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It may appear, then, that the Carpocratians belonged to the same class with those pseudoChristians mentioned by Clement of Alexandria as quoted in the last chapter.* The principle common to them all was, that the practice of scandalous immoralities was a matter of religious obligation. It may be observed, in connexion, that the charges brought against them, however general may be the terms in which they are sometimes expressed, evidently relate principally to the vices of sensuality and profligacy.
The avowal of such a principle may strike us at first view as a moral absurdity scarcely credible. But it was in truth a principle with which Paganism had made men familiar, and which it had thoroughly sanctioned. In the heathen worship, gross indecencies, and abominable extravagancies and debaucheries, were represented as acceptable to many of their gods, to Bacchus, Venus, Cybele, and Flora; not to mention other inferior divinities of a still baser character. The public celebration of many of the heathen rites was marked with deep stains of pollution. In Egypt, where brute animals were deified, heathen
* See pp. 127-133.
writers tell us (whether we can believe them or not), that abominations were committed in their worship, with which even those, that Epiphanius charges on the heretics whom he most vilifies, are not to be compared.*
That such vices as the pseudo-Christians practised might make a part of religion was, therefore, the doctrine of the age. But, per
Gibbon (Ch. XV. Vol. II. pp. 289–294) speaks, in contrast with the pious horrors and foolish scruples of the early Christians, of "the cheerful devotion," "the agreeable fictions," and "the beautiful mythology" of Paganism; and says, that, "on the days of solemn festivals," "superstition always wore the appearance of pleasure and often of virtue." He could hardly have used language more unworthy of a philosopher, or less consonant to truth. The pagan mythology, the history of the pagan gods, when viewed in its naked deformity, appears a history of the coarse indulgence of animal propensities, and of acts of fraud, cruelty, and meanness. It everywhere outrages decency and humanity. The better part of the heathen philosophers, with Plato at their head, held it in very different esteem from what Gibbon expresses. The language respecting its fictions which Cicero puts into the mouth of the Stoic, Balbus (De Natura Deorum, Lib. II. § 28), is among the shortest and mildest of their censures. "Hæc et dicuntur et creduntur stultissime, et plena sunt futilitatis, summæque levitatis." It may be worth while to quote what even Gibbon himself elsewhere says (Ch. III. Vol. I. 112): "We should disgrace the virtues of the Antonines by comparing them with the vices of Hercules or Jupiter. Even the characters of Cæsar or Augustus were far superior to those of the popular deities." The pagan rites were, in great part, conformed to the supposed characters of the divinities worshipped, and often bore direct allusion to the fables concerning them.
haps, the most remarkable analogy with their principles and practice is to be found in those of a sect that has long existed in India; the facts relating to which are so extraordinary as well to deserve notice. There was much connexion between the superstitions of Egypt and of India; and in the former country many of those extravagances of doctrine that appeared in the first ages of Christianity had their origin. Striking analogies also exist between the religious doctrines of the Hindoos and those of the theosophic Gnostics; and it is not, therefore, strange, that small sects should have shown themselves among the pseudo-Christians and the heathen Gnostics similar to the one referred to in Hindostan, the members of which are called Vámis or Vámácharis. They are worshippers in particular of the Sakti, or female energy, of Siva, hypostatized as the goddess Devi. "The object of their worship is to obtain supernatural powers in this life, and to be identified after death with Siva and Sakti." In their principal ceremonies the Sakti is personified by a naked female; and conformably to the ritual prescribed in their sacred books, and to a very general belief, those ceremonies are "terminated by the most scandalous orgies among the votaries." These are reli
gious observances; "for such practices, if merely for sensual gratification, are held by the sect to be as illicit and reprehensible as they are regarded by any other branch of the Hindoo faith." Such is the account of Professor Wilson.* By another writer it is said, that the Vámácharees "carry the gratification of the senses to an unlimited extent, under the hope, [or] rather under the pretence, of extinguishing them by satiety."+ Some further informa
*In the second part of his "Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindoos," published in the "Asiatic Researches." Vol. XVII. (Calcutta, 1832.) p. 221 seqq.
See "The Friend of India," (quarterly series,) a periodical publication by the missionaries at Serampore. Vol. I. (1821.) p. 263, note. In the third volume of the same work, p. 628 seqq., there is an account of the Vámácharis, there called Veeras, similar to that given by Professor Wilson. This account of their doctrines and rites is taken from a work under review, published as a religious guide by an opulent native in 1823, being a " 'Compilation of the Precepts and Doctrines of the Tantras." The author of the article says; "In the chapter on the three classes of Tantrikas [the followers of the Tantras], the 'beasts,' who abstain from the licentious practices of the others, are aspersed without mercy. The veeras, who drink wine, frequent brothels, and live in a delirium of pleasure, are directed to associate with the initiated only, to partake of intoxicating drugs, to be violent and furious in their conduct, to anoint their bodies with ashes like madmen, never to abstain from liquor, to worship the gods with animal and even human sacrifices, and practise the Bhiruvee chukru, a circle in which the followers of the Tuntras sit down indiscriminately, without reference to cast, to drink wine and eat flesh." It is said in the
tion concerning them may be found in the note below.
The doctrines, precepts, and ritual of the Vámácharis are given in the Tantras, books to which they ascribe authority superior to that of the Vedas. The existence of such "sacred
Tantras, that "the Vedas, and other writings esteemed sacred by the Hindoos, condemn these actions only when they are performed without previous purifications; when thus purified, they become holy and meritorious."
"The work," continues the author of the article, "advances in licentiousness, as it draws to a close;" and of this he gives sufficient exemplification. But it is not necessary to proceed further in an account of its abominations.
The Vámácharis are also described in Ward's "Account of the Writings, Religion, and Manners of the Hindoos." (Serampore, 1811.) Chap. IV. Sect. 6. Vol. III. p. 327, seqq.
The directions for the worship of the Sakti are given by Professor Wilson only in the original Sanscrit; and the other writers mentioned refrain from detailing them as too abominably indecent. Professor Wilson says: "It is contrary to all knowledge of the human character to admit the possibility of these transactions in their fullest extent; and, though the worship of the Sakti according to the above outline may be sometimes performed, yet there can be little doubt of its being practised but seldom, and then in solitude and secrecy. In truth, few of the ceremonies, there is reason to believe, are ever observed." The Compiler of the Precepts and Doctrines of the Tantras says, that the commands respecting the worship of the Sakti are not binding in this age of iron. (Friend of India, III. 630.) It is agreed, however, that the sect exists at the present day, with some of the tenets and practices described. Professor Wilson, in speaking of the worship of Kali or Dourga as particularly prevalent in Bengal, says, that the rites observed almost place her worshippers among the Vámácharis.