attitude and the intelligence of the people who with prayers and sacrifices
did worship to the spirit they had endeavoured to symbolise.
The early ages were wrapped in mysterious shrouds of symbolism that
only gradually were cast off, and the soul of man walked in the shadow of
doubt. Yet we can see the beginning of freedom of thought and of action
asserting itself as the world advanced and man grew to realise his existence
with greater clearness.
Sacred temples were built. Men looked up at the blue, mysterious,
jewelled sky, and imagined other realms divinely conceived. They felt that
their God in reality must dwell above the firmament, in light and glory. Even
in dreams their desire to reach upwards is manifest. Thus we read in Genesis :
" And behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to
heaven : and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. "
As the human mind developed and through devotion and praver drew
nearer to the invisible divinity believed to inhabit the immeasurable heights,
divisions and subdivisions arose among men and nations because of differences
of opinion concerning his nature. It was thought that spiritual and material
development could not go together; in fact that the latter could only be obtained
through despotism and slavery.
In glancing over the early despotisms, though many religious conceptions
are expressed in sculptures so worn and obliterated as to be almost incompre-
hensible, we distinctly feel the struggle of the human soul reaching upward
from its material self; and even though in the earlier Assyrian and Egyptian
ages, idolatry produced but few noteworthy works of art, it inspired later, as we
know, some of the world's masterpieces in architecture and sculpture.
The Pharaohs were regarded as divine incarnations, the arbiters and
disposers of human activity, the creators and builders of their people, who
through fear, helplessness and abject thraldom, were forced to accept such
views of divinity as were imposed upon them. Yet their religious system
w as undoubtedly the motive that gave life to art, inspired a sense of mora-
lity, modified political ambitions and caused some idea of equity and law, —
even when the rulers who claimed divine rights inflicted every form of cruelty
upon their subjects.
The exodus of the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt, inspired by the
powerful insight of Moses, marked a determined endeavour to harmonise,
through strict laws of conduct, almost every act of daily life with the purity
of spiritual vision. The Jewish sacred writings that have been the guide of
millions of people, bear eloquent testimony to the strength of the search
after righteousness. The building of Jerusalem and the great inspiration that
created the Temple of Solomon, are among the first records,of a whole nation
willingly united for one religious cause, and striving to form a centralisation
lull of spiritual significance and rich in human aspirations.
The Hebrews' desire for righteousness and purity through love, devo-