed by scientific inquiry into human problems is the demonstration of the unreasonableness of assuming artificial social barriers separating race from race, religion from religion, and institution from institution, and the declaration that the unity and the brotherhood of man is a fact inherent in man's own nature, and not a sentimental ideal. But there is specialization and differentiation everywhere in nature; and while Celtic traditions and beliefs are not fundamentally unlike those found in every age, race, and cultural stage, the treatment of this common stock of prehistoric lore and mystical religion is in some respects unique, and hence Celtic. Beyond this statement we cannot go.
358:1 General reference: Essay upon the Irish Vision of the happy Other-world and the Celtic Doctrine of Re-birth, by Alfred Nutt in Kuno Meyer's Voyage of Bran. Chief sources: Leabhar na h-Uidhre; Book of Leinster; Four Ancient Books of Wales; Mabinogion; Silva Gadelica; Barddas, a collection of Welsh manuscripts made about 1560; and the Annals of the Four Masters, compiled in the first half of the seventeenth century.
359:1 Cf. Plato, Republic, x; Phaedo; Phaedrus, &c.; Iamblichus, Concerning the Mysteries of Egypt, Chaldaea, Assyria; Plutarch, Mysteries of Isis (De Iside et Osiride).
359:2 'He says:--'I, for my part, suspect that the spirit was implanted in them (rational creatures, men) from without' (De Principiis, Book I, c. vii. 4); ... 'the cause of each one's actions is a pre-existing one; and then every one, according to his deserts, is made by God either a vessel unto honour or dishonour' (ib., Book III, c. i. 20). 'Whence we are of opinion that, seeing the soul, as we have frequently said, is immortal and eternal, it is possible that, in the many and endless periods of duration in the immeasurable and different worlds, it may descend from the highest good to the lowest evil, or be restored from the lowest evil to the highest good' (ib., Book III, c. i, 21); ... 'every one has the reason in himself, why he has been placed in this or that rank in life' (ib., Book III, c. v, 4).
360:1 Cf. Bergier, Origène, in Dict. de Théologie, v. 69.
360:2 Holy Bible, Revised Version, St. Matt. xi. 14-15; cf. St. Matt. xvii 10-13, St. Mark ix. 13, St. Luke vii. 27, St. John i. 21.
360:3 Tertullian's conclusion is as follows:--'These substances ("soul and body") are, in fact, the natural property of each individual; whilst "the spirit and power" (cf. Mal. iv. 5) are bestowed as external gifts by the grace of God, and so may be transferred to another person according to the purpose and will of the Almighty, as was anciently the case with respect to the spirit of Moses' (cf. Num. xii. 2).--De Anima c. xxxv; cf. trans. in Ante-Nicene Christian Library (Edinburgh, 1870), xv. 496-7.
360:4 Origen says:--'But that there should be certain doctrines not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric' (Origen against Celsus, Book I, c. vii).
361:1 How Tertullian almost literally accepted the re-birth doctrine is shown In his Apology, chapter xlviii, concerning the resurrection of the body. It Is the corrupted form of the doctrine, viz. transmigration of human souls into animal bodies, which he therein, as well as in his De Anima and elsewhere, chiefly and logically combats, as Origen also combated it. He first shows why a human soul must return into a human body in accordance with natural analogy, every creature being after its own kind always; and then, because the purpose of the Resurrection is the judgement, that the soul must return into its own body. And he concludes:--'It is surely more worthy of belief that a man will be restored from a man, any given person from any given person, but still a man; so that the same kind of soul may be reinstated in the same mode of existence, even if not into the same outward form' (The Apology of Tertullian for the Christians; cf. trans. by T. H. Bindley, Oxford, 1890, pp. 137-9).
361:2 British Museum MS. Add. 5114, vellum--a Coptic manuscript in the dialect of Upper Egypt. Its undetermined date is placed by Woide at latest about the end of the fourth century. It was evidently copied by one scribe from an older manuscript, the original probably having been the Apocalypse of Sophia, by Valentius, the learned Gnostic who lived in Egypt for thirty years during the second century. See the translation of the Schwartze's parallel Latin version of Pistis Sophia and its introduction, both by G. R. S. Mead (London, 1896).
361:3 The chief passages are as follows, Jesus being the speaker:--'Moreover, in the region of the soul of the rulers, destined to receive it, I found the soul of the prophet Elias, in the aeons of the sphere, and I took him, and receiving his soul also, I brought it to the virgin of light, and she gave it to her receivers; they brought it to the sphere of the rulers, and cast it into the womb of Elizabeth. Wherefore the power of the little Iaô, who is in the midst, and the soul of Elias the prophet, are united with the body of John the Baptist. For this cause have ye been in doubt aforetime, when I said unto you, "John said, I am not the Christ"; and ye said unto me, "It is written in the Scripture, that when the Christ shall come, Elias will come before him, and prepare his way." And I, when ye had said this unto me, replied unto you, "Elias verily is come, and hath prepared all things, according as it is written; and they have done unto him whatsoever they would." And when I perceived that ye did not understand that I had spoken concerning the soul of Elias united with John the Baptist, I answered you openly and face to face with the words, "If ye p. 362 will receive it, John the Baptist is Elias who, I said, was for to come"' (Pistis Sophia, Book I, 12-13, Mead's translation).
362:1 The Saviour answered and said unto his disciples:--"Preach ye unto the whole world, saying unto men, 'Strive together that ye may receive the mysteries of light in this time of stress, and enter into the kingdom of light. Put not off from day to day, and from cycle to cycle, in the belief that ye will succeed in obtaining the mysteries when ye return to the world in another cycle '"' (Pistis Sophia, Book II, 317, Mead's translation).
362:2 Cf. Bergier, Manichéisme, in Dict. de Théol., iv. 211-13.
362:3 The Refutation of Irenaeus, until quite recently, has been the chief source of much of our knowledge concerning Gnosticism. It was written during the second century at Lyons, by Irenaeus, a bishop of Gaul, far from any direct contact with the still flourishing Gnosticism. But now with the discovery of genuine manuscripts of Gnostic works: (1) the Askew Codex, vellum, British Museum, London, containing the Pistis Sophia (see above, p. 361 n.) and extracts from the Books of the Saviour; (2) the Bruce Codex (two MSS.), papyrus, Bodleian Library, Oxford, containing the fragmentary Book of the Great Logos, an unknown treatise, and p. 363 fragments; and (3) the Akhmi_m Codex (discovered in 1896), papyrus, Egyptian Museum, Berlin, containing The Gospel of Mary (or Apocryphon of John), The Wisdom of Jesus Christ, and The Acts of Peter, we are able to check from original sources the Fathers in many of their writings and canons concerning Gnostic 'heresies'; and find that Irenaeus, the last refuge of Christian haeresiologists, has so condensed and paraphrased his sources that we cannot depend upon him at all for a consistent exposition of Gnostic doctrines, which with more or less prejudice he is trying to refute. it is true that the age of these manuscripts has not been satisfactorily determined; in fact most of them have not yet been carefully studied. Very probably, however, as appears to be the case with the Pistis Sophia, they have been copied from manuscripts which were contemporary with or earlier than the time of Irenaeus, and hence may be regarded as good authority in determining Gnostic teachings. (Cf. all of above note with G. R. S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, London, 1900, pp. 147, 151-3.)
Many unprejudiced scholars are now unwilling to admit the rulings of the Church Councils which determined what was orthodox and what heretical doctrines among the Gnostic-Christians, because many of their dogmatic decisions were based upon the unscholarly Refutation of Irenaeus and upon other equally unreliable evidence, The data which have accumulated in the hands of scholars about early Christian thought and Gnosticism are now much more complete and trustworthy than the similar data were upon which the Council of Constantinople in 553 based its decision with respect to the doctrine of re-birth; and the truth coming to be recognized seems to be that the Gnostics rather than the Church Fathers, who adopted from them what doctrines they liked, condemning those they did not like, should henceforth be regarded as the first Christian theologians, and mystics. If this view of the very difficult and complex matter be accepted, then modern Christianity itself ought to be allowed to resume what thus appears to have been its original position--so long obscured by the well-meaning, but, nevertheless, ill-advised ecclesiastical councils--as the synthesizer of pagan religions and philosophies. Some such view has been accepted by many eminent Christian theologians since Origen: i.e. the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More, openly advocated the re-birth doctrine in the seventeenth century; and in later times it has been preached from Christian pulpits by such men as Henry Ward Beecher and Phillips Brooks.
364:1 See A. Bertrand, La Religion des Gaulois, les Druides et le Druidisme (Paris, 1897); H. Jennings, The Rosicrucians (London, 1887); the Work of Paracelsus; H. Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia (Paris, 1567); H. P. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled, and the Secret Doctrine (London, 1888); and Hermetic Works, by Anna Kingsford and E. Maitland (London, 1885).
364:2 Cf. Bergier, Purgatoire, in Dict. de Théol., v. 409. A Celt, a professed faithful and fervent adherent of the Church of Rome, whom I met in the Morbihan where he now lives, told me that he believes thoroughly in the doctrine of re-birth, and that it is according to his opinion the proper and logical interpretation of the doctrine of Purgatory; and he added that there are priests in his Church who have told him that their personal interpretation of the purgatorial doctrine is the same. Thus some Roman Catholics do not deny the re-birth doctrine. And such conversations as this with Catholic Celts in Ireland and Brittany lead me to believe that to a larger extent than has been suspected the old Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth may have been one of the chief foundations for the modern Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory, whose origin is not clearly indicated in any theological works. For us this probability is important as well as interesting, and especially so when we remember the profound influence which the Celtic St. Patrick's Purgatory certainly exerted on the Church during the Middle Ages when the doctrine of Purgatory was taking definite shape (see our chapter x).
365:1 Barddas (Llandovery, 1862) is 'a collection (by Iolo Morganwg, a Bard) of original documents, illustrative of the theology, wisdom, and usage of the Bardo-Druidic System of the Isle of Britain'. The original manuscripts are said to have been in the possession of Llywelyn Sion, a Bard of Glamorgan, about 1560. Barddas shows considerable Christian influence, yet in its essential teachings is sufficiently distinct. Though of late composition, Barddas seems to represent the traditional bardic doctrines as they had been handed down orally for an unknown period of time, it having been forbidden in earlier times to commit such doctrines to writing. We are well aware also of the adverse criticisms passed upon these documents; but since no one questions their Celtic origin--whether it be ancient or more modern--we are content to use them.
366:1 Barddas, i, 189--91.
366:2 Barddas, i, 177.
366:3 Preface to Barddas, xlii.
366:4 One of the greatest errors formerly made by European Sanskrit scholars and published broadcast throughout the West, so that now it is popularly accepted there as true, is that Nirvana, the goal of Indian philosophy and p. 367 religion, means annihilation. It does mean annihilation (evolutionary transmutation of lower into higher), but only of all those forces or elements which constitute man as an animal. The error arose from interpreting exoterically instead of esoterically, and was a natural result of that system of western scholarship which sees and often cares only to examine external aspects. Native Indian scholars who have advised us in this difficult problem prefer to translate Nirvana as 'Self-realization', i.e. a state of supernormal consciousness (to be acquired through the evolution of the individual), as much superior to the normal human consciousness as the normal human consciousness is superior to the consciousness existing in the brute kingdom.
367:1 De Bel. Gal., lib. vi. 14. 5; vi. 18. 1.
367:2 Book V, 31. 4.
367:3 De Situ Orbis, iii. C. 2: 'One point alone of the Druids' teaching has become generally known among the common people (in order that they could be braver in war), that souls are eternal and there is a second life among the shades.'
367:4 i, 449-62.
368:1 Lucan, i. 457-8; i. 458-62.
368:2 Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 345, 347 ff.
368:3 Folk-Lore, xii. 64, &c.; also cf. Eleanor Hull, The Cuchullin Saga in Irish Literature (London, 1898), Intro., p. 23, &c.
369:1 What is probably the oldest form of a tale concerning Conchobhar's birth makes Conchobhar 'the son of a god who incarnated himself in the same way as did Lug and Etain' (cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 73).
369:2 See Leabhar na h-Uidhre, 101b; and Book of Leinster, 123b:--'Cúchulainn mo dea dechtiri.'
369:3 We have already mentioned the belief that gods having their abode in the sun could leave it to assume bodies here on earth and become culture heroes and great teachers (see p. 309).
369:4 From Wooing of Emer in Leabhar na h-Uidhre; cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 97.
369:5 L' Épopée celt. en Irl., p. 11.
369:6 Cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. p. 74 ff.
370:1 In the Leabhar no h-Uidhre, 133a--134b; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 336--43; cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 49--52; cf. O'Curry, Manners and Customs, iii. 175.
370:2 Cf. Stokes's ed. Annals of Tigernach, Third Frag. in Rev. Celt. xvii. 178. In the piece called Tucait baile Mongâin in the Leabhar na h-Uidhre, p. 134, col. 2, 'Mongan is seen living with his wife the year of the death of Ciaran mac int Shair, and of Tuathal Mael-Garb, that is to say in 544,' following the Chronicum Scotorum, Hennessy's ed., pp. 48-9. As D'Arbois de Jubainville adds, the Irish chronicles of this epoch are only approximate in their dates. Thus, while the Four Masters (i. 243) makes the death of Mongan A. D. 620, the Annals of Ulster makes it A. D. 625, the Chronicum Scotorum A. D. 625, the Annals of Clonmacnoise, A. D. 624, and Egerton MS. 1782 A.D. 615 (cf. Voy. of Bran, i. 137 -9).
370:3 J. O'Donovan, Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (Dublin, 1856), i. 121.
372:1 Cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 336-43; O'Curry, Manners and Customs iii. 175; L. U., 133a-134b; and Voy. of Bran, i. 52.
372:2 Voy. of Bran, i. 44-5; from The Conception of Mongan.
373:1 Meyer's version, Voy. Of Bran, i. 73-4.
373:2 Cf. Voy. Of Bran, i. 137.
374:1 Voy. of Bran, i. 22-8, quatrains 48-59, &c.
374:2 In L. U.; cf. Le Cycle Myth. Irl., pp. 355-22; and Voy. of Bran, ii. 47-53.
375:1 In the Irish conception of re-birth there is no change of sex: Lug is re-born as a boy, in Cuchulainn; Finn as Mongan; Etain as a girl. But it seems that Etain as a mortal had no consciousness of her previous divine existence, while Cuchulainn and Mongan knew their non-human origin and pre-existence.
376:1 Some time after this, according to one part of the tale, Eochaid stormed Midir's fairy palace--for the purpose localized in Ireland--and won Etain back, but the fairies cast a curse on his race for this, and Conaire, his grandson, fell a victim to it. Such a recovering of Etain by Eochaid may vaguely suggest a re-birth of Etain, through the power exerted by Eochaid, who, being a king, is to be regarded in his non-human nature as one of the Tuatha De Danann himself, like Midir his rival.
377:1 Cf. The Gilla decair, in Silva Gadelica, pp. 300--3.
377:2 Cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 76 ff. The Christian scribe's version fills up the apace between Tuan's death and re-birth by making him pass eighty years as a stag, twenty as a wild boar, one hundred as an eagle, and twenty as a salmon (ib., p. 79). In this particular example, the uninitiated scribe (evidently having failed to grasp an important aspect of the re-birth doctrine as this was esoterically explained in the Mysteries, namely, that between death and re-birth, while the conscious Ego is resident in the Otherworld, the physical atoms of the discarded human body may transmigrate through various plant and animal bodies) appears to set forth as Celtic an erroneous doctrine of the transmigration of the conscious Ego itself (see p. 513 n.). In other texts, for example in the song which Amairgen (considered the Gaelic equivalent or even original of the Brythonic Taliessin) sang as he, with the conquering Sons of Mil, set foot on Ireland, there are similar transformations, attributed to certain heroes like Taliessin (see the Mabinogion) and Tuan mac Cairill during their disembodied states after death and until re-birth. But these transformations seem to echo poetically, and often rationally, a very mystical Celtic pantheism, in which Man, regarded as having evolved upwards through all forms and conditions of existence, is at one with all creation:--
I am the wind which blows o'er the sea;
I am the wave of the deep;
I am the bull of seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock;
I am a tear of the sun;
I am the fairest of plants;
I am a boar for courage;
I am a salmon in the water;
I am a lake in the plain;
I am the world of knowledge;
I am the head of the battle-dealing spear;
I am the god who fashions fire in the head;
Who spreads light in the gathering on the mountain?
Who foretells the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the spot where the sun rests?
[paragraph continues] And Amairgen also says:--'I am,' [Taliessin] 'I have been' (Book of Invasions; cf. Voy. of Bran, ii. 91-2; cf. Rhy^s, Hib. Lect., p. 549; cf. Skene, Four Ancient Books, i. 276 ff.).
In later times, especially among non-bardic poets, there has been a p. 378 similar tendency to misinterpret this primitive mystical Celtic pantheism into the corrupt form of the re-birth doctrine, namely transmigration of the human soul into animal bodies. Dr. Douglas Hyde has sent to me the following evidence:--'I have a poem, consisting of nearly one hundred stanzas, about a pig who ate an Irish manuscript, and who by eating it recovered human speech for twenty-four hours and gave his master an account of his previous embodiments. He had been a right-hand man of Cromwell, a weaver in France, a subject of the Grand Signor, &c. The poem might be about one hundred or one hundred and fifty years old.' it is probable that the poet who composed this poem intended to add a touch of modern Irish humour by making use of the pig. We should, nevertheless, bear in mind that the pig (or, as is more commonly the rule, the wild boar) holds a very curious and prominent position in the ancient mythology of Ireland, and of Wales as well. It was regarded as a magical animal (cf. p. 451 n.); and, apparently, was also a Druid symbol, whose meaning we have lost. Possibly the poet may have been aware of this. If so, he does not necessarily imply transmigration of the human soul into animal bodies; but is merely employing symbolism.
378:1 See Taliessin in the Mabinogion, and the Book of Taliessin in Skene's Four Ancient Books, i. 523 ff.; cf. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, ii. 84, and Rhy^s, Hib. Lect., pp. 548, 551.
378:2 Cf. Rhy^s, Hib. Lect., pp. 548-50.
379:1 Cf. Rhy^s, Hib. Lect., p. 259; and Arth. Leg., p. 252.
380:1 Loth, Les Mabinogion, Kulhwch et Olwen, p. 187 n.
380:2 Le Morte D'Arthur, Book XXI, c. vii.
380:3 See works on Egyptian mythology and religion, by Maspero; also Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 84, &c.
380:4 F. L. Griffith, Stories of the High-priests of Memphis (Oxford, 1900), c. iii. The text of this story is written on the back of two Greek documents, bearing the date of the seventh year of the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 46-7), not before published.
381:1 It is interesting to compare with this episode the episodes of how the magic of St. Patrick prevailed over the magic of the Druids when the old and the new religions met in warfare on the Hill of Tara, in the presence of the high king of Ireland and his court.
381:2 E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians (London, 1904), p. 3.
381:3 Prescott, Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru.
381:4 W. Crooke, The Legends of Krishna, in Folk-Lore, xi. 2-3 ff.
382:1 Laws of Manu, vii. 8, trans. by G. Bühler.
382:2 A. B. Cook, European Sky-God, in Folk-Lore, XV. 301-4.
382:3 Cf. Lucian, Somn., 17, &c. See Tylor, Prim. Cult., ii. 13; also Tertullian, De Anima, c. xxviii, where Pythagoras is described as having previously been Aethalides, and Euphorbus, and the fisherman Pyrrhus.
383:1 Cf. Huc, Souvenirs d'un voyage dans la Tartarie et le Thibet, i. 279 ff.
383:2 The doctrine of kingly rule by divine right was substituted after the conversion of the Roman Empire for the very ancient belief that the emperor was a god incarnate (not necessarily reincarnate); and the same christianized aspect of a pre-Christian doctrine stands behind the English kingship at the present day.
384:1 A curious parallel to this Irish doctrine that through re-birth one suffers for the sins committed in a previous earth-life is found in the Christian scriptures, where in asking Jesus about a man born blind, 'Rabbi, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?' the disciple exhibits what must have been a popular Jewish belief in re-birth quite like the Celtic one. See St. John ix. 1-2. Though the Rabbis admitted the possibility of ante-natal sin in thought, this passage seems to point unmistakably to a Jewish re-birth doctrine.
385:1 It is interesting to note in connexion with these two complementary ideas what has been written by Mr. Standish O'Grady concerning strange phenomena witnessed at the time of Charles Parnell's funeral:--'While his followers were committing Charles Parnell's remains to the earth, the sky was bright with strange lights and flames. Only a coincidence possibly; and yet persons not superstitious have maintained that there is some mysterious sympathy between the human soul and the elements ... Those strange flames recalled to my memory what is told of similar phenomena said to have been witnessed when tidings of the death of the great p. 386 Christian Saint, Columba, overran the north-west of Europe, as perhaps truer than I had imagined.'--Ireland: Her Story, pp. 211-12.
386:1 Cf. M. Lenihan, Limerick; its History and Antiquities (Dublin, 1866), p. 725.
388:1 I take this to mean, somewhat as in the similar case of Dechtire, the mother of Cuchulainn (see p. 369, above), that the kind of soul or character which 'will be reincarnated in the child is determined by the psychic prenatal conditions which a mother consciously or unconsciously may set up. If this interpretation, as it seems to be, is correct, we have in this Welsh belief a surprising comprehension of scientific laws on the part of the ancient Welsh Druids--from whom the doctrine comes--which equals, and surpasses in its subtlety, the latest discoveries of our own psychological embryology, criminology, and so-called laws of heredity.
390:1 The reader is referred to the Rev. T. M. Morgan's latest publication,, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Newchurch, Carmarthenshire, Carmarthen, 1910), pp. 155-6.
392:1 I found, however, that the original re-birth doctrine has been either misinterpreted or else corrupted--after Dr. Tylor's theory--into transmigration into animal bodies among certain Cornish miners in the St. Just region.
394:1 The primitive character of the Incarnation doctrine is clear: Origen, in refuting a Jewish accusation against Christians, apparently the natural outgrowth of deep-seated hatred and religious prejudice on the part of the Jews, that Jesus Christ was born through the adultery of the Virgin with a certain soldier named Panthera, argues 'that every soul, for certain mysterious reasons (I speak now according to the opinions of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Empedocles, whom Celsus frequently names), is introduced into a body, and introduced according to its deserts and former actions'. And, according to Origen's argument, to assign to Jesus Christ a birth more disgraceful than any other is absurd, because 'He who sends souls down into the bodies of men' would not have thus 'degraded Him who was to dare such mighty acts, and to teach so many men, and to reform so many from the mass of wickedness in the world'. And Origen p. 395 adds:--'It is probable, therefore, that this soul also which conferred more benefit by its residence in the flesh than that of many men (to avoid prejudice, I do not say "all"), stood in need of a body not only superior to others, but invested with all excellence' (Origen against Celsus, Book I, c. xxxii).
It is interesting to compare with Origen's theology the following passage from the Pistis Sophia, wherein Jesus in the alleged esoteric discourse to his disciples refers to the pre-existence of their souls:--'I took them from the hands of the twelve saviours of the treasure of light, according to the command of the first mystery. These powers, therefore, I cast into the wombs of your mothers, when I came into the world, and they are those which are in your bodies this day' (Pistis Sophia, i. II, Mend's translation).
395:1 Cf. Nutt, Voy. of Bran, ii. 27 ff., 45 ff., 54 ff., 98-102.
395:2 Cf. Ib., p. 105.