« AnteriorContinuar »
cation of God's nature ; destruction is no more than the removal of the forms thus communicated, and the reabsorption of the portion of Deity which inhabited them; and the pious Sooffee, while he beholds around him the wonders of the visible world, professes, in the literal sense of the words, to discover God in every thing, and under his innumerable different disguises.
These opinions are so like Spinozism, that we cannot wonder that Bayle (Dict. Art. Spinoza, note A.) has regarded them as the same precise system. There are some material distinctions, however, which exempt the Cabbalists from the practical atheism of the Jewish sophist, and by which they attempt to parry those objections which, from the time of Cicero to the present day, have been urged against their philosophy. Spinoza and the Cabbilists are both agreed in regarding the visible world as constituted of the same simple substance with the Deity; but Spinoza supposed the world and the Deity to be in every respect identical. The consequence of the latter notion is, not only that Balaam, and the ass on which he rides, and the staff with which he strikes the ass, and the angel by whom the ass is startled, are all so many different modifications of the same pervading Godhead; but that none of these, nor any thing else in existence, can be more really God than its fellows; nor can there be any other God than the aggregate of those several modifications which make up our notion of the visible universe. But the Cabbalist, though he maintains that all things are from God, and of the same nature with him, does not suppose that they are co-extensive with God, nor that they are absolutely identical with Him. This is implied in the word "emanation' itself, since that which issues forth from any thing must necessarily leave something behind; and since nothing can be said to emanate or issue unless it be in certain respects distinguished from that which gives it birth. Accordingly, on the Cabbalistic notion, there mast be something which is God, besides and superior to the universe which has proceeded from Him; and, 2dly, that universe must be, for the time, extra Deum,' distinct from, and, if we may use the expression, out of God, and therefore a proper subject for God's speculation and government. This is clearly intimated in the Liber Druschim, where it is said that the Supreme Being ? receded from a certain portion of infinite space, that he might have room to emit from his essence the four worlds with their inhabitants. And there is a perfect coincidence between the universe thus formed, surrounded by, and of like substance with, yet distinct from, the Or Haensoph, or diyine circumambient light; and the Persian simile, which compares our present state of existence to a portion of sea-water enclosed in a bottle, and sus, pended in the midst of the ocean.
It is plain, however, that though the atheism of Spinoza is thus got rid of, it is only got rid of at the expense of their own leading principle; since whatever that bottle is which presents the emanation from union with its parent, whether it be an eternal and hostile material principle, as the Platonists and Manicheans suppose, or empty space, as the ancient Cabbalists'apprehended, or a medium of false impressions, as the modern Per. sian or Boodhist would define it; still it is something by which the Divine Nature is served from a portion of itself, and therefore something which is not God. Nor can it be dissembled, that by attempting to elevate matter into a spiritual substance, they are compelled to impute to their Divine Spirit many of the degrading accidents of matter; inasmuch as even their · Or Haensoph’ is.capable of expansion and compression. And it is also evident that, on their own principles, those expressions, of which they are very fond, which denote the identity of God and Nature, are to be taken in a popular not a philosophically accurate acceptation; and that the water in the bottle, though of like substance with the sea, is not the sea itself, since that may be predicated of the one which cannot of the other, and that the emanation, though divine, is not the Deity, any more than the severed limb of a man is the man from which it is severed. When, however, that which causes this separation is removed, the emanation and its parent essence must necessarily again coalesce, as the waters unite when the bottle is broken: and it is to this re-absorption and identification with the Deity, that the pious Sooffee is now instructed to aspire, as it has in every age been the ultimate object and hope of his Cabbalistic and Chaldean predecessors. And all these have sought the same object by the
The performance, namely, of those duties which are imposed by the Almighty on his emanations as conditions of re-union, and, what is regarded as still more efficacious, by abstracting the attention of our Divine Nature as much as possible from the space, or scoriæ, or cortices, or delusion, (for all these terms are employed to signify what the Platonists understand by. matter,) which surround us and divide us from the Deity.
It is thus that the Cabbala, when followed its full length, conducts us to Quietism; and here a question arises, which is, it must be owned, most
admirably adapted for the discussion of the university of Bedlam. He, however, who has proceeded' in Quietism, is not very far from a graduate in that body; and the Cabbalist, accordingly, goes gravely on to examine how far this abstraction may be carried in the present life ; and whether it be not possible to pervade the bottle even before it is broken, and to re-unite ourselves with God: while that which previously separated us still seems, to the appréhension of mankind, and possibly to our own apprehensions,
to subsist in perfect vigour. This was answered in the negative by the soundest reasoners among the ancient Cabbalists, on the ground that the state of things of which death is the dissolution, if it be not a separation from the Deity, is, on their principles, nothing at all. But, that it is something, is evident from the fact of its being dissolved; therefore it is till death an effectual separation of our essence from the ocean of the Godhead.—How the Sooffees evade this difficulty does not, from Sir J. Malcolm's account, appear; probably by some of those ingenious subtleties which are in use in that eminent school of abstract reasoning, which we have already noticed. Evade it, however, they do, since, as Sir J. Malcolm assures us, it is an acknowledged doctrine of their creed that the saint or the sage may, even in this life, become identified with the source of being; and that Hajee Hussen may, while he continues Hajee Hussen, be nevertheless united with God. This possibility they attempt to justify or illustrate, by comparing it with the faith of the Christians, as to the nature of their Divine Master. The Nazarenes,' they say, "are not infidels because they deem Jesus a God, but because they deem him alone a God.' But the fallacy of this comparison is evident; first, because Christians do not believe the second person of the Trinity to be God merely because he is an emanation from the Father, but because he proceeds eternally from his essence, is inherent in and consubstantial with Him; secondly, because we believe the human nature to be of a different substance from the Deity, and that it may be united with him in some respects, while it remains distinct in others. God therefore and man may have coalesced in the person of Christ, without imputing to the first the accidents of mortality, or to the second omnipresence and omniscience. But it is the leading principle of the Sooffee, and that on which his whole system depends, that man is of the same divine and simple substance with that Being from which he emanates; and that he must, therefore, if re-united with the De
lose all personal distinction whatever !-But enough has been said toshowthe distance between truth and error,nor shouldwe have touched at all on a subject too awful for a disquisition like the present, if we had not been anxious to avoid those misrepresentations which might arise at confounding two systems essentially different from each other. The writings of the Cabbalists contain, indeed, many remarkable traces of ancient opinions resembling those pecuļiar to Christianity;* but the theory of one simple substance is,in itself, decidedly adverse toorthodoxy, nor can any of the inconsistens cies to which the first is liable, be, with any degree of justice, im
Among the early Christians, they were, as has already been observed, the Ebio nites who retained a reyerence for the Cabbala.
puted to the latter. After all, however, we confess ourselves not fully satisfied whether the strange instances which Sir J. Malcolm gives of Sooffee teachers, who have styled themselves the Truth, the Deity, and the Creator, have not been individual cases of madness or daring imposture, and whether the more rational members of the sects do not agree with the elder Cabbalists in abhorring these blasphemies of the Hulooleeah,'or those who pretend, in this life, to be united with God. The existence of some crazy individuals proves little against a numerous body. Those who have read Lesley's "Snake in the Grass' will recollect that expressions perfectly similar to those ascribed to the Sooffees were employed, about the time of our revolution, by some Camisar Quakers in London; yet the general principles of Quakerism can, by no means, be said to conduct to expressions so horrible. And the better class of Sooffees, as represented in one of their own works, of which an extract is given by our historian, appear to confine the highest privileges of their saints, during this life, to the contemplation of God's essence, and a perfect knowledge of his will :-a privilege sufficiently great to establish (as we have seen in the case of the prophet of the Assassins) a despotism more dreadful and dangerous than any other which the world has witnessed. No power can be so tremendous as that which is exercised over men who believe that “as all things emanate from God there can be no such thing as evil;' that there is no mea. sure of human action but the revealed will of the Almighty ; and that of this will their peculiar teacher is the sole depositary. If the passions of the Sooffees should be stimulated by persecution, they have a stock of principles to support them in every enormity: It is fortunate, however, for human nature, that as the best and most hallowed doctrines are not able to make us act up to their level, so the very worst cannot sink us down to the depravity to which they would naturally seem to lead. The Sooffees in general appear to be a harmless and charitable race of enthusiasts; their devotional exercises, howeveractuated by erroneous views, have at least had the favourable effect of detaching them from worldly interest and ambition, and, as an exterior of virtue and self-denial is required from their teachers, so we may believe that many among them are really little less humble and disinterested than they profess to be.
The morals of the Persians in general Sir J. Malcolm describes in very unfavourable colours. The influence of Mahommedanism has not been sufficient to subdue that intemperance in the use of wine, which, from the earliest ages, has distinguished their nation; and the love of truth, which was once, together with horsemanship and archery, the study of their youth, is now altogether departed. There are few nations besides them in the world, whatever may be
their repute among their neighbours, who do not themselves boast of their national honour and integrity. But the baseness of their general character in these respects is acknowledged by the people themselves, and it is, among them, no uncommon form of asseveration, . Though I am a Persian you may believe me. Much of this falseness is the natural fruit of that worst species of anarchical despotism which has long oppressed their country, and still more, perhaps, of those external misfortunes which have lowered their reputation not only in the eyes of their neighbours but their own. The warlike subjects of a powerful tyranny, however wretched themselves, have something to be proud of in the political elevation of their community, and great as are the evils which flow from such a feeling, falsehood is certainly not among the number. But where no part of the picture remains on which the heart can repose with pleasure, vanity, the counterfeit of pride, succeeds to real self-estimation, and of the various meannesses which follow in her train, a disregard for truth is always most conspicuous.
The government of Persia, it is well known, is, in theory at least, a monarchy of the most absolute description, and the caprices of the sovereign are, apparently, rendered more dangerous by the strange prejudice which is, we believe, peculiar to Persia, and which has prevailed in Persia from the earliest times; that a royal edict can admit of no after repentance, and that the word of the king, however hastily uttered, and however contrary to common sense, or justice, or humanity, is irrevocable even by the king himself. The history of Darius and his favourite Daniel is well known; and how consistent such an history is with the habits of the nation, Sir J. Malcolm's information shows, no less than the species of equivocations by which, in modern times at least, the spirit of this custom has been evaded.
• The late king, Aga Mabomed Khan, when encamped near Shiraz, said he would not move till the snow was off the mountain in the vicinity of his camp. The season proved severe, and the snow remained longer than was expected: the army began to suffer distress and sick. ness : but the king had said, while the snow remained on the mountain, he would not move ; and his word was as law, and could not be broken. A multitude of labourers were collected and sent to remove the snow : their efforts, and a few fine days, cleared the mountain, and Aga Mahomed Khan marched. This anecdote was repeated to me by one of his principal chiefs who was present, and who told it me with a desire of impressing my mind with a high opinion of Aga Mahomed Khan, who knew, he observed, the sacred nature of a word spoken by the King of Persia.'-vol. i. p. 268, note.
A power in itself so likely to be abused, and of which the abuses are corrected with so much difficulty, is rendered more dangerous