The Dying God Author(s): Henri Frankfort Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes

, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (Jul. - Dec., 1958), pp. 141-151 Published by: The Warburg Institute Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/01/2012 17:19
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

The Warburg Institute is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.

Inaugural lecture as Director of the Warburg Institute and Professorof the History of Pre-Classical Antiquity in the University of London, Io November, 1949.

1926, a few years before his death, Warburg wrote a letter to a friend in which he re-defined his aims. He had started, some thirty years earlier, by inquiring what classical antiquity had really meant to the men of the Renaissance; but by and by, he wrote, the problem had become to discover what the survival of paganism meant for European civilization as a whole. "Paganism" stands here not only for the Greeks and Romans, but for something universal-for an attitude of mind which Warburg himself had studied at first hand in a primitive community of Indians in North America. And by "the survival of paganism" he meant two things: the survival, in civilized man, of primitive fears, passions and ecstasies; but also the survival, as a cultural tradition (or, in his own words, as a social memory), of art forms, conceptions and images in which those feelings had been expressed with particular aptness. Warburg held that the Greeks, above all, had succeeded in creating such pregnant formulas of expression; and he insisted that this fact was obscured by the usual emphasis on Greek poise and serenity. Saxl, in discussing Classicalantiquity Renaissance painting (1934, PP- iii-iv), wrote that the Greeks and Romans "had in their myths affirmed the passionate forces of life, and had charmed them into carefully measured symbols. ... The primitive element embodied in these myths was the one decisive factor which made people of the Renaissance feel that the myths contained powerful symbols of their own feelings." A consideration of this primitive element in Greek mythology raises the question of the relations between the Greeks and their predecessors in and around the Eastern Mediterranean. This is obviously not a question that could be fully discussed within the hour. But I should like to discuss one specific instance in which comparison is possible. The concept of a dying god is found in the religions of classical and pre-classical antiquity. The cult of this god stirred, at all times, deep and complex feelings. We have documentary evidence of its existence from the beginning of the third millennium B.c., and to that extent it is primitive. And the variations in the cults and myths of this god are a good illustration of the extraordinary complexity which the problem of the survival of cultural forms may assume-the problem which was Warburg's lifelong concern, and which has remained central to the work of the Institute which, under Saxl's direction, grew out of Warburg's great library. But if we speak, as we have done just now, about "the dying god" we simplify; for we suggest that the various specific forms in which he was worshipped-Tammuz, Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus-were ultimately identical. And in the matter of identity we must keep an open mind. For when we study the history of a symbol, it is precisely its identity which tends to become problematical. To give an example: the sphinx was an Egyptian symbol for the superhuman power of Pharaoh. The Syrians took it over in the second millennium B.C. and made it female. There are no Syrian texts to explain its significance, but we can follow its pictorial history. Phoenician bronzes and ivories carried it to Greece in the seventh century, where it appears in vase paintings and a little later in sculpture. In the fifth century texts once more




supply an interpretation, and they reveal that, to the Greeks, the sphinx was a monster that posed riddles and killed men. Can we speak of a symbol-the sphinx-that survived? Its physical form-a lion's body with a human head -certainly reached Greece from Egypt via Phoenicia. Moreover, the paradoxical combination evidently appealed to the imagination in all three countries. But to the Egyptians it embodied the marvel of Pharaoh's divine power, while the Syrians by substituting for the king's head a woman's head and breasts made it equivocal: the attraction of the mother or the lover was combined with the threat of the beast of prey. This explains, perhaps, why the Greeks associated the sphinx with the tragedy of Oedipus. However this may be, the dying god offers a close parallel to our example. The paradox of divinity suffering death-like the paradox of the lion with human featurespowerfully stimulated the imagination of the Ancients. But the meaning attached to the figure was in each case determined by the profoundly different mentalities of Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Syrians and Greeks. When we speak of "the dying God" as if it were a distinct concept, slightly modified in the various religions where it occurs, we fall victim to our own methods. We hypostasize the generalizations by means of which we order our material. So we talk glibly of animal gods and divine kings, astral deities, earth-gods, dying gods, and so on, and forget that none of these generic terms describe actual religious experiences. They merely single out one aspect which a number of very complex divine personages have in common. Approached in this way, man's mythopoeic genius seems to be confined to producing variations on a few fairly simple themes. But the monotony is of our own making. If we are satisfied with throwing out a coarse-meshed net of generalizations we should not be astonished that the catch it brings up from the past is so poor. I do not deny, of course, that generalizations are necessary tools; and I am particularly anxious not to appear lacking in respect for Sir James Frazer who used The Dying Godas the title of Part III of The Golden Bough,a work to which we all owe so much. But it seems to me that Frazer was himself, in the end, troubled by the problem we are discussing. For his preface to the third and last edition of Part IV of The Golden Bough-that entitled Adonis,Attis, Osiris-sounds a curious note of discouragement and doubt. He says there (pp. ix-x): S.. The longer I occupy myself with questions of ancient mythology the more diffident I become of success in dealing with them. . . . If we are taxed with wasting life in seeking to know what can never be known, and what, if it could be discovered, would not be worth knowing, what can we plead in our defence? I fear, very little .... These are grim reflections. Would they not indicate Frazer's realization that a comparative method which brings together what is more or less similar, a method which had enabled him to compose The Golden Bough,had noticeable shortcomings for one anxious to understand the assembled facts? He had defined his method at the beginning of the first volume, as follows: S. recent researches into the early history of man have revealed the .




essential similarity with which, under many superficial differences, the human mind has elaborated its first crude philosophy of life. Accordingly, if we can show that a barbarous custom ... has existed elsewhere; if we can detect the motives which led to its institution; if we can prove that these motives have operated widely, perhaps universally, in human society, producing in varied circumstances a variety of institutions specifically
different but generally alike ... (The Magic Art, 3rd ed., 1911, I, p. IO).

But we cannot prove these things. And if we assume that the same motives have operated universally, if we assume that "specifically different" phenomena are "generically alike," we bar ourselves from a true understanding of the religious experience of antiquity by interposing abstractions. The dying god is a case in point. Wherever he appears, he is now commonly viewed as a personification of the ebb and flow of nature's life in the cycle of the seasons. In a recent book I, too, have described the cult of Osiris and Tammuz from this point of view; I now want to emphasize its limitations. The usual theory is formulated by Farnell when he says: "the old Mediterranean ritual of sorrow, with its periodic wailing for the departed divinity,... was usually expressive of the emotion of natural man excited by the disappearance of verdure, by the gathering of the harvest or by the fall of the year. . . The great typical example is 'the women wailing for Tammuz.' " This is a good description as far as it goes but it does not go far enough. Emotion may be the mainspring of ritual, but the myth of the dying god has an intellectual content, too, even though it is not presented in the abstractions of critical thought. The dying god is one of those imaginative conceptions in which early man made his emotional and intellectual preoccupations explicit. We disregard a great deal if we say that it expresses only man's concern with the course of the seasons. It is true that he watched seasonal change with anxiety, since it lacked for him the inevitability of natural law. It appeared, rather, as the outcome of a recurring conflict, in which, at the critical period, during the heat of the summer, nature's vitality was unmistakably endangered. But this is only what we might call the objective aspect of the cult of the dying god. It had a subjective aspect as well, for everywhere the withering of vegetation is seen as an image of man's own transitoriness. Consequently the myth of the dying god reflects man's attitude towards death, and it gives form to his expectations: the resurrection of the god may be seen as a prefiguration of man's ultimate destiny; or man's mortality may be accepted as in bitter contrast with the perennial life of nature. But this difference is, again, not a simple matter of mood or feeling. It follows from the general orientation of speculative thought within each society. This will appear as soon as we turn to the specific myths and cults, and I intend now to describe some of these in their cultural context and then to consider what bearing our material has on the problem of survival. In Mesopotamia the myth reflects natural events with a peculiar directness. In the early summer, when the fields are scorched and man and beast are burdened by heat and dust and spreading disease, the god whom we shall call Tammuz (although he is known by many names) is said to have died, or, at least, to be captive in the land of the dead. The cause of his decline is



nowhere given; it is there for all to see. A late text merely refers to a hostile "they."
Into the house of bondage, from the sun and light, they caused him to descend.

The ritual in which man's despair finds expression takes the form of litanies and lamentations in which a goddess voices her grief. The Great Mother, Ishtar, the Lady of the Mountains, the Lady of Births (for she has as many names as the god) loses in Tammuz her son and her husband. The double relationship follows from the Mesopotamian view that the primary source of life is female; as St. Mark has it: "For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (iv. 28). The goddess represents the prolific fertility of nature which can sustain even the blow of the god's death and recover. The god represents the generative force of nature. But if the source of all life is female the god is, of necessity, a son. It is possible, however, to emphasize another aspect of the image of the universal mother. Birth presupposes conception, and the mother goddess who brings forth is given a male partner; the renewal of the life of nature after the sterile summer is viewed-and celebrated-as a divine marriage between the goddess and the god, who is also her son. It should, perhaps, be said in passing that this type of inconsistency is quite characteristic of mythopoeic thought, and is not due to confusion. On the contrary, it enables primitive man to do justice to the complexity of reality by accepting side by side images which seem to us mutually exclusive, but which elucidate for him distinct aspects of the phenomena and are all valid, each in its own context. And so the litanies declare that the goddess grieves over the loss
of the husband laid to rest, of the son laid to rest, of the husband who is dead, of the son who is dead ...

Even the terms brother and sister are introduced to emphasize the uniqueness and intimacy of the relation between god and goddess. The god is made to say:
Deliver me, 0 my sister, deliver me! O sister, do not reproach me; I am no longer a man enjoying sight; I rest among evil ones. I sleep in anxiety, I hide among enemies. O my sister, I cannot lift myself from my resting place.
.. S.

the place where I rest is the dust of the mountain.

The goddess is sometimes said to be aided by the son of the captive god; and man, too, assists as far as he can by the performance of a ritual meant to strengthen the favourable and to weaken the evil forces in combat. The main celebration fell at the New Year, and lasted for twelve days. It started, during the god's absence in the mountain of death, in utter gloom, the king offering atonement for his own and the people's sins, and the people joining the goddess in her lamentations and in her search for the god. But in the course of these solemnities a sudden reversal of mood occurs. Despondency changes to jubilation, the god is found, is liberated, and consummates the sacred marriage which restores the fertility of nature. Then, as the concluding act of the



festival, the gods meet in assembly to "determine destiny" as it was called. They decide upon the fate of society during the year that is now starting. It is characteristic of the feeling of complete dependence which pervades Mesopotamian religion that the greatest festival of the year begins in mourning and ends in a mood of hope rather than trust. It was by no means taken for granted that the revival of nature implied prosperity for man. On the contrary, it remained to be seen whether the gods would allow society to benefit by nature's riches, and whatever their decision, its motivation was likely to remain obscure. As a Babylonian poem says:
The thought of gods is like deep waters-who could fathom them? How could mankind, beclouded, comprehend the ways of gods?

The inability to grasp or influence events combined with the feeling of total dependence, accounts to some extent for the violent emotionalism of the celebrations. But it is only one among its many causes. We may rationalize these in a general way by saying that the resurrectionof the god-that is, the revival of nature-created the prerequisites of prosperity. But we can distinguish several components in the general feeling of relief. For instance, the resurrected god re-entered the temple where the tenuous link between society and the supernatural could be tended; several temples were, in fact, called "the bond between Heaven and Earth." There was, moreover, the feeling of a crisis surmounted, of a new beginning, of a promise, or, at least, a fair chance, of well-being and good fortune. This whole complex of feelings is rather impersonal in tone. The people were involved in the events as members of society rather than as individuals, and it was the immediate future of society that was at stake. As far as we know the resurrection of the god was not considered to have any bearing on man's personal fate after death. I speak here with some reserve because we know next to nothing about the early-the purely Sumerian-views on these matters. But from about 2000 B.c. onwards we have relevant texts, and these are free of any sign of preoccupation with immortality. Man's expectation at death was annihilation. The Mesopotamian surrendered himself so passionately to the lamentations which he shared with the goddess because he anticipated sharing the fate of death with the god whom she bewailed. The god's resurrection concerned the living here and now: it indicated that calamity had once more been averted and that nature, restored, might bring the happiness of abundance to society. When we turn to Egypt, where a preoccupation with life after death dominated thought and practice, we must expect to find a different conception of the dying god. And so we do-the difference, as a matter of fact, going much deeper than is often admitted. For clarity's sake, and because I must treat the subject so very briefly, I shall roughly define the nature of the dying god, Osiris, by three propositions: (i) Osiris was seen in nature as life issuing from apparent death; (2) Osiris was also a dead king; (3) Osiris was forever confined to the nether world. We shall see that these three seemingly unconnected statements are coherent within the basic Egyptian view of the world.



Osiris personified natural vitality, but not, like Tammuz, its generative force as manifest in plants and animals. The province of Osiris' power was both larger and more specialized. He was manifest in those forms of life which seem to emerge periodically from the earth: the growing grain; the moon and the constellation Orion which rose, as the Egyptians thought, from the earth and re-entered it at their setting; and also the water of the Nile believed to well up from the earth in the whirlpools of the First Cataract. But Osiris, manifest in these phenomena, was at the same time considered to be a dead king. This statement means little unless we know how the Egyptians viewed kingship, and this we can learn from two sources: from ancient texts, which declare Pharaoh to be a god, and from certain contemporary African societies, where we can observe "divine kingship" actually functioning. Among such people as the Dinka, Shilluk or Baganda the king is believed to possess a peculiar power which brings the rain in due season and increases crops and cattle. It is not so much a power which the king wields consciously (although it is exercised through the observance of traditional usages and rites) but rather a quality which the king possesses, as if he were himself one of the natural powers upon which society depends and of which it holds a hostage in his person. This superhuman kingly power is not extinguished with death; some of these kings continue to act through their successor or through priests, or to give oracles, or to further in various ways the material welfare of their people. But while we can observe divine kingship as a living social force in modern Africa, we find its most advanced intellectual formulation in the developed theology of ancient Egypt. There the doctrine is made articulate; and (in its Egyptian form) appears to be part and parcel of a peculiarly Egyptian conception of the world as a whole. The universe appeared to the Egyptian as an immutable order unfolded at the beginning of time when the creator arose from the waters of chaos to shape the world he was to rule. I emphasize the creator's function as king of the universe, for it established kingship as a divine office. The Creator, in fact, was at the same time king of the world and the first king of Egypt; and Pharaoh counted as his descendant as well as his successor. In contrast to the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians did not see their commonwealth as subject to the whim of unaccountable powers; on the contrary, Egyptian society had from the first its place in the cosmic scheme and was ruled by one of the gods. This arrangement was permanent, although its appearance was subject to change. Kings succeeded one another on the throne, but in every one of them the same god was incarnate. This god was always Horus, the son and avenger of Osiris; Osiris was the ruler's dead father. By means of this perennially valid mythological formula the change in actual ruler was brought into harmony with the immutable order of creation. He was Horus on the throne, and Osiris in the nether world; and if Osiris was at the
same time thought to be a dead king and to impel the growth of the grain, and the rise of water in the Nile from the earth in which he dwelt, the combination does not unite two independent and conflicting notions, Osiris as nature god, Osiris as royal ancestor. On the contrary it embodies the

Egyptians' conviction that kingship functioned on the cosmic as well as on the social level. Observe now, also, that Osiris had an unchanging place in



the existing order. He was a dying god in so far as the decrease of the water in the Nile, and the sowing of the grain was celebrated as his death or burial. But the realm of death is precisely the sphere of Osiris' power, because it does not represent the antithesis of life but a phase through which all natural life passes to emerge reborn. The seed-corn must die in the earth to raise the crops, the Nile must dwindle in its bed to rise in the fertilizing flood, the moon must wane and even the sun sink each night in the west to enter the nether world. It is this nether world from which life re-emerges, which is Osiris' realm. When we call him a dying god-or even if we should call him a dead god-we do not indicate his true nature. There is not, as in Mesopotamia, a dramatic change in the fortunes of this "dying god." He does not return, he is not liberated, he does not reoccupy the throne. The throne is forever occupied by his son Horus, the living Pharaoh, and Osiris is forever ensconced in the nether world. In Mesopotamia, on the other hand, when the captive god's son is believed to assist the goddess in the liberation of his father, it is nevertheless the father who immediately takes command after his liberation to defeat the powers of death and chaos and consummate his sacred marriage. And this contrast does not merely imply that the Mesopotamians viewed their dying god as more virile and aggressive than Osiris. For it is precisely the Mesopotamian god who is utterly dependent on the goddess, the universal mother. In Egypt, on the other hand, Isis is not a mother goddess in the Asiatic sense at all. All Egyptian creator gods are male; the world is begotten rather than conceived; and Isis is subservient to Osiris. It is true that she travels through the land bewailing the god and searching for him. But the significance of the search-which is a theme in Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek mythology-lies in the possibility of her not finding him, which it leaves open. It takes into account that natural events are beyond human control. One cannot, of set purpose, reinstate a dead or vanished god. One can but hope that he will be found, that nature will revive. In Egypt, as in Mesopotamia and Greece, the figure of the goddess expresses man's deep concern. But in Egypt the power of life rests with the male gods and it is as misleading for Herodotus to equate Isis with Demeter as it is for Plutarch to interpret the Osirian myth in terms of his own allegorizing philosophy. It is clear that Osiris, as we have sketched him, could become a god of the dead. On the speculative level this implied that man could find a blessed existence after death by sharing in the great cyclic movement of nature, for it was this recurring natural life that Osiris personified. As a blessing, spoken by a god, promises: I grant thee that thou mayest rise like the sun, rejuvenate thyself like the moon, repeat life like the flood of the Nile. This belief robbed death of its tragedy; it amounted to a grandiose denial of mortality. Yet man's instinctive horror of death cannot be denied. In Egypt it found, very occasionally, expression in religious texts, for instance in a curious dialogue between Osiris, who voices man's fears, and Atum, the sungod creator:



Osiris said: O Atum, what does it mean that I must go into the desert (grave-yard)? It has no water, it has no air, it is very deep, very dark, boundless. Atum answered: You will live there without care. Osiris said: But one cannot find there the satisfaction of love. Atum answered: I have put there transfiguration in the place of water, air and satisfaction; and freedom from care in the place of bread and beer. But, on the whole, man's instinctive fear of death could not be accommodated or alleviated within a religion based on a denial of the cause of fear. So it was driven into the sphere of magic, where (as every collection of Egyptian antiquities shows) it proliferated exceedingly. In Mesopotamia, man's relationship with the dying god did not become personal and intimate because the possibility of salvation, of individual survival, was denied. In Egypt, an intimate and differentiated relationship with the dying god was likewise impossible because survival was proclaimed to be certain and death and suffering were denied. We know very little of the dying gods of Syria and Anatolia, for we are dependent on classical sources, and the Greeks translated the barbarian oddities they observed in terms of their own reasonableness. We know that Adonis was the son and lover of a mother goddess and was slain by a boar when still a youth. When the spring rains washed the red clay down the slopes of Lebanon it was the blood of Adonis which was said to colour the river red. The insistence on his youth, his re-emergence in the wild anemones and the emphasis on his death rather than on his resurrection suggest (but our sources are very scanty) that Adonis was manifest, not in the crops, but in the enchanting vegetation of the short Syrian spring. Since the pathos of his death is stressed, the mother goddess plays an important part in the cult, as she does in the Anatolian cult of Attis. There we meet, however, a new feature, an identification of the worshippers with the god. But since we are here dependent on late classical sources, I prefer to turn to Greece, where a similar trait can be observed. Throughout Greece a number of obscure rural cults centred on a god who died and revived with the vegetation. Best known among these is Hyakinthos, worshipped at Amyclae near Sparta, where an annual festival showed the same reversal of mood as the New Year Festival in Mesopotamia: the first day of the Hyakinthia was marked by solemnity and a partial fast, the second and third day by dances, games and feasting. But all these cults were submerged in historical times by those of the great gods-at Amyclae Apollo was the Near East, or, as Farnell holds (p. 89) "from a very old stratum of European agricultural religion" or, as is the opinion of Professor Rose, from the Minoan age. In historical times they were of purely local significance. Only at Eleusis do we find a Panhellenic cult of a dying god, but here the Great Mother lost, not a son, but Persephone. It may be that this cult had originally
the chief local deity-and we do not know whether they are a survival from



been like those already discussed, a ritual accompaniment to the course of nature, but in historical times it had become a performance in which the accent lay on man's posthumous existence. It is true that at a solemn moment of the mysteries a reaped ear of corn was shown in silence; that there seems to have been a sacred marriage; and that the performance took place in September when the turn of the seasons is near, with ploughing and sowing to follow the first autumn rains. But the purpose which brought great numbers of people each year to Eleusis is explained by Sophocles: "Thrice happy are those mortals who see these rites before they depart for Hades, for to them alone is granted to have true life on the other side. To the rest, all there is evil." (Fragmenta, 348.) The mysteries of Eleusis did not convey a secret dogma; one can hardly speak of teachings where there is no theological motivation of the bearing which the mimed story of the gods had on man's own future. The relevance of the performance was a matter of direct experience. In the words of Mr. Guthrie: "The effect of Eleusis was to convince the initiate of the presence of the deities and of his part in salvation by the immediate evidence of his own
senses. The goddess and her child appeared before his eyes. .

. He was

awed by sounds and dazzled by sights. Lights and colour and music combined in their effect upon him in the climax of the epopteia. How could he doubt that he was a changed and a saved man? He had looked upon the godhead." and Religion,2nd ed., 1952, p. I54.) (W. K. C. Guthrie, Orpheus Greek insistence upon individual salvation is peculiarly Greek. It recurs in This other Greek cults and is totally unknown in pre-classical times, at least as far as established religion was concerned. In Near Eastern religion, it was the well-being of society that was at stake. We do not know how the people's need of supernatural support in their personal lives was satisfied. We only have a few, rather late, documents from Egypt in which an intimate relationship between a worshipper and his god is dimly expressed. But in Greece individual salvation was sought, not only at Eleusis, but also in the ecstatic cult of Dionysus. It, too, lacked an explicit theology, but the devotees found salvation in moments of possession by a godhead, who was manifest not in the regular flow of natural life, but in certain living things-the bull, trees, the vine, ivy-and in a sudden madness which he inflicted alike on his worshippers and his detractors. Only the teachings ascribed to Orpheus present an explicit creed of individual salvation. It took the form of an ancient Cretan myth of the death of a god. In barest outline the story amounted to this: the child Dionysus was killed and devoured by Titans. Zeus destroyed them with his lightning and man was made of their ashes. Man partakes, therefore, of the divinity which the Titans had consumed, and he should strive to liberate the divine spark, his soul, from the prison and tomb of the body which contains it. The road to deliverance leads through successive reincarnations, but man can influence
his progress by leading a "pure life"--an ideal in which ritual and ethical concepts are not always distinguishable. In this creed the death of the god means something entirely new. For the Orphic the death of Dionysus was a clue to the nature of man and to his salvation. The dying god is not merely immanent in nature but immanent in




man. We have moved far indeed from the Asiatic and Egyptian cults. But, nevertheless, in Greece, as in Egypt and Asia, immanence, in some form or other, is an essential characteristic of the dying god. It was for this very reason that the Hebrews rejected his cult, for it was incompatible with their basic belief in the absolute transcendence of the divine. Let us end, now, by returning to our starting point and asking what bearing the facts discussed have on the problem of the survival and interrelation of cultural forms. We shall disregard as not immediately relevant such survival as consists of mere lingering on, or repetition. And we had better disregard here, too, certain facts which are sometimes misnamed "survival"; I refer to the spontaneous use of similar images in unrelated regions to express almost universal notions. For instance, the life of vegetation is in numerous regions personified as a "spirit of the corn" or "dying god," and without very definite reasons we are not entitled to speak in such cases of survival. So, if we should consider Osiris and Tammuz merely under this aspect, as nature gods, we could still not claim for them a common past from which they had "survived." I should like, then, for the moment, to understand survivalas the lasting significance of cultural forms which are answers to fundamental problems such as that of life and death-answers, which consisted in religious conceptions and usages and which were accepted beyond the limits of the civilization in which they originated. And the question is, then, can we speak of survival in this sense at all? Can the various conceptions of the dying god be said to survive the cultural setting in which they were born? We have viewed them one by one, and insisted that only by avoiding generalizations could we do justice to the evidence. But we find in Greece, for instance, that certain elements of the cults seem to be related to the older civilizations of Asia or of the Aegean. To follow these threads has an interest all its own. Nevertheless, an appeal to survival can only give us part of an explanation. If the Greek cults contain survivals, the alleged parent-cults of Tammuz and Osiris differ as much from one another as they do from their reputed descendants. The most characteristic features, which are also the dominant features of each cult, never survive because each cult reflects the view which an ancient people took of the world in which it found itself. The peculiar Mesopotamian featuresthe reference of the god's resurrection to nature only; the "determination of destiny" for society--do not survive. The peculiar Egyptian view of death as a phase through which sun and moon, plant-life and all other periodic phenomena pass, and in which man, too, is ultimately absorbed-this view, which was embodied in Osiris, did not survive. The Egyptian cults of Sarapis and Isis, which spread throughout the Roman Empire, are typically Hellenistic and did not share essentials with Pharaonic religion. The peculiar Greek creeds of salvation-through simple participation in the performance at Eleusis; through ecstasy in the cult of Dionysus; through successive reincarnations in Orphism-these too did not survive. And yet to deny survival in any form is surely absurd. In fact, in all the cults which I have described, you will have noticed familiar echoes, phantoms of ideas of which we know ourselves the depth and power. Our understanding of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greek beliefs about a dying god is to



some extent determined by a religious experience with which we ourselves are familiar. We can gauge the significance of such symbols as the divine child, the suffering mother, the god who passes through death to resurrection, because they recur in Christianity. There, then, the problem of survival is particularly insistent, and here, on the brink of one of the most fascinating problems in history-the birth of Christianity in a community which had always rejected the cult of a dying god-I can do no more than indicate the bearing of our analysis on its solution. I have emphasized the danger of comparing religious phenomena sharing common features and warned against an emphasis on similarities, torn from the cultural context which holds the secret of their significance. For example, an equation of Tammuz and Osiris on the strength of their relation with natural fertility would (as we have seen) simply block our way to a true understanding. In the case of comparisons between cultures which are not contemporary, but consecutive; not independent, but admittedly related, the danger is even greater. The choice seems to lie between two evils. One can draw up whole lists of similarities which ignore the essential character of the beliefs compared; and by doing this the mystery of survival is reduced to a rather simple puzzle of fitting old pieces into a new pattern. Or one may stress the new meaning of old cultural forms adopted by an alien people, and treat the apparent survival as a wholly original creative act. This dilemma may be avoided if we accept the paradox that some "symbolic forms" may be singular to the point of idiosyncrasy, and may yet have so strong an appeal that they will hold their own, or stimulate a new integration, in alien surroundings. And it is in this "survival as revival" that cultural forms, however transient, overcome their own death.