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THE NEW AGE

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Previous Page  ...averted, a danger which, though it is not like the Persian invasion written large on the face of history, threatened Greece with a no less terrible disaster. This danger lay in the dissemination of a new religion, which, if it had gained the upper hand, as at one time it seemed likely to do, would have pressed with as dead and stifling a weight upon Greece as any oriental superstition. Spiritually the Greeks might have been annexed to the peoples of the orient (1)." He goes on to narrate how the age of Solon witnessed the beginning of a rationalistic movement due to "intellectual dissatisfaction with the theogony of Hesiod as an explanation of the origin of the world (2)"; the result being the birth of the Ionian philosophy. On the other hand, "men began to feel a craving for an existence after death, and intense curiosity about the world of shades, and a desire for personal contact with the supernatural"; and this craving "led to the propagation of a new religion, which began to spread about the middle of the sixth century (3)." This was the Orphic religion; and the antidote to it "was the philosophy of Ionia. In Asiatic Greece, that religion never took root; and most fortunately the philosophical movement - the separation of science from theology, of 'cosmogony' from 'theogony' - had begun before the Orphic movement was disseminated. Europe is deeply indebted to Ionia for having founded philosophy; but that debt is enhanced by the fact that she thereby rescued Greece from the tyranny of a religion interpreted by priests. Pythagoras, although he and his followers made important advances in science, threw his weight into the scale of mysticism; affected by both the religious and the philosophical movements, he sought to combine them; and in such unions the mystic element always wins the preponderance. But there were others who pursued, undistracted, the paths of reason, and among these the most eminent and influential were Xenophanes and Heraclitus (4)." To the men who " pursued, undistracted, the paths of reason," Greece owed her salvation. "It is not without significance," says the historian in summing up, " that, when the Orphic agitation had abated, Greece should have enshrined the ...Next Page

1 Bury's History of Greece, ch. vii. 12.
2 ibid.           3 ibid.           * ibid. 14.




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