chapter  XV
The Solar Barque in Syrian Rites
Pages 11

The Thousand and One Nights of the beliefs on this subject which were once current throughout the whole of the Near East, and of which we obtain some of the earliest traces in the Story of Jonah. Since, moreover, many later European versions of this journey can probably be traced back to a Syrian origin, we may not unreasonably consider that the legend of Jonah is the earliest form of that Syrian tradition which, to a large extent, coloured the beliefs of thoughtful men in the West concerning the great problem as to what befalls the soul at death. Whether the Jonah legend is indigenous to Palestine or is but a Syrian version of an Egyptian, or a Babylonian belief it is impossible to say, but one thing is clear, the great trade routes between further Asia and Western Europe inevit­ ably ran through Syria and Palestine, and if the tradition of the Hung Boat and the Journey of the Soul to the Isle of the Blest did not evolve independently in China, then it was almost certainly via Syria that this tradition travelled until it reached that country.