The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi, by Richard F. Burton

Note I

Hâjî Abdû, the Man

Hâjî Abdû has been known to me for more years than I care to record. A native, it is believed, of Darâbghird in the Yezd Province, he always preferred to style himself El-Hichmakâni, a facetious “lackab” or surname, meaning “Of No-hall, Nowhere.” He had travelled far and wide with his eyes open; as appears by his “couplets.” To a natural facility, a knack of language learning, he added a store of desultory various reading; scraps of Chinese and old Egyptian; of Hebrew and Syriac; of Sanskrit and Prakrit; of Slav, especially Lithuanian; of Latin and Greek, including Romaic; of Berber, the Nubian dialect, and of Zend and Akkadian, besides Persian, his mother-tongue, and Arabic, the classic of the schools. Nor was he ignorant of “the — ologies” and the triumphs of modern scientific discovery. Briefly, his memory was well-stored; and he had every talent save that of using his talents.

But no one thought that he “woo’d the Muse,” to speak in the style of the last century. Even his intimates were ignorant of the fact that he had a skeleton in his cupboard, his Kasîdah or distichs. He confided to me his secret when we last met in Western India — I am purposely vague in specifying the place. When so doing he held in hand the long and hoary honours of his chin with the points toward me, as if to say with the Island-King:

There is a touch of Winter in my beard,

A sign the Gods will guard me from imprudence.

And yet the piercing eye, clear as an onyx, seemed to protest against the plea of age. The MS. was in the vilest “Shikastah” or running-hand; and, as I carried it off, the writer declined to take the trouble of copying out his cacograph.

We, his old friends, had long addressed Hâjî Abdû by the sobriquet of Nabbianâ (“our Prophet”); and the reader will see that the Pilgrim has, or believes he has, a message to deliver. He evidently aspires to preach a faith of his own; an Eastern Version of Humanitarianism blended with the sceptical or, as we now say, the scientific habit of mind. The religion, of which Fetishism, Hinduism and Heathendom; Judæism, Christianity and Islamism are mere fractions, may, methinks, be accepted by the Philosopher: it worships with single-minded devotion the Holy Cause of Truth, of Truth for its own sake, not for the goods it may bring; and this belief is equally acceptable to honest ignorance, and to the highest attainments in nature-study.

With Confucius, the Hâjî cultivates what Strauss has called the “stern common-sense of mankind”; while the reign of order is a paragraph of his “Higher Law.” He traces from its rudest beginnings the all but absolute universality of some perception by man, called “Faith”; that sensus Numinis which, by inheritance or communication, is now universal except in those who force themselves to oppose it. And he evidently holds this general consent of mankind to be so far divine that it primarily discovered for itself, if it did not create, a divinity. He does not cry with the Christ of Novalis, “Children, you have no father”; and perhaps he would join Renan in exclaiming, Un monde sans Dieu est horrible!

But he recognises the incompatibility of the Infinite with the Definite; of a Being who loves, who thinks, who hates; of an Actus purus who is called jealous, wrathful and revengeful, with an “Eternal that makes for righteousness.” In the presence of the endless contradictions, which spring from the idea of a Personal Deity, with the Synthesis, the Begriff of Providence, our Agnostic takes refuge in the sentiment of an unknown and an unknowable. He objects to the countless variety of forms assumed by the perception of a Causa Causans (a misnomer), and to that intellectual adoption of general propositions, capable of distinct statement but incapable of proofs, which we term Belief.

He looks with impartial eye upon the endless variety of systems, maintained with equal confidence and self-sufficiency, by men of equal ability and honesty. He is weary of wandering over the world, and of finding every petty race wedded to its own opinions; claiming the monopoly of Truth; holding all others to be in error, and raising disputes whose violence, acerbity and virulence are in inverse ratio to the importance of the disputed matter. A peculiarly active and acute observation taught him that many of these jarring families, especially those of the same blood, are par in the intellectual processes of perception and reflection; that in the business of the visible working world they are confessedly by no means superior to one another; whereas in abstruse matters of mere Faith, not admitting direct and sensual evidence, one in a hundred will claim to be right, and immodestly charge the other ninety-nine with being wrong.

Thus he seeks to discover a system which will prove them all right, and all wrong; which will reconcile their differences; will unite past creeds; will account for the present, and will anticipate the future with a continuous and uninterrupted development; this, too, by a process, not negative and distinctive, but, on the contrary, intensely positive and constructive. I am not called upon to sit in the seat of judgment; but I may say that it would be singular if the attempt succeeded. Such a system would be all-comprehensive, because not limited by space, time, or race; its principle would be extensive as Matter itself, and, consequently, eternal. Meanwhile he satisfies himself — the main point.

Students of metaphysics have of late years defined the abuse of their science as “the morphology of common opinion.” Contemporary investigators, they say, have been too much occupied with introspection; their labors have become merely physiologico-biographical, and they have greatly neglected the study of averages. For, says La Rochefoucauld, Il est plus aisé de connoître l’homme en général que de connoître un homme en particulier; and on so wide a subject all views must be one-sided.

But this is not the fashion of Easterns. They have still to treat great questions ex analogiâ universi, instead of ex analogiâ hominis. They must learn the basis of sociology, the philosophic conviction that mankind should be studied, not as a congeries of individuals, but as an organic whole. Hence the Zeitgeist, or historical evolution of the collective consciousness of the age, despises the obsolete opinion that Society, the State, is bound by the same moral duties as the simple citizen. Hence, too, it holds that the “spirit of man, being of equal and uniform substance, doth usually suppose and feign in nature a greater equality and uniformity than is in Truth.”

Christianity and Islamism have been on their trial for the last eighteen and twelve centuries. They have been ardent in proselytizing, yet they embrace only one-tenth and one-twentieth of the human race. Hâjî Abdû would account for the tardy and unsatisfactory progress of what their votaries call “pure truths,” by the innate imperfections of the same. Both propose a reward for mere belief, and a penalty for simple unbelief; rewards and punishments being, by the way, very disproportionate. Thus they reduce everything to the scale of a somewhat unrefined egotism; and their demoralizing effects become clearer to every progressive age.

Hâjî Abdû seeks Truth only, truth as far as man, in the present phase of his development, is able to comprehend it. He disdains to associate utility, like Bacon (Nov. Org. I. Aph. 124), the High Priest of the English Creed, le gros bon sens, with the lumen siccum ac purum notionum verarum. He seems to see the injury inflicted upon the sum of thought by the â posteriori superstition, the worship of “facts,” and the deification of synthesis. Lastly, came the reckless way in which Locke “freed philosophy from the incubus of innate ideas.” Like Luther and the leaders of the great French Revolution, he broke with the Past; and he threw overboard the whole cargo of human tradition. The result has been an immense movement of the mind which we love to call Progress, when it has often been retrograde; together with a mighty development of egotism resulting from the pampered sentiment of personality.

The Hâjî regrets the excessive importance attached to a possible future state: he looks upon this as a psychical stimulant, a day dream, whose revulsion and reaction disorder waking life. The condition may appear humble and prosaic to those exalted by the fumes of Fancy, by a spiritual dram-drinking, which, like the physical, is the pursuit of an ideal happiness. But he is too wise to affirm or to deny the existence of another world. For life beyond the grave there is no consensus of mankind, no Catholic opinion held semper, et ubique, et ab omnibus. The intellectual faculties (perception and reflection) are mute upon the subject: they bear no testimony to facts; they show no proof. Even the instinctive sense of our kind is here dumb. We may believe what we are taught: we can know nothing. He would, therefore, cultivate that receptive mood which, marching under the shadow of mighty events, leads to the highest of goals — the development of Humanity. With him suspension of judgment is a system.

Man has done much during the sixty-eight centuries which represent his history. This assumes the first Egyptian Empire, following the pre-historic, to begin with B. C. 5000, and to end with B. C. 3249. It was the Old, as opposed to the Middle, the New, and the Low: it contained the Dynasties from I. to X., and it was the age of the Pyramids, at once simple, solid, and grand. When the praiser of the Past contends that modern civilization has improved in nothing upon Homer and Herodotus, he is apt to forget that every schoolboy is a miracle of learning compared with the Cave-man and the palæolithic race. And, as the Past has been, so shall the Future be.

The Pilgrim’s view of life is that of the Soofi, with the usual dash of Buddhistic pessimism. The profound sorrow of existence, so often sung by the dreamy Eastern poet, has now passed into the practical European mind. Even the light Frenchman murmurs —

Moi, moi, chaque jour courbant plus bas ma tête

Je passe — et refroidi sous ce soleil joyeux,

Je m’en irai bientôt, au milieu de la fête,

Sans que rien manque au monde immense et radieux.

But our Hâjî is not Nihilistic in the “no-nothing” sense of Hood’s poem, or, as the American phrases it, “There is nothing new, nothing true, and it don’t signify.” His is a healthy wail over the shortness, and the miseries of life, because he finds all created things —

Measure the world, with “Me” immense.

He reminds us of St. Augustine (Med. c. 21). “Vita hæc, vita misera, vita caduca, vita incerta, vita laboriosa, vita immunda, vita domina malorum, regina superborum, plena miseriis et erroribus . . . Quam humores tumidant, escæ inflant, jejunia macerant, joci dissolvunt, tristitiæ consumunt; sollicitudo coarctat, securitas hebetat, divitiæ inflant et jactant. Paupertas dejicit, juventus extollit, senectus incurvat, importunitas frangit, mæror deprimit. Et his malis omnibus mors furibunda succedit.” But for furibunda the Pilgrim would perhaps read benedicta.

With Cardinal Newman, one of the glories of our age, Hâjî Abdû finds “the Light of the world nothing else than the Prophet’s scroll, full of lamentations and mourning and woe.” I cannot refrain from quoting all this fine passage, if it be only for the sake of its lame and shallow deduction. “To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history and the many races of men, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution (!) of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes; the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims and short duration. the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the world’— all this is a vision to dizzy and appall, and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely without human solution.” Hence that admirable writer postulates some “terrible original calamity”; and thus the hateful doctrine, theologically called “original sin,” becomes to him almost as certain as that “the world exists, and as the existence of God.” Similarly the “Schedule of Doctrines” of the most liberal Christian Church insists upon the human depravity, and the “absolute need of the Holy Spirit’s agency in man’s regeneration and sanctification.”

But what have we here? The “original calamity” was either caused by God or arose without leave of God, in either case degrading God to man. It is the old dilemma whose horns are the irreconcilable attributes of goodness and omniscience in the supposed Creator of sin and suffering. If the one quality be predicable, the other cannot be predicable of the same subject. Far better and wiser is the essayist’s poetical explanation now apparently despised because it was the fashionable doctrine of the sage bard’s day:—

All nature is but art . . .

All discord harmony not understood;

All partial evil universal good. —(Essay 289–292.)

The Pilgrim holds with St. Augustine Absolute Evil is impossible because it is always rising up into good. He considers the theory of a beneficent or maleficent deity a purely sentimental fancy, contradicted by human reason and the aspect of the world. Evil is often the active form of good; as F. W. Newman says, “so likewise is Evil the revelation of Good.” With him all existences are equal: so long as they possess the Hindu Agasa, Life-fluid or vital force, it matters not they be —

Fungus or oak or worm or man.

War, he says, brings about countless individual miseries, but it forwards general progress by raising the stronger upon the ruins of the weaker races. Earthquakes and cyclones ravage small areas; but the former builds up earth for man’s habitation, and the latter renders the atmosphere fit for him to breathe. Hence he echoes:

— The universal Cause

Acts not by partial but by general laws.

Ancillary to the churchman’s immoral view of “original sin” is the unscientific theory that evil came into the world with Adam and his seed. Let us ask what was the state of our globe in the pre-Adamite days, when the tyrants of the Earth, the huge Saurians and other monsters, lived in perpetual strife, in a destructiveness of which we have now only the feeblest examples? What is the actual state of the world of waters, where the only object of life is death, where the Law of murder is the Law of Development?

Some will charge the Hâjî with irreverence, and hold him a “lieutenant of Satan who sits in the chair of pestilence.” But he is not intentionally irreverent. Like men of far higher strain, who deny divinely the divine, he speaks the things that others think and hide. With the author of “Supernatural Religion,” he holds that we “gain infinitely more than we lose in abandoning belief in the reality of revelation”; and he looks forward to the day when “the old tyranny shall have been broken, and when the anarchy of transition shall have passed away.” But he is an Eastern. When he repeats the Greek’s “Remember not to believe,” he means Strive to learn, to know, for right ideas lead to right actions. Among the couplets not translated for this eclogue is:—

Of all the safest ways of Life

the safest way is still to doubt,

Men win the future world with Faith,

the present world they win without.

This is the Spaniard’s:—

De las cosas mas seguras, mas seguro es duvidar;

a typically modern sentiment of the Brazen Age of Science following the Golden Age of Sentiment. But the Pilgrim continues:—

The sages say: I tell thee no!

with equal faith all Faiths receive;

None more, none less, for Doubt is Death:

they live the most who most believe.

Here, again, is an oriental subtlety; a man who believes in everything equally and generally may be said to believe in nothing. It is not a simple European view which makes honest Doubt worth a dozen of the Creeds. And it is in direct opposition to the noted writer who holds that the man of simple faith is worth ninety-nine of those who hold only to the egotistic interests of their own individuality. This dark saying means (if it mean anything), that the so-called moral faculties of man, fancy and ideality, must lord it over the perceptive and reflective powers — a simple absurdity! It produced a Turricremata, alias Torquemada, who, shedding floods of honest tears, caused his victims to be burnt alive; and an Anchieta, the Thaumaturgist of Brazil, who beheaded a converted heretic lest the latter by lapse from grace lose his immortal soul.

But this vein of speculation, which bigots brand as “Doubt, Denial, and Destruction;” this earnest religious scepticism; this curious inquiry, “Has the universal tradition any base of fact?”; this craving after the secrets and mysteries of the future, the unseen, the unknown, is common to all races and to every age. Even amongst the Romans, whose model man in Augustus’ day was Horace, the philosophic, the epicurean, we find Propertius asking:—

An ficta in miseras descendit fabula gentes

Et timor haud ultra quam rogus esse potest?

To return: the Pilgrim’s doctrines upon the subject of conscience and repentance will startle those who do not follow his train of thought:—

Never repent because thy will

with will of Fate be not at one:

Think, an thou please, before thou dost,

but never rue the deed when done.

This again is his modified fatalism. He would not accept the boisterous mode of cutting the Gordian-knot proposed by the noble British Philister —“we know we’re free and there’s an end on it!” He prefers Lamarck’s, “The will is, in truth, never free.” He believes man to be a co-ordinate term of Nature’s great progression; a result of the interaction of organism and environment, working through cosmic sections of time. He views the human machine, the pipe of flesh, as depending upon the physical theory of life. Every corporeal fact and phenomenon which, like the tree, grows from within or without, is a mere product of organization; living bodies being subject to the natural law governing the lifeless and the inorganic. Whilst the religionist assures us that man is not a mere toy of fate, but a free agent responsible to himself, with work to do and duties to perform, the Hâjî, with many modern schools, holds Mind to be a word describing a special operation of matter; the faculties generally to be manifestations of movements in the central nervous system; and every idea, even of the Deity, to be a certain little pulsation of a certain little mass of animal pap — the brain. Thus he would not object to relationship with a tailless catarrhine anthropoid ape, descended from a monad or a primal ascidian.

Hence he virtually says, “I came into the world without having applied for or having obtained permission; nay, more, without my leave being asked or given. Here I find myself hand-tied by conditions, and fettered by laws and circumstances, in making which my voice had no part. While in the womb I was an automaton; and death will find me a mere machine. Therefore not I, but the Law, or if, you please, the Lawgiver, is answerable for all my actions.” Let me here observe that to the Western mind “Law” postulates a Lawgiver; not so to the Eastern, and especially to the Soofi, who holds these ideas to be human, unjustifiably extended to interpreting the non-human, which men call the Divine.

Further he would say, “I am an individual (qui nil habet dividui), a circle touching and intersecting my neighbours at certain points, but nowhere corresponding, nowhere blending. Physically I am not identical in all points with other men. Morally I differ from them: in nothing do the approaches of knowledge, my five organs of sense (with their Shelleyan “interpretation”), exactly resemble those of any other being. Ergo, the effect of the world, of life, of natural objects, will not in my case be the same as with the beings most resembling me. Thus I claim the right of creating or modifying for my own and private use the system which most imports me; and if the reasonable leave be refused to me, I take it without leave.

“But my individuality, however all-sufficient for myself, is an infinitesimal point, an atom subject in all things to the Law of Storms called Life. I feel, I know that Fate is. But I cannot know what is or what is not fated to befall me. Therefore in the pursuit of perfection as an individual lies my highest, and indeed my only duty, the ‘I’ being duly blended with the ‘We.’ I object to be a ‘selfless man,’ which to me denotes an inverted moral sense. I am bound to take careful thought concerning the consequences of every word and deed. When, however, the Future has become the Past, it would be the merest vanity for me to grieve or to repent over that which was decreed by universal Law.”

The usual objection is that of man’s practice. It says, “This is well in theory; but how carry it out? For instance, why would you kill, or give over to be killed, the man compelled by Fate to kill your father?” Hâjî Abdû replies, “I do as others do, not because the murder was done by him, but because the murderer should not be allowed another chance of murdering. He is a tiger who has tasted blood and who should be shot. I am convinced that he was a tool in the hands of Fate, but that will not prevent my taking measures, whether predestined or not, in order to prevent his being similarly used again.”

As with repentance so with conscience. Conscience may be a “fear which is the shadow of justice”; even as pity is the shadow of love. Though simply a geographical and chronological accident, which changes with every age of the world, it may deter men from seeking and securing the prize of successful villainy. But this incentive to beneficence must be applied to actions that will be done, not to deeds that have been done.

The Hâjî, moreover, carefully distinguishes between the working of fate under a personal God, and under the Reign of Law. In the former case the contradiction between the foreknowledge of a Creator, and the free-will of a Creature, is direct, palpable, absolute. We might as well talk of black-whiteness and of white-blackness. A hundred generations of divines have never been able to ree the riddle; a million will fail. The difficulty is insurmountable to the Theist whose Almighty is perforce Omniscient, and as Omniscient, Prescient. But it disappears when we convert the Person into Law, or a settled order of events; subject, moreover, to certain exceptions fixed and immutable, but at present unknown to man. The difference is essential as that between the penal code with its narrow forbiddal, and the broad commandment which is a guide rather than a task-master.

Thus, too, the belief in fixed Law, versus arbitrary will, modifies the Hâjî’s opinions concerning the pursuit of happiness. Mankind, das rastlose Ursachenthier, is born to be on the whole equally happy and miserable. The highest organisms, the fine porcelain of our family, enjoy the most and suffer the most: they have a capacity for rising to the empyrean of pleasure and for plunging deep into the swift-flowing river of woe and pain. Thus Dante (Inf. vi. 106):—

— tua scienza

Che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta

Più senta ’l bene, e cosi la doglienza.

So Buddhism declares that existence in itself implies effort, pain and sorrow; and, the higher the creature, the more it suffers. The common clay enjoys little and suffers little. Sum up the whole and distribute the mass: the result will be an average; and the beggar is, on the whole, happy as the prince. Why, then, asks the objector, does man ever strive and struggle to change, to rise; a struggle which involves the idea of improving his condition? The Hâjî answers, “Because such is the Law under which man is born: it may be fierce as famine, cruel as the grave, but man must obey it with blind obedience.” He does not enter into the question whether life is worth living, whether man should elect to be born. Yet his Eastern pessimism, which contrasts so sharply with the optimism of the West, re-echoes the lines:

— a life,

With large results so little rife,

Though bearable seems hardly worth

This pomp of words, this pain of birth.

Life, whatever may be its consequence, is built upon a basis of sorrow. Literature, the voice of humanity, and the verdict of mankind proclaim that all existence is a state of sadness. The “physicians of the Soul” would save her melancholy from degenerating into despair by doses of steadfast belief in the presence of God, in the assurance of Immortality, and in visions of the final victory of good. Were Hâjî Abdû a mere Theologist, he would add that Sin, not the possibility of revolt, but the revolt itself against conscience, is the primary form of evil, because it produces error, moral and intellectual. This man, who omits to read the Conscience-law, however it may differ from the Society-law, is guilty of negligence. That man, who obscures the light of Nature with sophistries, becomes incapable of discerning his own truths. In both cases error, deliberately adopted, is succeeded by suffering which, we are told, comes in justice and benevolence as a warning, a remedy, and a chastisement.

But the Pilgrim is dissatisfied with the idea that evil originates in the individual actions of free agents, ourselves and others. This doctrine fails to account for its characteristics — essentiality and universality. That creatures endowed with the mere possibility of liberty should not always choose the Good appears natural. But that of the milliards of human beings who have inhabited the Earth, not one should have been found invariably to choose Good, proves how insufficient is the solution. Hence no one believes in the existence of the complete man under the present state of things. The Hâjî rejects all popular and mythical explanation by the Fall of “Adam,” the innate depravity of human nature, and the absolute perfection of certain Incarnations, which argues their divinity. He can only wail over the prevalence of evil, assume its foundation to be error, and purpose to abate it by unrooting that Ignorance which bears and feeds it.

His “eschatology,” like that of the Soofis generally, is vague and shadowy. He may lean towards the doctrine of Marc Aurelius, “The unripe grape, the ripe and the dried: all things are changes not into nothing, but into that which is not at present.” This is one of the monstruosa opinionum portenta mentioned by the XIXth General Council, alias the First Council of the Vatican. But he only accepts it with a limitation. He cleaves to the ethical, not to the intellectual, worship of “Nature,” which moderns define to be an “unscientific and imaginary synonym for the sum total of observed phenomena.” Consequently he holds to the “dark and degrading doctrines of the Materialist,” the “Hylotheist”; in opposition to the spiritualist, a distinction far more marked in the West than in the East. Europe draws a hard, dry line between Spirit and Matter: Asia does not.

Among us the Idealist objects to the Materialists that the latter cannot agree upon fundamental points; that they cannot define what is an atom; that they cannot account for the transformation of physical action and molecular motion into consciousness; and vice versâ, that they cannot say what matter is; and, lastly, that Berkeley and his school have proved the existence of spirit while denying that of matter.

The Materialists reply that the want of agreement shows only a study insufficiently advanced; that man cannot describe an atom, because he is still an infant in science, yet there is no reason why his mature manhood should not pass through error and incapacity to truth and knowledge; that consciousness becomes a property of matter when certain conditions are present; that Hyle (ὕλη) or Matter may be provisionally defined as “phenomena with a substructure of their own, transcendental and eternal, subject to the action, direct or indirect, of the five senses, whilst its properties present themselves in three states, the solid, the liquid, and the gaseous.” To casuistical Berkeley they prefer the common sense of mankind. They ask the idealist and the spiritualist why they cannot find names for themselves without borrowing from a “dark and degraded” school; why the former must call himself after his eye (idein); the latter after his breath (spiritus)? Thus the Hâjî twits them with affixing their own limitations to their own Almighty Power, and, as Socrates said, with bringing down Heaven to the market-place.

Modern thought tends more and more to reject crude idealism and to support the monistic theory, the double aspect, the transfigured realism. It discusses the Nature of Things in Themselves. To the question, is there anything outside of us which corresponds with our sensations? that is to say, is the whole world simply “I,” they reply that obviously there is a something else; and that this something else produces the brain-disturbance which is called sensation. Instinct orders us to do something; Reason (the balance of faculties) directs; and the strongest motive controls. Modern Science, by the discovery of Radiant Matter, a fourth condition, seems to conciliate the two schools. “La découverte d’un quatrième état de la matière,” says a Reviewer, “c’est la porte ouverte à l’infini de ses transformations; c’est l’homme invisible et impalpable de même possible sans cesser d’être substantiel; c’est le monde des esprits entrant sans absurdité dans la domaine des hypothèses scientifiques; c’est la possibilité pour le matérialiste de croire à la vie d’outre tombe, sans renoncer au substratum matériel qu’il croit nécessaire au maintien de l’individualité.”

With Hâjî Abdû the soul is not material, for that would be a contradiction of terms. He regards it, with many moderns, as a state of things, not a thing; a convenient word denoting the sense of personality, of individual identity. In its ghostly signification he discovers an artificial dogma which could hardly belong to the brutal savages of the Stone Age. He finds it in the funereal books of ancient Egypt, whence probably it passed to the Zendavesta and the Vedas. In the Hebrew Pentateuch, of which part is still attributed to Moses, it is unknown, or, rather, it is deliberately ignored by the author or authors. The early Christians could not agree upon the subject; Origen advocated the pre-existence of men’s souls, supposing them to have been all created at one time and successively embodied. Others make Spirit born with the hour of birth: and so forth.

But the brain-action or, if you so phrase it, the mind, is not confined to the reasoning faculties; nor can we afford to ignore the sentiments, the affections which are, perhaps, the most potent realities of life. Their loud affirmative voice contrasts strongly with the titubant accents of the intellect. They seem to demand a future life, even, a state of rewards and punishments from the Maker of the world, the Ortolano Eterno,29 the Potter of the East, the Watchmaker of the West. They protest against the idea of annihilation. They revolt at the notion of eternal parting from parents, kinsmen and friends. Yet the dogma of a future life is by no means catholic and universal. The Anglo-European race apparently cannot exist without it, and we have lately heard of the “Aryan Soul-land.” On the other hand many of the Buddhist and even the Brahman Schools preach Nirwâna (comparative non-existence) and Parinirwâna (absolute nothingness). Moreover, the great Turanian family, actually occupying all Eastern Asia, has ever ignored it; and the 200,000,000 of Chinese Confucians, the mass of the nation, protest emphatically against the mainstay of the western creeds, because it “unfits men for the business and duty of life by fixing their speculations on an unknown world.” And even its votaries, in all ages, races and faiths, cannot deny that the next world is a copy, more or less idealized, of the present; and that it lacks a single particular savouring of originality. It is in fact a mere continuation; and the continuation is “not proven.”

It is most hard to be a man;

and the Pilgrim’s sole consolation is in self-cultivation, and in the pleasures of the affections. This sympathy may be an indirect self-love, a reflection of the light of egotism: still it is so transferred as to imply a different system of convictions. It requires a different name: to call benevolence “self-love” is to make the fruit or flower not only depend upon a root for development (which is true), but the very root itself (which is false). And, finally, his ideal is of the highest: his praise is reserved for:

— Lives

Lived in obedience to the inner law

Which cannot alter.

29 The Eternal Gardener: so the old inscription saying:—

Homo locatus est in horto
damnatus est in
humatus est in
renatus est in

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31