When it is remembered that the old Israelites sprang from ancestors who are said to have resided near, or in, one of the great seats of ancient Babylonian civilisation, the city of Ur; that they had been, it is said for centuries, in close contact with the Egyptians; and that, in the theology of both the Babylonians and the Egyptians, there is abundant evidence, notwithstanding their advanced social organisation, of the belief in spirits, with sorcery, ancestor-worship, the deification of animals, and the converse animalisation of gods it obviously needs very strong evidence to justify the belief that the rude tribes of Israel did not share the notions from which their far more civilised neighbours had not emancipated themselves.
We may reasonably believe that those instincts in the female which are correlated with maternal affection and which were acquired by her as a protection to the germ, or, in other words, those characters which Nature has developed in the female to insure the safety and well-being of offspring, and which in a purer and more natural stage of human existence acted as cheeks upon the energies of the male, were not easily or quickly subdued; but when through subjection to the animal nature of man these instincts or characters had been denied their natural expression, and woman had become simply the instrument of man's pleasure, the comparatively pure worship of the organs of generation as symbols of creative power began to give place to the deification of these members simply as emblems of desire, or as instruments for the stimulation of passion.
Its deification of unreason, instability, and strife comes partly from piety and partly from inexperience. There is piety in saluting nature in her perpetual flux and in thinking that since no equilibrium is maintained for ever none, perhaps, deserves to be.
The spoiling, and I may almost say the deification, of the child, is nowhere carried so far as in the eastern islands; and furthest, according to my opportunities of observation, in the Paumotu group, the so-called Low or Dangerous Archipelago. I have seen a Paumotuan native turn from me with embarrassment and disaffection because I suggested that a brat would be the better for a beating.
There was Simon the Magician, founder of gnosticism, father of every heresy, Messiah to the Jews, Jupiter to the Gentiles an impudent self-made god, who pretended to float in the air, and called his mistress Minerva a deification, parenthetically, which was accepted by Nicholas, his successor, a deacon of the church, who raised her to the eighth heaven as patron saint of lust.
Their warnings or encouragements were regarded as voices from Heaven. Perhaps the deification and worship of the Virgin Mary so hearty and poetical in the Middle Ages may have indirectly aided the mission of the Maid of Orleans. The common people saw one of their own order arise and do marvellous things, bringing kings and nobles to her cause.
'Whether he were Hercules or Bacchus, he deserved deification.
But whatever foundation there may be for this conjecture, the compliment was compensated by the superior adulation which the poets appropriated to the emperor, whose deification is more than insinuated, in sublime intimations, by Virgil.
The latter in particular, under the title of "the Assumption," became the visible expression of a dogma of faith then universally received namely, the exaltation and deification of the Virgin in the body as well as in the spirit.
The whole race, not merely a few of its noblest, most clearsighted spirits, would be "in union with God"; and men, transfused by His light and heat, direct and willing agents of His Pure Activity, would achieve that completeness of life which the mystics dare to call "deification."