The Brotherhood of Mankind

The Divine and Human Society in the Dispersion

The children of Adam are limbs of one body
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others
You are not worthy to be called by the name of “man.”

The division of the race into separate stems, and the corruption of the conception of God into separate divinities, pursued a parallel course, until the deities became as national as the communities over which they presided. As there ceased to be in their thought one God of the whole earth, they ceased to believe in one race of man, nor does any good seem to have more utterly perished from the peoples who sprung out of this dispersion than the belief in the universal brotherhood of man; and the conduct which should spring out of that belief, the treatment of each other as brethren.

That their having lost the consciousness of such brotherhood is no proof that it never existed, has been established for us by the new science of comparative grammar in our own day in a very remarkable instance. The careful study of a single family of languages in the great race of Japhet has proved beyond question that those who came after their dispersion to speak the Sanscrit, the Persian, the Greek, the Latin, the Celtic, Slavic, and Teutonic tongues, all once dwelt as brethren beside a common hearth, in the possession of the same language. Yet, in ancient times, it never crossed the mind of the Greek that he was of the same family with the Persian, by whose multitudinous inroad he was threatened; to him the barbarian, that is the man who did not speak his tongue, was his enemy, not a brother. As little did the Saxon, when he displaced the Celt, and gave him, too, the name of barbarian, [Welsh, i.e., foreigner, not speaking a language understood.] as not understanding his tongue, conceive that he was of the same family. It was with no little wonder that the first French and English students of Sanscrit found in it uneffaced the proofs of its parentage with Greek and Latin.

The study of the comparative grammar of various languages, when carried out as fully in other directions, may have in reserve other surprises as great as this; but the proof of unity in this case, where yet the divergence has proceeded so far, of unity in a family from which the greatest nations of the earth have sprung, and whose descendants stretch over the world, tends to make the unity of the original language of man credible on principles of science, independently either of historical tradition or of revelation, while it shows into what complete and universal oblivion a real relationship may fall.

With the belief in one God, then, fell the belief in one human brotherhood as well as the existence of one human society. Each separated stem became detached from the trunk, and lived for itself. It is true that each state, as it began, was patriarchal; but identity of interests was restricted to the single state; beyond its range there was war, and within it, in process of time, war led to conquest, and after conquest the conquering leader became head of the conquered. Thus the patriarchal state, in which the head of the family was its priest, passed into kingdoms compacted by war and its results, in an ever-varying succession of victories and defeats.

But it is our special task to see what portion of the goods, which belonged to the race when undivided, passed on to its several stems in the dispersion with which Moses closes his account of the one human family.

The universal society stops at Babel, and national existence begins; that is, a number of inferior local unities succeed to the one universal. It would be well if we had a Moses for guide through the long period which follows, but he restricts his narrative to Abraham and his family, and to such incidental notice of the nations with whom they come in contact as their history requires. When we reach the beginnings of history in the several peoples who took their rise at the dispersion, a long time has intervened. The bond of one society in a race seems to consist in unity of place, of language, of religion, and of government. Now for man in general the unity of place was taken away by the dispersion itself. As to language, the lapse of a thousand years was more than sufficient to make the inhabitants of various countries strange to each other and barbarians. Men of different lands had long utterly ceased to acknowledge each other as brethren. As to religion, the worship of the one true God had passed into the worship of many false gods in almost every country each one of which had its own gods, generally both male and female, whom it considered as much belonging to itself as its kings or its cities. This diversity of deities in each nation, and the appropriation of them by each to itself, was become a most fertile principle of division and enmity among men. But if man had lost the unity of religion he had created for himself in every land an institution which might be said to be universal: the division of men into bond and free, the institution of slavery. That condition of life whereby man ceased to be a member of a family invested with reciprocal obligations and rights, came in fine to be regarded, not as a person, but as the thing of another man, that is the institution which man had made for himself in the interval between the dispersion of Babel and the commencement of authentic history in each nation. Man, who had divided the unity of the Godhead, had not only ceased to recognise the one ineffaceable dignity of reason as the mark of brotherhood in all his race demanding equality of treatment, and the respect due to a creature who possesses moral freedom, but had come to deprive a vast portion of his kindred of the fruit of their labour, and to confiscate their toil for his own advantage.

Church and State as Seen in the Formation of Christendom
 T. W. Allies (1882)