The Idea of the Holy Ghost
As such, the various Christian perspectives view the Holy Spirit as God himself or the Breath of God, a form of God, or a manifestation of God. The word "Spirit" commonly translates the Greek New Testament word pneuma. It is important to remember that Scripture on the Holy Spirit can be viewed by different sects of Christians in different ways. In Christianity, following the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is the One who guides a person to correctly interpret the word of God and He helps each person reach new levels of understanding.
The Idea of the Holy Ghost
To try to comprehend the Holy Ghost let us first classify its various names and characteristics drawn from the gospels and epistles of the Christian bible. It shows that scarcely any two references to it agree in assigning it the same character or attributes.
John 14:26, the Holy Ghost is a person or personal God.
Luke 3:22, the Holy Ghost assumes the form of a dove.
Matt. 13:16, the Holy Ghost is a spirit.
John 1:32, the Holy Ghost is an inanimate, senseless object.
John 5:7, the Holy Ghost is a God—the third member of the Trinity.
Acts 2:1; the Holy Ghost is a mighty, rushing wind.
Acts 10:38, the Holy Ghost, from its mode of application, is an ointment.
John 20:22, the Holy Ghost is the breath, by its being breathed into the mouth of the recipient after the ancient oriental custom.
Acts 2:3, the Holy Ghost sat upon each of them, probably in the form of a bird, as at Jesus' baptism.
Acts 2:1, the Holy Ghost appears as cloven tongues of fire.
Luke 2:26, the Holy Ghost is the author of a revelation or inspiration.
Acts 8:17, the Holy Ghost is a magnetic aura imparted by the laying on of hands.
Mark 1:8, the Holy Ghost is a medium or element for baptism.
Acts 28:25, the Holy Ghost appears with vocal organs, and speaks.
Heb. 6:4, the Holy Ghost is dealt out or imparted by measure.
Luke 3:22, the Holy Ghost appears with a tangible body.
Luke 1:5, and many other texts, people are filled with the Holy Ghost.
Matt. 11:15, the Holy Ghost falls upon the people as a ponderable substance.
Luke 4:1, the Holy Ghost is a God within a God, Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 21:11, the Holy Ghost is a being of the masculine or feminine gender—Thus saith the Holy Ghost.
John 1:32, the Holy Ghost is of the neuter gender, it (the Holy Ghost) abode upon him.
Matt. 1:18, the Holy Ghost, this third member of the Trinity aids the first member (the Father) in the creation of the second member of the trinity of bachelor Gods—the Word, or Saviour, or Son of God.
The Holy Ghost surpasses the fabulous changes of the classical gods and genii. Indeed many of these fabulous conceptions were drawn from mythological sources.
The Christian's Holy Ghost descended as a dove and alighted on Christ's head at his baptism (Luke 3:22). The Holy Ghost in the shape of a bird—a dove or a pigeon—is a very ancient pagan tradition. In India, a dove was uniformly the emblem of the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God. A dove stood for a third member of the Trinity, and was the regenerator or regeneratory power. Compare this with Titus (3:5): regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. A person being baptized under the Brahminical theocracy was said to be regenerated and born again, or, they were born into the spirit, or the spirit into them—the dove into or upon them.
In Rome a dove or pigeon was a legendary spirit, the accompaniment of Venus, the emblem of female procreative energy. It is therefore appropriately shown as descending at baptism in the character of the third member of the Trinity. The dove also fills the Grecian oracles with their spirit and power. A dove was, in several ancient religions, the Spirit of God (Holy Ghost) moving on the face of the waters at creation (Gen. 1:2), though a pigeon was often substituted. The dove and the pigeon were used interchangeably.
In the ancient Syrian temple of Hierapolis, Semiramis is shown with a dove on her head, the prototype of the dove on the head of the Christian messiah at baptism. At the feast of Whitsuntide, the descent of the Holy Ghost was symbolised in London by a pigeon being let fly out of a hole in the midst of the roof of the great aisle of St Paul's Cathedral. It is more than likely that this continues an ancient tradition. On solemn occasions when the Holy Ghost was expected or invited to descend, it was more than likely that originally no one in the congregation noticed that it did. The custom therefore arose of liberating pigeons or doves at the appropriate moment.
Naturally, these doves would have been actually ascending, having realised that they were no longer constrained, but that would not have bothered the faithful who eventually came to understand the symbolism. In any case, the doves would most likely have been tame ones bred for the purpose and possibly made no great effort to escape, like the pigeons in crowded city plazas. So, it is quite possible that sometimes one of the tame birds did alight on the priest—perhaps they were trained to do just that. The pictures of priests or gods with a dove on their head might be depictions of actual rituals.
The Holy Ghost was the third member of the Trinity in several Eastern religions as well as the Gothic and Celtic nations. This notion of a third person in the godhead was diffused among all the nations of the earth. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Father, Word and Holy Ghost (1 John 5:7) express the divine triad of which the Holy Ghost was the third member. The Holy Spirit and the Evil Spirit were, each in their turn, third member of the Trinity.
In these triads the third member was not of equal rank with the other two. In the Theban Trinity, Khonso was inferior to Arion and Mant. In the Hindu triad, Siva was subordinate to Brahma and Vishnu. The Holy Ghost conception of the Christian world is an exact correspondence with these older ideas. It has always stood third in rank after the Father and the Son or the Word, a slave doing all the hard work and getting little worship for it. Today it is still seldom addressed in Christian devotion, but perhaps that is because it was so badly treated that it was not too diligent in its tasks. It was not too good, for example, at making the holy book of Christianity infallible.
The Holy Ghost was the Holy Breath, which, in the Hindu traditions, moved on the face of the waters at creation, and imparted vitality into everything created. A similar conception appears in the scriptures. In Psalms 33:6 the Word of the Lord made the heavens, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. The Brahminical conception of creation by the Divine Breath, the Holy Ghost, which was breathed into Adam to make him a living soul. The Prana or principle of life of the Hindus is the breath of life by which the Brahma, the Creator, animates the clay to make man a living soul.
Holy Ghost, Holy Breath and Holy Wind were equivalent terms for the sigh from the mouth of the Supreme God, as laid down in pagan traditions. The Holy Wind is suggested by the mighty rushing wind from heaven, which filled the house on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2). The Holy Wind is an accepted term for the Holy Ghost in ancient religions. The doxology, reported by a missionary, in the religious service of the Syrian church runs thus:
Praise to the Holy Spiritual Wind, which is the Holy Ghost; Praise to the three persons which are one true God.
The Hebrew Ruh Elohim, translated Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2) in our version, is literally, Wind of the Gods. The word Pneuma, of the Greek New Testament, is sometimes translated Ghost and sometimes Wind, as suited the fancy of the translators. In John 3:5 the word is Spirit, in verse eight both Wind and Spirit, and in Luke 1:35 the term is Holy Ghost—all translated from the same word. In the Greek Testament the word Pneuma is used for Spirit, Holy Ghost, breath and Wind so that in the Christian Scriptures they are synonymous. An unwarranted license has been assumed by translators in rendering the same word different ways.
The Holy Ghost appears also as a tongue of fire, which sat upon each of the apostles in Acts 2:3.
Buddha, an incarnate God of the Hindus over two thousand years ago, is often seen with a glory or tongue of fire upon his head. The visible form of the Holy Ghost as fire was accepted among the Buddhists, Druids and Etrurians. The Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit when visible, was in the form of fire or a bird and was always accompanied with wisdom and power. The Hindus, Persians and Chaldeans made offerings to fire, emblem of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit as the solar fire.
Holy men of God, like some of the prophets, are considered inspired by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21; Acts 28:25). The ancient Celts were moved by the Holy Ghost and also claimed that their Salic laws (seventy-two in number) were inspired by the Salo Ghost or Holy Ghost, known also as the Wisdom of the Spirit, or the Voice of the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost imparted by the laying on of hands is also an ancient custom. By the putting hands on the head of the candidate, the Celts conveyed the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.
Baptism by or into the Holy Ghost accompanied with fire (Mt 3:2) is also traceable to a very ancient period. The Tuscans, or Etrurians, baptized with fire, wind (ghost) and water. Baptism into the first member of the Trinity, the Father, was with fire: baptism into the second member of the Trinity, the Word, was with water: baptism into the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, was with breath, gas, gast, ghost, wind, or spirit. In ancient countries, the child was taken to the priest, who named him before the sacred fire. Then he was sprinkled with holy water from a vessel made of the sacred tree known as the Holme. To impart the Holy Ghost by breathing (John 20:22), the priest blew his breath upon the child to transfer the Holy Ghost, thus baptising the child by air, spiritus sanctus or ghost. The practice of breathing in or upon was quite common among the ancient heathen.
The Holy Ghost as the agent in divine conception, or the procreation of other Gods. Jesus is said to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost (Mt 1:18), and we find similar claims of divine procreation via the Holy Ghost in the old religions. In the Hindu myths, Sakya was conceived by the Holy Ghost Nara-an.
Sesostris of Egypt, according to Manetho, asked the oracle: Tell me, O thou strong in fire! who before me could subjugate all things, and who shall after me? The oracle rebuked him, saying, First God, then the Word, and with them the Spirit. And Plutarch, in his Life of Numa, confirms that the incarnation of the Holy Spirit was known both to the ancient Romans and Egyptians. The doctrine was nearly universal.
The origin of the tradition of the Holy Ghost is easily traced to the Brahminical trifold conception of God. First is the god of power or might, Brahma or Brahm, the Father, second is the god of creation, the Word, answering to John's creative Word (John 1:3), third is the god of generation and regeneration, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. Under the Brahminical theocracy, the Holy Ghost was the living, vital, active, life-imparting agent.
The Holy Ghost in the Christian Scripture is the agent of Christ's conception, because, as Matthew declares, he was conceived by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost was also the regenerating agent at his baptism, although Luke, who relates it, does not say why the Holy Spirit in the form of a bird, alighted and sat upon his head. The reason is nevertheless fully disclosed in the older mythical religions. Christians claim baptism imparts a new spiritual life—they are born again. This new spirit appeared as a dove or a pigeon.
The spirit was originally female so that the Trinity consisted of two masculine principles and a feminine one, the latter being the procreative or regenerative principle. At the imposition of Patriarchy the sex of the Holy Ghost altered from female to neuter.
The primary windy idea of the Holy Ghost is traceable to that early period of society when the untutored people of the earth in their ignorance of nature easily believed that movement signified the passage of a god.
The Buddhists had their god Vasus, who manifested himself as fire, wind, storms, gas, ghosts, gusts, and the breath, thus being nearly a counterpart of the Christian Holy Ghost. This god sprang from the supreme, primordial God, who was to Brahmins and Buddhists a fine, spiritual substance—aura, anima, wind, ether, igneous fluid, or electrical fire or fire from the sun, giving rise to baptism by fire. The third member of the Trinity, subsequently seems to have arisen from this being and had the same properties.
What was a sin against the Holy Ghost and why was it unpardonable? It was refusing to allow the Holy Ghost to effect the second birth. Since baptism by whatever means into the Holy Ghost was the only means of redeeming sins against the Father or the Son, the refusal or prevention of baptism meant there could be no forgiveness. It was the only route so could not be avoided if sin was to be pardoned. An offence committed against the third limb of the Godhead barred the door to forgiveness, in this life or that to come. To sin against the Holy Ghost was to block the path by which the door of heaven was to be reached.
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