The Distinctive Messages of the Old Religions

Cover of book The Distinctive Messages of the Old Religions
Categories: Nonfiction

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MESSAGE OF CHINA. The various attempts to trace the historical development of religions have for the most part been distinguished by the diversity of their starting-point. There has been no general agreement as to their order of precedence, as to which has gone before and which followed. No universal consent has established any religion in a position of superior antiquity. Each in turn has claimed the priority in time, and each in turn has found supporters and advocates of its claim. Some have placed China in the front as regards ancientness;1 some have given the palm to India; some have bestowed the laurel on Persia; some have claimed the crown for Judea. My own opinion is that there are no facts to establish anyof these claims, or, to speak more correctly, that there are equal facts for and against all of them. Every one of them has in it elements that point to a remote antiquity; every one of them has in it elements that indicate a comparatively late stage of the world's development. I believe that the relation of these religions to one another is not the relation between the steps of a ladder but the relation between the branches of a tree. They seem to me to be not successive but simultaneous, radiating at one moment fiom a single trunk. I have already indicated my conviction that the trunk itself has been produced by a process of historical sequence. I have pointed out in the introductory chapter what seem to me to be the successive steps of that development by which religion passed from a germ into an actual existence. But when religion has become an existence, there is no reason in the world why its progress should be only that of succession. No man holds that in the tree of human life the development of the plant must be completed before the develop...

The Distinctive Messages of the Old Religions
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