LAST APPENDIX A PARABLE by M. M. Mangasarian, 1909 Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY
by M. M. Mangasarian, 1909
Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201
Public Domain - copies may be given away, but not sold
By education most have been misled,
So they believe because they were so bred;
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man.
I am today twenty-five hundred years old. I have been dead for nearly
as many years. My place of birth was Athens; my grave was not far from
those of Xenophon and Plato, within view of the white glory of Athens
and the shimmering waters of the Aegean sea.
After sleeping in my grave for many centuries I awoke suddenly - I cannot
tell how nor why - and was transported by a force beyond my control to
this new day and this new city. I arrived here at daybreak, when the sky
was still dull and drowsy. As I approached the city I heard bells ringing,
and a little later I found the streets astir with throngs of well dressed
people in family groups wending their way hither and thither. Evidently
they were not going to work, for they were accompanied by their children
in their best clothes, and a pleasant expression was upon their faces.
"This must be a day of festival and worship, devoted to one of their
gods," I murmured to myself.
Looking about me I saw a gentleman in a neat black dress, smiling, and
his hand extended to me with great cordiality. He must have realized I
was a stranger and wished to tender his hospitality to me. I accepted it
gratefully. I clasped his hand. He pressed mine. We gazed for a moment
into each other's eyes. He understood my bewilderment amid my novel
surroundings, and offered to enlighten me. He explained to me the ringing
of the bells and meaning of the holiday crowds moving in the streets. It
was Sunday - Sunday before Christmas, and the people were going to "the
House of God."
"Of course you are going there, too," I said to my friendly guide.
"Yes," he answered, "I conduct the worship. I am a priest."
"A priest of Apollo?" I interrogated. "No, no," he replied, raising his
hand to command silence, "Apollo is not a god; he was only an idol."
"An idol?" I whispered, taken by surprise.
"I perceive you are a Greek," he said to me, "and the Greeks," he
continued, "notwithstanding their distinguished accomplishments, were an
idolatrous people. They worshipped gods that did not exist. They built
temples to divinities which were merely empty names - empty names," he
repeated. "Apollo and Athene - and the entire Olympian lot were no more
than inventions of the fancy."
"But the Greeks loved their gods," I protested, my heart clamoring in
"They were not gods, they were idols, and the difference between a god
and an idol is this: an idol is a thing; God is a living being. When you
cannot prove the existence of your god, when you have never seen him,
nor heard his voice, nor touched him - when you have nothing provable
about him, he is an idol. Have you seen Apollo? Have you heard him? Have
you touched him?"
"No," I said, in a low voice.
"Do you know of any one who has?"
I had to admit that I did not.
"He was an idol, then, and not a god."
"But many of us Greeks," I said, "have felt Apollo in our hearts and
have been inspired by him."
"You imagine you have," returned my guide. "If he were really divine be
would be living to this day.
"Is he, then, dead?" I asked.
"He never lived; and for the last two thousand years or more his temple
has been a heap of ruins."
I wept to hear that Apollo, the god of light and music, was no more - that
his fair temple had fallen into ruins and the fire upon his altar had been
extinguished; then, wiping a tear from my eyes, I said, "Oh, but our gods
were fair and beautiful; our religion was rich and picturesque. It made the
Greeks a nation of poets, orators, artists, warriors, thinkers. It made
Athens a city of light; it created the beautiful, the true, the good - yes,
our religion was divine."
"It had only one fault," interrupted my guide.
"What was that?" I inquired, without knowing what his answer would be.
"It was not true."
"But I still believe in Apollo," I exclaimed; "he is not dead, I know he
"Prove it," he said to me; then, pausing for a moment, "if you produce
him," he said, "we shall all fall down and worship him. Produce Apollo and
he shall be our god."
"Produce him!" I whispered to myself. "What blasphemy!" Then, taking
heart, I told my guide how more than once I had felt Apollo's radiant
presence in my heart, and told him of the immortal lines of Homer
concerning the divine Apollo. "Do you doubt Homer?" I said to him;
"Homer, the inspired bard? Homer, whose inkwell was as big as the sea;
whose imperishable page was Time? Homer, whose every word was a drop of
light?" Then I proceeded to quote from Homer's Iliad, the Greek Bible,
worshipped by all the Hellenes as the rarest Manuscript between heaven
and earth. I quoted his description of Apollo, than whose lyre nothing
is more musical, than whose speech even honey is not sweeter. I recited
how his mother went from town to town to select a worthy place to give
birth to the young god, son of Zeus, the Supreme Being, and how he was
born and cradled amid the ministrations of all the goddesses, who bathed
him in the running stream and fed him with nectar and ambrosia from
Olympus. Then I recited the lines which picture Apollo bursting his
bands, leaping forth from his cradle, and spreading his wings like a
swan, soaring sunward, declaring that he had come to announce to mortals
the will of God. "Is it possible," I asked, "that all this is pure
fabrication, a fantasy of the brain, as unsubstantial as the air? No,
no, Apollo is not an idol. He is a god, and the son of a god. The whole
Greek world will bear me witness that I am telling the truth." Then I
looked at my guide to see what impression this outburst of sincere
enthusiasm had produced upon him, and I saw a cold smile upon his lips
that cut me to the heart. It seemed as if he wished to say to me, "You
poor deluded pagan! You are not intelligent enough to know that Homer was
only a mortal after all, and that he was writing a play in which he
manufactured the gods of whom he sang - that these gods existed only in
his imagination, and that today they are as dead as is their inventer -
By this time we stood at the entrance of a large edifice which my guide
said was "the House of God." As we walked in I saw innumerable little
lights blinking and winking all over the spacious interior. There were,
besides, pictures, altars and images all around me. The air was heavy
with incense; a number of men in gorgeous vestments were passing to and
fro, bowing and kneeling before the various lights and images. The
audience was upon its knees enveloped in silence - a silence so solemn
that it awed me. Observing my anxiety to understand the meaning of all
this, my guide took me aside and in a whisper told me that the people
were celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of their beautiful
Savior - Jesus, the Son of God.
"So was Apollo the son of God," I replied, thinking perhaps that after
all we might find ourselves in agreement with one another.
"Forget Apollo," he said, with a suggestion of severity in his voice.
"There is no such person. He was only an idol. If you were to search
for Apollo in all the universe you would never find any one answering
to his name or description. Jesus," he resumed, "is the Son of God. He
came to our earth and was born of a virgin."
Again I was tempted to tell my guide that this was how Apollo became
incarnate; but I restrained myself.
"Then Jesus grew up to be a man," continued my guide, "performing
unheard-of wonders, such as treading the seas, giving sight, hearing
and speech to the blind, the deaf and the dumb, converting water into
wine, feeding the multitudes miraculously, predicting coming events
and resurrecting the dead.
"Of course, of your gods, too," he added, "it is claimed that they
performed miracles, and of your oracles that they foretold the future,
but there is this difference - the things related of your gods are a
fiction, the things told of Jesus are a fact, and the difference
between Paganism and Christianity is the difference between fiction
Just then I heard a wave of murmur, like the rustling of leaves in a
forest, sweep over the bowed audience. I turned about and unconsciously,
my Greek curiosity impelling me, I pushed forward toward where the
greater candle lights were blazing. I felt that perhaps the commotion in
the house was the announcement that the God Jesus was about to make his
appearance, and I wanted to see him. I wanted to touch him, or, if the
crowd were too large to allow me that privilege, I wanted, at least, to
hear his voice. I, who had never seen a god, never touched one, never
heard one speak, I who had believed in Apollo without ever having known
anything provable about him, I wanted to see the real God, Jesus.
But my guide placed his hand quickly upon my shoulder, and held me back.
"I want to see Jesus," I hastened, turning toward him. I said this
reverently and in good faith. "Will he not be here this morning? Will he
not speak to his worshippers?" I asked again. "Will he not permit them
to touch him, to caress his hand, to clasp his divine feet, to inhale the
ambrosial fragrance of his breath, to bask in the golden light of his
eyes, to hear the music of his immaculate accents? Let me, too, see
Jesus," I pleaded.
"You cannot see him," answered my guide, with a trace of embarrassment
in his voice. "He does not show himself any more."
I was too much surprised at this to make any immediate reply.
"For the last two thousand years," my guide continued, "it has not
pleased Jesus to show himself to any one; neither has he been heard
from for the same number of years."
"For two thousand years no one has either seen or heard Jesus?" I
asked, my eyes filled with wonder and my voice quivering with excitement.
"No," he answered.
"Would not that, then," I ventured to ask, impatiently, "make Jesus as
much of an idol as Apollo? And are not these people on their knees
before a god of whose existence they are as much in the dark as were
the Greeks of fair Apollo, and of whose past they have only rumors such
as Homer reports of our Olympian gods - as idolatrous as the Athenians?
What would you say," I asked my guide, "if I were to demand that you
should produce Jesus and prove him to my eyes and ears as you have asked
me to produce and prove Apollo? What is the difference between a ceremony
performed in honor of Apollo and one performed in honor of Jesus, since
it is as impossible to give oracular demonstration of the existence of
the one as of the other? If Jesus is alive and a god, and Apollo is an
idol and dead, what is the evidence, since the one is as invisible, as
inaccessible, and as unproducible as the other? And, if faith that Jesus
is a god proves him a god, why will not faith in Apollo make him a god?
But if worshipping Jesus, whom for the best part of the last two thousand
years no man has seen, heard or touched; if building temples to him,
burning incense upon his altars, bowing at his shrine and calling him
`God,' is not idolatry, neither is it idolatry to kindle fire upon the
luminous altars of the Greek Apollo - God of the dawn, master of the
enchanted lyre - he with the bow and arrow tipped with fire! I am not
denying," I said, "that Jesus ever lived. He may have been alive two
thousand years ago, but if he has not been heard from since, if the same
thing that happened to the people living at the time he lived has
happened to him, namely - if he is dead, then you are worshipping the
dead, which fact stamps your religion as idolatrous."
And, then, remembering what he had said to me about the Greek mythology
being beautiful but not true, I said to him: "Your temples are indeed
gorgeous and costly; your music is grand your altars are superb; your
litany is exquisite; your chants are melting; your incense, and bells and
flowers, your gold and silver vessels are all in rare taste, and I dare
say your dogmas are subtle and your preachers eloquent, but your religion
has one fault - it is not true."
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