Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The Superstition of the Irish Fetch by Lewis Spence 1920
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According to Irish belief, this is an apparition of a living person; the Irish form of the wraith. It resembles in every particular the individual whose death it is supposed to foretell, but it is generally of a shadowy or ghostly appearance. The fetch may be seen by more than one person at the same time and, like the wraith of England and Scotland, may appear to the person it represents. There is a belief, too, that if the fetch be seen in the morning, it indicates long life for the original: but if it be seen at night, his speedy demise may be expected. The Fetch enters largely into the folk-tales of Ireland; and it is hardly surprising that so many tales have been woven around it, for there is something gruesome in the idea of being haunted by one's own "double" which has frequently been turned to account by more sophisticated writers than the inventors of folk-tales.
Patrick Kennedy, in his Legendary Fiction of the Irish Celt, speaking of the Irish fetch, gives the following tale of The Doctor's Fetch, based, it is stated, on the most authentic sources: "In one of our Irish cities, and in a room where the mild moonbeams were resting on the carpet and on a table near the window, Mrs. B., wife of a doctor in good practice and general esteem, looking towards the window from her pillow, was startled by the appearance of her husband standing near the table just mentioned, and seeming to look with attention on the book which was lying open on it. Now, the living and breathing man was by her side apparently asleep, and, greatly as she was surprised and affected, she had sufficient command of herself to remain without moving, lest she should expose him to the terror which she herself at the moment experienced. After gazing on the apparition for a few seconds, she bent her eyes upon her husband to ascertain if his looks were turned in the direction of the window, but his eyes were closed. She turned round again, although now dreading the sight of what she believed to be her husband's fetch, but it was no longer there. She remained sleepless throughout the remainder of the night, but still bravely refrained from disturbing her partner.
"Next morning, Mr. B., seeing signs of disquiet on his wife's countenance while at breakfast, made some affectionate inquiries, but she concealed her trouble, and at his ordinary hour he sallied forth to make his calls. Meeting Dr. C, in the street, and falling into conversation with him, he asked his opinion on the subject of fetches. 'I think,' was the answer, 'and so I am sure do you, that they are mere illusions produced by a disturbed stomach acting upon the excited brain of a highly imaginative or superstitious person.' 'Then,' said Mr. B., 'I am highly imaginative or superstitious, for I distinctly saw my own outward man last night standing at the table in the bedroom, and clearly distinguishable in the moonlight. I am afraid my wife saw it too, but I have been afraid to speak to her on the subject.'
"About the same hour on the ensuing night the poor lady was again roused, but by a more painful circumstance. She felt her husband moving convulsively, and immediately afterwards he cried to her in low, interrupted accents, 'Elleo, my dear, I am suffocating; send for Dr. C.' She sprang up, huddled on some clothes, and ran to his house. He came with all speed, but his efforts for his friend were useless. He had burst a large blood-vessel in the lungs, and was soon beyond human aid. In her lamentations the bereaved wife frequently cried out, 'Oh! the fetch, the fetch!' and at a later period told the doctor of the appearance the night before her husband's death.
From Irish Folklore by Lageniensis
The Fetch—a well-known Irish superstition—claims some affinity with the Highlanders' belief in "second sight." The Fetch is supposed to be a mere shadow, resembling in stature, features, and dress, a living person, and often mysteriously or suddenly seen by a very particular friend. If it appear in the morning, a happy longevity for the living original is confidently predicted; but if it be seen in the evening, immediate dissolution of the prototype is anticipated. Spirit-like, it flits before the sight, seeming to walk leisurely through the fields, and often disappearing through a gap or lane. The person it resembles is usually known to be labouring under some mortal illness at the time, and quite unable to leave his or her bed. When the Fetch appears agitated or eccentric in its motions, a violent or painful death is indicated for the doomed prototype. This phantom is also said to make its appearance, at the same time, and in the same place, to more than one person,—as we have heard related in a particular instance. What the Irish call Fetches, the English designate Doubles. It is supposed, likewise, that individuals may behold their own Fetches.
The renowned Irish novelist and poet, John Banim, has written both a novel and a ballad on this subject. Somewhat analogous to the Highland seer's gift Of second-sight, especially in reference to approaching doom — Aubrey tells us, that a well-known poet, the Earl of Roscommon, who was born in Ireland, 1633, had some preternatural knowledge of his father's death, whilst residing at Caen, in Normandy. Such forebodings were recognized by the early Northmen; and it is probable their origin amongst the people of these islands had been derived from a Scandinavian source. Oftentimes they were invested with circumstances of peculiar horror,— according to northern traditions, which were also transferred to the Hebride islanders. These latter adopted a strange admixture of superstition, from their former independent ancestors, and the invading pirate hordes, that colonized their exposed and defenceless homes.
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Many Different Christian Bibles by Kersey Graves 1879
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Owing to the multiplicity of Bible translations, which differ widely in their doctrines, precepts, and the relation of general events, making a different collection of books to constitute "the word of God," various churches, and even individual professors, have assumed the liberty to compile and make a Bible for themselves. The Roman-Catholic Bible differs essentially from that of the Protestants', having fourteen more books. The Bible of the Greek Church differs from both. The Campbellites have a translation of their own. The Samaritan Bible contains only the Five Books of Moses. The Unitarians having found twenty-four thousand errors in the popular translation, made another translation containing still many thousand errors. The American Christian Union, having found many thousand errors in the King James's translation, are now engaged in a new translation. How many more we are to have, God only knows. Martin Luther condemned eleven books of the Bible, and thus made a Bible for himself. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews he denounced in strong terms. Eusebius, the learned ecclesiastical writer, throws eight Bible books overboard, and had a Bible to his own fancy. Dr. Lardner and John Calvin each condemned five or six books, and had a Bible peculiar to themselves. Grotius places the heel of condemnation on several books of the Bible. Bishop Baxter voted down eight books as uninspired, and unworthy of confidence. Swedenborg accepted only the Four Gospels and Revelation as inspired. The German fathers rejected the Gospel of St. Matthew, and I know not how many other books. The Bible of the learned Christian writer Evanson did not contain either Matthew, Mark, or John. The Unitarian Bible does not contain Hebrews, James, Jude, or Revelation. The Catholics denounce the Protestant Bible, and the Protestants condemn the Catholic Bible, as being full of errors. A number of other churches and learned Christians might be named who had Bibles of their own selection and construction. And thus every book in the Bible has passed under the flaming sword of condemnation, and has been voted down by some ecclesiastical body or learned and devout Christian. Each church has either made out a Bible for itself, or accepted that which came the nearest teaching the doctrine of their own peculiar creed. In the midst of this rejection, expulsion, and expurgation of Bibles and Bible-books, where can we find "the scripture given by inspiration of God"? We have it upon the authority of Dr. Adam Clark, Eusebius, Bishop Marsh, and other writers, that many texts and passages contained in our Bible can not be found in the earlier editions; thus showing that many gross interpolations and forgeries have been practiced by the Christian fathers. Christ's prayer on the cross, "Father, forgive them," &c., the story of the woman taken in adultery, the passage relative to the three that bare record in heaven, &c., they assure us, can not be found in any early translation of the Bible. Where, then, are "the scriptures given by inspiration of God"? Who can tell?
Robert Cooper: In concluding this discourse, I purpose to show that this famous Greek version, the Septuagint, has itself suffered the most villanous mutillations, on being translated into Latin, and other languages. The Christian Father, St. Jerome, alluding to the Latin version of the Old Testament, taken from the Septuagint, asks,—"If they say the Latin copies are to be credited, let them tell me which; for there are almost as many different copies as there are manuscripts, and if the truth be searched for among so many, why should we not have recourse to the Greek original, in order to correct the faults that have proceeded either from the bad translations of the interpreters, or from unreasonable corrections that have been made by unskilful critics, and alterations that have happened through the carelessness of the copiers". We are told by St. Jerome that Origen, the famous Christian Father, and opponent of the ancient infidel, Celsus, wrote a version of the Old Testament, from which many of our more modern copies have been taken. Jerome declared that in this translation, Origen altered the Greek text most abominably. The following are the words of Du Pin upon this point.—"St Jerome makes frequent mention of the additions, corrections, and subtractions made in the version of the Septuagint by Origen, and of the bars and astericks he made use of for that purpose. 'When Origen', says Jerome, 'saw there was less in the Greek than the Hebrew, he did supply it from the version of Theodotion, and put an asterisk or star to it, to signify that this was to illustrate what was obscure'"!!
This same Theodotion, we are informed by St. Jerome, was an Infidel, and that his version was confounded with the Septuagint. The French Professor says, "By the carelessness of the transcribers, and sometimes of those who set them to work, the asterisks of Origen, being misunderstood, or entirely left out, in some places, the additions of Theodotion, were confounded with the version of the Septuaglnt, which, perhaps, moved Jerome to say, that Origen had corrupted and confounded the version of the Septuagint." Thus, then, does it appear that in the version of Origen, from which many of our present copies are taken, the words of Theodotion the Infidel, were confounded with God's words!! What a medley! O! Christians, how do you know when you read your Bibles, but you are reading the words of an Infidel!
Curwen, in his published Journal, from which so many extracts have been made by the press of late, records a fact which I cannot but submit to you ere I retire. He writes— "I saw in the British Museum, the first Bible printed, in Vellum, and turning to the 91st Psalm, v. 5, instead of "Thou shall not be afraid of the terrors by night, &c." I saw the following, "Thou shall not fear the bugs and vermin by night." I suppose the words as given in our modern version, is one of the "unreasonable corrections," spoken of by Father Jerome.
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Perhaps the most ghastly of Greek and Turkish superstitions is that of the vampire, generally known in the Balkan peninsula by the Slavonic name of Vrykolakas. It is customary among the Greeks and other peoples of the peninsula to exhume the body of a deceased relative at the end of three years in order to ascertain if it is properly decomposed. Should this not be the case, the Vrykolakas (the restless one) is supposed to be possessed of the power of rising from the grave and roaming abroad, reveling in the blood of his or her victims.
According to those who believe in this superstition, the causes of vampirism are various, and among them are the following: The fact either of having perpetrated or of having been the victim of a crime; having wronged some person, who has died resenting the wrong, or of a curse, pronounced either in excommunicatory form by the priest or by a person to whom an injury has been done. "May the earth not eat you," is a common expression in the mouth of an angry Greek; for a vampire is not, as some authorities have contended, a disembodied soul, but an undissolved body. Vampirism is believed to be hereditary in certain families, the members of which are regarded with aversion by their neighbors and shunned as much as possible.
One of the most thrilling modern vampire stories I have met with is the following, which was related to me by a Cretan peasant, who had been an eye-witness of the occurrence:
"Once on a time the village of Kalikrati was haunted by a vampire (called 'Katakhnas' by the Cretans), which destroyed both children and many full-grown men, and desolated both that village and many others. They had buried him in the church of St. George at Kalikrati, and in those times he was a man of note, and they had built an arch over his grave. Now, a certain shepherd, his mutual synteknos, was tending his sheep and goats near the church, and on being caught in a shower, he went to the sepulchre for shelter. Afterward he determined to pass the night there, and after taking off his weapons he placed them crosswise by the stone, which served him for a pillow, and, because of the sacred symbol they formed, the vampire was unable to leave the tomb.
"During the night, as he wished to go out again that he might destroy men, the vampire said to the shepherd, 'Gossip [friend], get up hence, for I have some business to attend to.' The shepherd answered him not, either the first, the second, or the third time, for he concluded that the man had become a vampire, and that it was he who had done all these evil deeds. But when he spoke for a fourth time the shepherd replied, 'I shall not get up hence, gossip, for I fear that you are no better than you should be, and may do me mischief; but swear to me by your winding-sheet that you will not hurt me and then I will get up.'
"He did not, however, pronounce that oath, but said other things; but finally, when the shepherd, did not suffer him to get up, the vampire swore to him as he wished. On this he rose, and on his taking up his arms, the vampire came forth and, after greeting the shepherd, said to him, 'Gossip, you must not go away, but sit down here, for I have some business which I must go after. But I shall return within the hour, for I have something to say to you.' So the shepherd waited for him.
"And the vampire went a distance of about ten miles where there was a couple recently married and he destroyed them. On his return the shepherd saw that he was carrying some liver, his hands being wet with blood, and as he carried it he blew into it, just as the butcher does, to increase the size of the liver. And he showed his gossip that it was cooked, as if it had been done on the fire. 'Let us sit down, gossip, and eat,' said he. And the shepherd pretended to eat it, but only swallowed dry bread, and kept dropping the liver into his bosom. Therefore, when the hour of their separation arrived, the vampire said to the shepherd:
"'Gossip, this which you have seen you must not mention, for, if you do, my twenty nails will be fixed in your children and yourself.' Yet the shepherd lost no time, but gave information to the priests and others, who went to the tomb and found the vampire just as he had been buried, and all were satisfied that it was he who had done all the evil deeds. So they collected a great deal of wood, and they cast him on it and burnt him. When the body was half consumed, the shepherd, too, came forward, in order that he might enjoy the ceremony. And the vampire spat, as it were, a single drop of blood, which fell on his foot, and it wasted away as if it had been burnt with fire. On this account they sifted even the ashes, and found the little finger nail of the vampire, and burnt that, too."
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
The Legend of Faust by Lewis Spence 1920
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Faust is a magician of the sixteenth century, famous in legend and literature. There is sound proof that such a person existed. Trithemius mentions him in a letter written in 1507, in which he speaks of him in terms of contempt, as a fool and a mountebank who pretended that he could restore the writings of the ancients were they wiped out of human memory, and blasphemed concerning the miracles of Christ. Mudt, a canon of the German Church also alludes to him in a letter as a charlatan. Johann Gast, a Protestant pastor of Basel, appears to have known Faust, and considers a horse and dog belonging to him to have been familiar spirits. Wier, the great protector of witches, mentions Faust in a work of his, as a drunkard who had studied magic at Cracow. He also mentions that in the end Satan strangled him after his house had been shaken by a terrific din. From other evidence it is pretty clear that Faust was a wandering magician or necromancer, whose picturesque character won him wide publicity or notoriety.
Faust boasted that were all the works of Plato and Aristotle effaced he could restore them with greater elegance. He declared that Christ's miracles were nothing to wonder at, as he could perform deeds equally as marvellous. The magician took about with him a dog which was supposed to be possessed of a devil. Melancthon describes Faust as "a disgraceful beast and sower of many devils.
By the end of the century in which he flourished he had become the model of the mediaeval magician, and his name was for ever linked with those of Virgil, Bacon, Pope Silvester and others.
Faust personified the old spirit of mediaeval magic as Luther personified the Protestant religion. The person around whom the magus-legend clustered was one Johann Faust, who from 1516 to 1525 resided with his friend the Abbot of Maulbronn, where the Faust-kitchen and Faust-tower still exist. He was forced to flee from Wittenberg because of his magical practices, and after many wanderings, ended his life in a village of Wurtemberg. He has nothing in common with John Fust, the printer of Mainz, with whom, without any historical justification, he became latterly identified.
The origins of the Faust legend are of very great antiquity. The essentials underlying the story are the pact with Satan, and the supposed vicious character of purely human learning. The idea of the pact with Satan belongs to both Jewish and Christian magico-religious belief, but is probably more truly Kabalistic than anything else, and can scarcely be traced further back; unless it resides in the savage idea that a sacrificed person takes the place of the deity, to which he is immolated during the period of life remaining to him before his execution, and afterwards becomes one with the god. The wickedness of believing in the all-sufficiency of human knowledge is a favourite theme with the early Lutherans, whose beliefs strongly coloured the Faust legend; but vivid hues and wondrously carven outlines were also afforded its edifice by the thought of the age in which it finally took shape; and in the ancient Faust-books we find tortuous passages of thought and quaintnesses of conception which recall to our minds the artistry of the Renaissance.
The Faust-book soon spread over Europe; but to England is due the honour of the first dramatic representation of the story by Christopher Marlowe, who in the Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus produced a wondrous, if unequal drama, the outstanding passages of which contained most of his best work. Lessing wrote a Faust play during the German revival of the eighteenth century, but it remained to Goethe to crown the legend with the creation of the greatest psychological drama the world has ever seen. The manner in which Goethe differed from his predecessors in his treatment of the story lies in the circumstance that he gives a different character to the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles, whose nature again is totally at variance with the devils of the old Faust-books. From Lessing Goethe received the idea of Faust's final salvation. It may be said that though in some respects Goethe adopted the letter of the old legend he did not adopt its spirit. Probably the story of Faust has given to thousands their only idea of mediaeval magic, and this idea has lost nothing in the hands of Goethe, who has cast about the subject a much greater halo of mystery than it perhaps really contains.
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Two Unique Detectives in Fiction by Carolyn Wells 1913
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Rouletabille appreciated the dramatic value of what Poe called the pungent contradiction of the general idea. In "The Mystery of the Yellow Room," by Gaston Leroux, the following conversation occurs:
"Have you any idea as to the murderer's station in life?"
"Yes," he replied; "I think if he isn't a man in society, he is, at least, a man belonging to the upper class. But that, again, is only an impression."
"What has led you to form it?"
"Well,—the greasy cap, the common handkerchief, and the marks of the rough boots on the floor," he replied.
"I understand," I said; "murderers don't leave traces behind them which tell the truth."
"We shall make something out of you yet, my dear Sainclair," concluded Rouletabille.
Like Lecoq, this young man was not infallible; but his author made him this way for the same reason. Because he figures in a novel, and the infallible detective must do his work in a short-story.
Rouletabille's strong card is pure reason.
"How did you come to suspect Larsan?" asked the President.
"My pure reason pointed to him. But I did not foresee the drugging. He is very cunning. Yes, my pure reason pointed to him."
"What do you mean by your pure reason?"
"That power of one's mind which admits of no disturbing elements to a conclusion. The day following the incident of 'the inexplicable gallery,' I felt myself losing control of it. I had allowed myself to be diverted by fallacious evidence; but I recovered and again took hold of the right end."
Again, he says:
"M. Sainclair, you ought to know that I never suspect any person or anything without previously having satisfied myself upon the 'ground of pure reason.' That is a solid staff which has never yet failed me on the road and on which I invite you all to lean with me."
His pure reason is of the subtlest variety, and his fine work throughout the book commands always the admiration of the connoisseur. In a seemingly inexplicable situation he exclaims:
"Let us reason it out!"
And he returned on the instant to that argument which had already served us and which he repeated again and again to himself (in order that, he said, he should not be lured away by the outer appearance of things): "Do not look for Larsan in that place where he reveals himself; seek for him everywhere else where he hides himself."
This he followed up with the supplementary argument: "He never shows himself where he seems to be except to prevent us from seeing him where he really is." And he resumed:
"Ah! the outer appearance of things! Look here, Sainclair! There are moments when, for the sake of reasoning clearly, I want to get rid of my eyes! Let us get rid of our eyes, Sainclair, for five minutes—just five minutes, and, perhaps, we shall see more clearly."
Rouletabille's subtlety of reasoning rose almost to clairvoyance. In his desperate endeavors to discover the identity of Larsan, he relates his experience thus:
"And why did all the others sit so silent and so motionless behind their dark glasses? All at once, I turned my head and looked behind me. Then I understood, more by instinct than anything else, that I was the object of a common physical attraction. Someone was looking at me. Two eyes were fixed upon me—weighing upon me. I could not see the eyes and I did not know from where the glance fixed upon me came, but it was there. I knew it—and it was his glance. But there was no one behind me, nor at the right, nor the left, nor in front, except the people who were seated at the table, motionless, behind their dark glasses. And then—then I knew that Larsan's eyes were glaring at me from behind a pair of those glasses —ah! the dark glasses,—the dark glasses behind which were hidden Larsan's eyes. If I mention this incident here, it is for the purpose of showing to how great an extent I was haunted by the image of Larsan, hiding under some new form, and lurking unknown among us. Dear Heaven! Larsan had so often proved his talent—I may even say his genius—in this respect, that I felt that he was quite capable of defying us now, and of mingling with us while we thought that he was a stranger—or, perhaps, even a friend."
So fearful is he that one of the seemingly well-known people about him may be Larsan in disguise, that he says to Sainclair:
"Hold your left hand in your right for five minutes and then ask yourself: 'Is it you, Larsan?' And when you have replied to yourself, do not feel too sure, for he may, perhaps, have lied to you, and he may be in your own skin without your knowing it."
There is nothing imitative about this young detective. His methods are unique. His pure reasoning is most subtle; and though the farthest possible remove from realism it presents a semblance of reality that is entirely convincing.
In "The Whispering Man" Mr. Henry Kitchell Webster employs a very different principle for the use of his detective. It may be called the principle of The Inspired Guess, and though improbable, perhaps not more so than the laws of detective fiction permit. The Whispering Man thus describes it himself:
"I had happened to tell him once that I believed that I always knew a criminal when I saw one, without knowing how or why—by just looking at him. He didn't scout that theory as you would if I were to give you a chance."
"And you believed all the while," I repeated, incredulously, "that McWilliams was the man?"
"Not believed; knew. Oh, I don't know how. That's the whole point. That's what I've been preaching all the evening. The only certain knowledge is the inspired guess."
One of the most remarkable Detectives of Fiction is Mr. Zangwill's Grodman, who in "Big Bow Mystery," thus discourses:
"It grew daily clearer to me that criminals were more fools than rogues. Every crime I had traced, however cleverly perpetrated, was from the point of view of penetrability a weak failure. Traces and trails were left on all sides—ragged edges, rough-hewn corners; in short, the job was botched, artistic completeness unattained. To the vulgar, my feats might seem marvelous—the average man is mystified to grasp how you detect the letter 'e' in a simple cryptogram—to myself they were as commonplace as the crimes they unveiled. To me now, with my lifelong study of the science of evidence, it seemed possible to commit not merely one, but a thousand crimes that should be absolutely undiscoverable. And yet criminals would go on sinning, and giving themselves away, in the same old grooves—no originality, no dash, no individual insight, no fresh conception! One would imagine there were an Academy of crime with forty thousand armchairs. And gradually, as I pondered and brooded over the thought, there came upon me the desire to commit a crime that should baffle detection. I could invent hundreds of such crimes, and please myself by imagining them done; but would they really work out in practice? Evidently the sole performer of my experiment must be myself; the subject whom or what? Accident should determine. I itched to commence with murder—to tackle the stiffest problems first, and I burned to startle and baffle the world—especially the world of which I had ceased to be. Outwardly I was calm, and spoke to the people about me as usual. Inwardly I was on fire with a consuming scientific passion. I sported with my pet theories, and fitted them mentally on every one I met. Every friend or acquaintance I sat and gossiped with, I was plotting how to murder without leaving a clue. There is not one of my friends or acquaintances I have not done away with in thought. There is no public man—have no fear, my dear Home Secretary—I have not planned to assassinate secretly, mysteriously, unintelligibly, undiscoverably. Ah, how I could give the stock criminals points with their second-hand motives, their conventional conceptions, their commonplace details, their lack of artistic feeling and restraint."
And in the same book, we get this description of the contrasting official detective:
Wimp was at his greatest in collecting circumstantial evidence; in putting two and two together to make five. He would collect together a number of dark and disconnected data and flash across them the electric light of some unifying hypothesis in a way which would have done credit to a Darwin or a Faraday. An intellect which might have served to unveil the secret workings of nature was subverted to the protection of a capitalistic civilization.
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THE KORAN OF THE MOHAMMEDANS.
The name Koran is derived from an Arabic word guard, to "read," and this from the older Shemitic, meaning to "cry aloud," to "pronounce," "utter," "dictate." It is supposed to have obtained its name from the claim made, that it was dictated to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. This Mohammed was born at Mecca about 570 A.D. and died at Medena 632.
In his fifteenth year (610) he claimed that he received a visit from the Angel Gabriel in the wild solitude of Mount Hira near Mecca. He was frightened and attempted to commit suicide, but his wife predicted that he would be the prophet of Arabia. The angel appeared to him again in a vision, saying "I am Gabriel, and thou art Mohammed, the prophet of God. Fear not." His public career as a reformer now began. The revelations of Gabriel, now like the sound of a bell and again like the voice of a man, continued from time to time for more than twenty years and are deposited in the Koran. Mohammed dictated his revelations leaf by leaf as occasion demanded. A year after his death, Zayd. his chief amanuensis collected the scattered fragments "from palm leaves, and tablets of white stone and from the breast of men" but without regard to chronological order.
The Koran has 114 chapters. These vary greatly in their length, from 40 octavo pages to a short paragraph containing a verse or two. Besides this there is an artificial division into sixty-five equal parts, and each of these again subdivided into four equal parts. There are seven principal editions or ancient copies of the Koran, but they all agree in the same total of words which are 77,639 and the same total of letters 323,015.
The Koran admits the Divine authority of the Jewish Scriptures, makes the fear of a personal God the groundwork of its religion. It promulgates the doctrine of Allah's sovereignty, of his immutable throne, of his eternal decrees, and of his continual personal providence. It teaches a great judgment to come, a resurrection-day of final account, "the book" in which each man shall read the true value of the life lived by him in this preparatory world, the meeting with his sins that have gone before him, and a sublime vigorous doctrine of prayer. But it has no reference to the doctrine of the cross or any hint of the mediatorial idea. Besides it has three great positive deformities—the doctrine of polygamy, of slavery and the sensual aspect it gives to the happiness of Paradise. The Koran is the most positive rival of the Bible, but infinitely below it in purity, interest and value. The one is of the earth, earthly; the other is from heaven, heavenly. The Koran is sectional: the Bible is universal.
THE THREE VEDAS OF THE HINDOOS.
The word Vedas is derived from the Sanscrit Va'dahaz "to know." The three Vedas are in Sanscrit, in prose and hymns, The hymns, numbering about 1000, and though formerly one work, they are divided into four parts; these are the sacred writings of the Hindoos, of great antiquity, but of uncertain date. They are regarded as containing the true knowledge of God, of His religion and of His worship. These Vedas vary greatly in age, represent many stages of thought and worship, the earliest being the simplest. The Vedas have their origin in the wonder with which early man regarded the universe and the operations going on in it. They consist, therefore, largely of highly figurative addresses to the great powers of nature under seemingly different representations, between whom, however, a great power (OM) is divinely recognized. Gradually these powers became more and more endowed with personality, and ultimately came to be regarded as real divinities, to whose number more were gradually added.
The hymns of the Vedas embrace the earliest known lyrics of the Aryan settlers of India. Dr. Monier Williams thinks they were probably composed by a succession of poets at different dates, between 1500 and 1000 B.C. The third division of each Veda is not earlier than 600 B.C. and shows the working of the Aryan mind upon religious and philosophic problems. Writers upon this subject mark the beginnings of certain Vedic works with 1200, 1000, 800 and 600 years B.C.
THE ZENDA VESTA OF THE PERSIANS.
Zendavesta, a Persian compound word, meaning (the living word, or commentary and text), is the collective name of the Sacred books of the Parsees containing the doctrines of the ancient Persian religion founded by Zoroaster. It is supposed he was born in Bacria, his father's name being Pournsaspa. This is all that is known of his personal life. The time in which he lived is utterly uncertain, some placing him 500 years before Christ, and others 6000 years before Plato.
The religious system which he developed is a complete dualism, Ormuz being the creator and ruler of all that is good and bright, Ahriman the chief of that which is dark and evil.
To each of these supreme beings belongs a member of subordinate spirits and all that exists is divided between these two realms. Man has to choose and according to his choice he will after death go to Ormuz or to Ahriman. The way to the first is pure thought, pure speech and pure actions. The only object of worship was fire. The priests who maintained and conducted the worship were the Magi.
THE EDDAS OF THE SCANDINAVIANS.
The two Eddas (or Great grandmothers) is a name given to the books by Bishop Svejusson, to indicate that they are the mothers of all Scandinavian poetry, but, they are attributed to Frodi, a priest in Iceland, retiring between 1054 and 1133 A.d. The older one consists of old mythic poems. It contains a system of old Scandinavian mythology with narratives of the exploits of the gods and heroes, and some account of the religious doctrines of the ancient Scandinavians. Saemund, one of the earlier Christian priests in Iceland who was born about the middle of the eleventh century, and died in 1133 A.D., having a fondness for Paganism collected certain old pagan songs of unknown authorship, written at different periods between the sixth and eighth centuries, mostly of a religious character. This collection is called The Elder or Poetic Edda, and embodies thirty-nine poems. The younger or prose Edda is a collection of prose of a similar character. This is the work of Gnorro Sturleson, educated by Saemund's grandson, and nearly a century after him, put together. He also wrote a kind of prose synopsis of the whole mythology elucidated by new fragments of traditionary verse. This Sturleson was born in Iceland in 1178 and was assassinated there in 1241 on his return from Norway.
THE TRI-PITAKA OF THE BUDDHISTS.
Pitaka (literally basket) is with the Buddhists a term denoting a division of their sacred literature, and occurs in combination with tri, "three,"—Tripitaka meaning the three great divisions of the canonical works, the Veiaya (discipline), abhidharma (metaphysics), and Sutra (aphorisms in prose), and collectively therefore the whole Buddhist's code. Gantama Broddha, the alleged founder of Booddhism was born 624 or 556 B.C. in Northern India. The story of his life is a tissue of montrous falls, but after a life of severe asceticism, he began to publish abroad the deep things his meditations had revealed. His doctrines were proclaimed orally but not written. After his death about 543 five hundred of his disciples held a council and each recited what he had heard, then the whole assembly repeated aloud what had been thus gathered up. By a second and third council these teachings were formulated; but it is not proved that any written statement of them is earlier than B C. 100-88, although some are of opinion that the Buddhist Canonical Scriptures as they now exist were fixed two and a half centuries before the Christian era. It is yet unsettled whether the original language was Sanscrit or Pali, probably the latter.
THE FIVE KING OF THE CHINESE.
In the five cannonical or classical books called "King" are the sacred writings of the chinese. "King" means "web of cloth" or the warp that keeps the threads in their place. They contain the best sayings of the best sages on the duties of life. These sayings cannot be traced to a period higher than the eleventh century. Confucius collected them from various sources in the sixth century B.C., and in this collection they have been pretty faithfully handed down to us. In these books are the oldest monuments of Chinese poetry, history, philosophy and jurisprudence, some portions of which belong to the most ancient uninspired writings of the human race.
Next to the five King in value are the Sse-Shee or the four books. These were written by Confucius and his disciples, and must be regarded as the most trustworthy source of insight into the intellectual and political life of the Chinese.
THE SCRIPTURES OF THE CHRISTIANS.
The Bible (Greek Ta Bablia) "The Books" is the name given by Chrysostom in the fourth century A.D. to that collection of sacred writings recognized by Christians as the documents of their divinely inspired religion. In language and contents they are divided into two parts—the Old and New Testament.
The Old Testament is a collection of thirty-nine books written partly in the Hebrew and partly in the Chaldaic language, and containing all that remains of Hebrew-Chaldaic literature down to the middle of the second century B.C. A period of about four hundred years elapsed between the writing of the last book in the Old Testament and the writing of the first book in the New. The New Testament is a collection of twenty-seven books containing the history and doctrines of Christianity written mostly in the Greek language by eight authors and covering a period of about sixty years.
The books of the Holy Bible were written in different ages from Moses to John (B.C. 1650 to A.D. 90 a period of more than 1700 years) by men specially prepared for the work by direct inspiration from the Divine source of all knowledge.
The Douay Bible so-called because it was translated by English Roman Catholic divines connected with the colleges at Rheims and Douay in France. Both Testaments were translated from the Vulgate or Latin which was the version authorized in the [Roman Catholic Church. The New was published at Rheims in 1582 and the Old at Douay in 1609-16. Among the most notable changes are those in the Ten Commandments. The second is omitted and the tenth divided into two.
Monday, February 22, 2016
A GHOST STORY by Mark Twain 1875
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I TOOK a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper stories had been wholly unoccupied for years, until I came. The place had long been given up to dust and cobwebs, to solitude and silence. I seemed groping among the tombs and invading the privacy of the dead, that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For the first time in my life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.
I was glad enough when I reached my room and locked out the mould and the darkness. A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there, thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning half-forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy, to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar songs that nobody sings now. And as my reverie softened down to a sadder and sadder pathos, the shrieking of the winds outside softened to a wail, the angry beating of the rain against the panes diminished to a tranquil patter, and one by one the noises in the street subsided, until the hurrying footsteps of the last belated straggler died away in the distance and left no sound behind.
The fire had burned low. A sense of loneliness crept over me. I arose and undressed, moving on tiptoe about the room, doing stealthily what I had to do, as if I were environed by sleeping enemies whose slumbers it would be fatal to break. I covered up in bed, and lay listening to the rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters, till they lulled me to sleep.
I slept profoundly, but how long I do not know. All at once I found myself awake, and filled with a shuddering expectancy. All was still. All but my own heart — I could hear it beat. Presently the bedclothes began to slip away slowly toward the foot of the bed, as if some one were pulling them! I could not stir; I could not speak. Still the blankets slipped deliberately away, till my breast was uncovered. Then with a great effort I seized them and drew them over my head. I waited, listened, waited. Once more that steady pull began, and once more I lay torpid a century of dragging seconds till my breast was naked again. At last I roused my energies and snatched the covers back to their place and held them with a strong grip. I waited. By and by I felt a faint tug, and took a fresh grip. The tug strengthened to a steady strain — it grew stronger and stronger. My hold parted, and for the third time the blankets slid away. I groaned. An answering groan came from the foot of the bed! Beaded drops of sweat stood upon my forehead. I was more dead than alive. Presently I heard a heavy footstep in my room — the step of an elephant, it seemed to me — it was not like anything human. But it was moving from me — there was relief in that. I heard it approach the door —pass out without moving bolt or lock — and wander away among the dismal corridors, straining the floors and joists till they creaked again as it passed — and then silence reigned once more.
When my excitement had calmed, I said to myself, "This is a dream — simply a hideous dream." And so I lay thinking it over until I convinced myself that it was a dream, and then a comforting laugh relaxed my lips and I was happy again. I got up and struck a light; and when I found that the locks and bolts were just as I had left them, another soothing laugh welled in my heart and rippled from my lips. I took my pipe and lit it, and was just sitting down before the fire, when— down went the pipe out of my nerveless fingers, the blood forsook my cheeks, and my placid breathing was cut short with a gasp! In the ashes on the hearth, side by side with my own bare footprint, was another, so vast that in comparison mine was but an infant's! Then I had had a visitor, and the elephant tread was explained.
I put out the light and returned to bed, palsied with fear. I lay a long time, peering into the darkness, and listening. Then I heard a grating noise overhead, like the dragging of a heavy body across the floor; then the throwing down of the body, and the shaking of my windows in response to the concussion. In distant parts of the building I heard the muffled slamming of doors. I heard, at intervals, stealthy footsteps creeping in and out among the corridors, and up and down the stairs. Sometimes these noises approached my door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard the clanking of chains faintly, in remote passages, and listened while the clanking grew nearer — while it wearily climbed the stairways, marking each move by the loose surplus of chain that fell with an accented rattle upon each succeeding step as the goblin that bore it advanced. I heard muttered sentences; half-uttered screams that seemed smothered violently; and the swish of invisible garments, the rush of invisible wings. Then I became conscious that my chamber was invaded — that I was not alone. I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings. Three little spheres of soft phosphorescent light appeared on the ceiling directly over my head, clung and glowed there a moment, and then dropped —two of them upon my face and one upon the pillow. They spattered, liquidly, and felt warm. Intuition told me they had turned to gouts of blood as they fell — I needed no light to satisfy myself of that. Then I saw pallid faces, dimly luminous, and white uplifted hands, floating bodiless in the air— floating a moment and then disappearing. The whispering ceased, and the voices and the sounds, and a solemn stillness followed. I waited and listened. I felt that I must have light or die. I was weak with fear. I slowly raised myself toward a sitting posture, and my face came in contact with a clammy hand! All strength went from me apparently, and I fell back like a stricken invalid. Then I heard the rustle of a garment — it seemed to pass to the door and go out.
When everything was still once more, I crept out of bed, sick and feeble, and lit the gas with a hand that trembled as if it were aged with a hundred years. The light brought some little cheer to my spirits. I sat down and fell into a dreamy contemplation of that great footprint in the ashes. By and by its outlines began to waver and grow dim. I glanced up and the broad gas flame was slowly wilting away. In the same moment I heard that elephantine tread again. I noted its approach, nearer and nearer, along the musty halls, and dimmer and dimmer the light waned. The tread reached my very door and paused — the light had dwindled to a sickly blue, and all things about me lay in a spectral twilight. The door did not open, and yet I felt a faint gust of air fan my cheek, and presently was conscious of a huge, cloudy presence before me. I watched it with fascinated eyes. A pale glow stole over the Thing; gradually its cloudy folds took shape — an arm appeared, then legs, then a body, and last a great sad face looked out of the vapor. Stripped of its filmy housings, naked, muscular and comely, the majestic Cardiff Giant loomed above me!
All my misery vanished — for a child might know that no harm could come with that benignant countenance. My cheerful spirits returned at once, and in sympathy with them the gas flamed up brightly again. Never a lonely outcast was so glad to welcome company as I was to greet the friendly giant. I said:
"Why, is it nobody but you? Do you know, I have been scared to death for the last two or three hours? I am most honestly glad to see you. I wish I had a chair— Here, here, don't try to sit down in that thing!
But it was too late. He was in it before I could stop him, and down he went—I never saw a chair shivered so in my life.
"Stop, stop, you'll ruin ev—"
Too late again. There was another crash, and another chair was resolved into its original elements.
"Confound it, haven't you got any judgment at all? Do you want to ruin all the furniture on the place? Here, here, you petrified fool—"
But it was no use. Before I could arrest him he had sat down on the bed, and it was a melancholy ruin.
"Now what sort of a way is that to do? First you come lumbering about the place bringing a legion of vagabond goblins along with you to worry me to death, and then when I overlook an indelicacy of costume which would not be tolerated anywhere by cultivated people except in a respectable theater, and not even there if the nudity were of your sex, you repay me by wrecking all the furniture you can find to sit down on. And why will you? You damage yourself as much as you do me. You have broken off the end of your spinal column, and littered up the floor with chips of your hams till the place looks like a marble yard. You ought to be ashamed of yourself — you are big enough to know better."
"Well, I will not break any more furniture. But what am I to do? I have not had a chance to sit down for a century." And the tears came into his eyes.
"Poor devil," I said, "I should not have been so harsh with you. And you are an orphan, too, no doubt. But sit down on the floor here — nothing else can stand your weight — and besides, we cannot be sociable with you away up there above me; I want you down where I can perch on this high counting-house stool and gossip with you face to face."
So he sat down on the floor, and lit a pipe which I gave him, threw one of my red blankets over his shoulders, inverted my sitz-bath on his head, helmet fashion, and made himself picturesque and comfort able. Then he crossed his ankles, while I renewed the fire, and exposed the flat, honey-combed bottoms of his prodigious feet to the grateful warmth.
"What is the matter with the bottom of your feet and the back of your legs, that they are gouged up so?"
"Infernal chillblains — I caught them clear up to the back of my head, roosting out there under Newell's farm. But I love the place; I love it as one loves his old home. There is no peace for me like the peace I feel when I am there."
We talked along for half an hour, and then I noticed that he looked tired, and spoke of it.
"Tired?" he said. "Well, I should think so. And now I will tell you all about it, since you have treated me so well. I am the spirit of the Petrified Man that lies across the street there in the Museum. I am the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. I can have no rest, no peace, till they have given that poor body burial again. Now what was the most natural thing for me to do, to make men satisfy this wish? Terrify them into it! — haunt the place where the body lay! So I haunted the museum night after night. I even got other spirits to help me. But it did no good, for nobody ever came to the museum at midnight. Then it occurred to me to come over the way and haunt this place a little. I felt that if I ever got a hearing I must succeed, for I had the most efficient company that perdition could furnish. Night after night we have shivered around through these mildewed halls, dragging chains, groaning, whispering, tramping up and down stairs, till, to tell you the truth, I am almost worn out. But when I saw a light in your room to-night I roused my energies again and went at it with a deal of the old freshness. But I am tired out — entirely fagged out. Give me, I beseech you, give me some hope!"
I lit off my perch in a burst of excitement, and exclaimed:
"This transcends everything! everything that ever did occur! Why you poor blundering old fossil, you have had all your trouble for nothing—you have been haunting a plaster cast of yourself—the real Cardiff Giant is in Albany!* Confound it, don't you know your own remains?"
I never saw such an eloquent look of shame, of pitiable humiliation, overspread a countenance before.
The Petrified Man rose slowly to his feet, and said:
"Honestly, is that true?"
"As true as I am sitting here."
He took the pipe from his mouth and laid it on the mantel, then stood irresolute a moment (unconsciously, from old habit, thrusting his hands where his pantaloons pockets should have been, and meditatively dropping his chin on his breast), and finally said:
"Well — I never felt so absurd before. The Petrified Man has sold everybody else, and now the mean fraud has ended by selling its own ghost! My son, if there is any charity left in your heart for a poor friendless phantom like me, don't let this get out. Think how you would feel if you had made such an ass of yourself."
I heard his stately tramp die away, step by step down the stairs and out into the deserted street, and felt sorry that he was gone, poor fellow—and sorrier still that he had carried off my red blanket and my bath tub.
•A fact. The original fraud was ingeniously and fraudfully duplicated, and exhibited in New York as the "only genuine" Cardiff Giant (to the unspeakable disgust of the owners of the real colossus) at the very same time that the latter was drawing crowds at a museum in Albany.
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CHARLOTTE BRONTE'S JANE EYRE by William Dudley Foulke 1912
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"JANE EYRE" is a book which impresses the reader with its power,— I might say its masculine power, were it not for the fact that the author gives us at every turn the woman's point of view.
The narrative, like that of "David Copperfield," is in the form of an autobiography, and the plot, which is quite simple, has only that sort of unity which the heroine gives it. Yet the work glows with intense passion and the characters are so faithful to nature that they convince us that vivid personal experience must have come to the aid of the author's imagination in delineating them.
Jane Eyre, an orphan, is abused and mistreated in childhood, first in the family of Mrs. Reed, where she is brought up, and afterwards at the Lowood charity school, where she is first a pupil and then becomes a teacher. She seeks a situation as governess, and finds employment at Thornfield Hall, the residence of a Mr. Rochester, who, after a wild, dissipated, wandering life, has come, some time before, into possession of this splendid property. Here she has the charge of Adele, his ward.
There is a certain uncanny secret about Thornfield which the governess finds herself unable to fathom. She hears wild laughter and inarticulate sounds in a distant part of the Hall. One night Rochester's bed is mysteriously set on fire, and Jane Eyre saves his life. On another occasion, while the house is full of guests, a horrible shriek comes from the upper floor and a murder is well nigh committed by some unknown creature who is hidden there.
In the meantime Mr. Rochester has become greatly interested in his little governess, who, although quiet and plain in appearance, is warmhearted and high-spirited, with a strong sense of duty, great courage, and an indomitable will. And she on her side becomes fascinated and at last utterly devoted to her master, a man of brilliant parts, strong, brusque, proud and autocratic. He offers her his hand, and she accepts him, to learn, however, in the very presence of the altar and during the wedding ceremony, that he has another wife! It seems that in his early years he had been beguiled into a marriage in the West Indies with a woman whose dissolute courses had wrecked his life, and had terminated in her own madness, and that this was the maniac who had occasioned the strange scenes at the Hall.
Jane Eyre now flees from Thornfield, concealing all traces of her whereabouts. She wanders amid incredible hardships and destitution, and at last finds shelter at Moor House, the home of St. John Rivers and his two sisters, who are afterwards discovered to be her relatives, and with whom she divides a legacy which she receives from a deceased uncle. St. John is a country clergyman of high character, full of zeal, ambition, and fanaticism, and determined to devote his life to missionary service in India. He seeks her hand, but she realizes that it is not from love but to make her his fellow laborer in the work of the Gospel. He has sought to inspire her with his own enthusiasm, and she is on the point of yielding, when she seems to hear the voice of Rochester calling to her in pain and anguish. She returns to Thornfield, and finds that the Hall has been consumed in a conflagration kindled by the maniac, and that Rochester, who had sought in vain to save the life of the wretched creature, has been himself rescued, blind and a cripple, from the ruins. She seeks him and becomes his wife.
But the bare recital of these leading events gives very little idea of the characters in this somber and tragic tale, or the feelings which control their actions. The book must be read through to be understood. From the very beginning the author strikes a resounding chord in human nature. Brutality to children stirs us to fury, and no one, not even Dickens or Victor Hugo, has painted this form of tyranny in livelier colors than Charlotte Bronte. The conduct of Mrs. Reed and of Rev. Mr. Brocklehurst, the sanctified and inhuman director of Lowood school, arouses our hot resentment.
Of course there are blemishes in the book. Sometimes the conversation is too carefully written to be natural. Then there is an intrinsic improbability in the plot. Why should a young woman so self-sufficient as the heroine consent to marry Rochester before she had solved the secret of Thornfield? But these defects in the novel are trifling by the side of its abounding excellences. At nearly every point the heroine awakens our admiration; we feel (sometimes, perhaps, in spite of our better judgment) that she is doing right; and so masterly is the author's portraiture that, in spite of many repulsive features, she awakens a stronger sympathy for the seared and blighted Rochester than for the pure and devoted yet inexorable St. John Rivers. Jane Eyre is an eloquent novel. It is emphatically a work of genius.
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READINGS AND RE-READINGS: THE MYSTIC VALUATION OF LITERATURE, article in the Theosophical Review 1903
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The question was asked, not so long ago, Why not Theosophical Members of Parliament? I can very well imagine that Theosophical journalists, at any rate, would be worth their weight in gold. When one considers the number of points at which a weekly paper like, say, The Spectator or The Saturday Review, touches life, and how often it fails to do more than merely touch it, the dream sometimes arises of the days when our journalists shall be able to light up the dull details of our brief day with the splendour of days and ages that are gone and the vision of things to come. Every insignificant fact, every mean, sordid, dull paragraph has its kith and kin in the past and future, and to a journalist who could see the long ancestry of his news and its blood relationship of to-morrow, the day would be fuller and the labour more noble.
But is there a Theosophical standpoint as regards literature? Have we as a Society any ideas for lovers of literature simply? Are we too engrossed in deciphering the age-worn hieroglyphics of past creeds, too intent on re-establishing forgotten doctrines, too anxious to put the world morally right, to care much about adding to the world's perception of beauty, or to interest ourselves in art or literature? There is a significant omission from our second object, which, enumerating Religion, Philosophy and Science, makes no special mention of Art. Is it because that is, or may be, included in one of the three named? Or is it that Art and Literature are to be left to themselves, and that Theosophists have nothing collectively to say to them? At any rate, of this we may be pretty sure, that so long as these are either uncared for or only indifferently cared for, so long shall we find insuperable obstacles between ourselves and the artists, poets, and writers of our times. Already there is a tendency on the part of these to condemn our literature as ugly, our nomenclature as crude, and our systematisation as formal deadness; and if they cannot feel that beneath this tabulated exterior is a world of ideas—their world of ideas—they will be justified in turning away. Theosophy in Plato's day was not thus narrow. Plato, at any rate, was one of the supreme literary artists of Greece, if not of all time. Can one imagine that artists and poets would have turned from Plato because he had no ideas for them? Well, and since it takes a whole Theosophical Society nowadays to represent Plato, is it right that in our Society there should be lacking the elements found in him? On peril of becoming a tribe of Philistines in the worlds of Literature and Art we must keep alive the sacred fire that burns so very low in us and, if we can, even fan it into flame.
But is there a Theosophical view of literature? I am convinced not only that there is, but that Theosophy is the key to literature as to everything else. Nearly all the problems of literature as literature—I am not speaking of book-writers' problems— are in that border-region which lies between the known and the unknown. What answer can be given by the materialist to questions such as these. What is true poetry, and what distinguishes it from the most excellent verse? Why is the Republic a joy for ever, and the learned works of, say, Max Muller, a weariness to the flesh? What is style? What is imagination in literature? How explain Shakespeare? What is the secret of magic phrases? Why, these and a thousand similar questions have been asked and asked with damnable iteration, and scarcely a soul has been able to say more than mum to them. Of intricate analysis and physiological states and etymological reasons why things must be what they are, we have had enough and to spare, but light on the questions, never a glimmer. But these are the very questions which the Theosophical view embraces well within its own region • It is—at our period of the world at any rate—just that area of life and thought and feeling which begins, as it were, on the confines of our ordinary self and stretches away over sunlit plains of mystery without ever a horizon, that Theosophy occupies ; and it is in that region that are born all the works of art which flash into our ordinary life. But what of that Celtic fringe of our ordinary self—does the ordinary critic and book-reader know? What clue has he to the reality of the worlds surrounding this? To him the whence of literature and art is a mystery; to the materialist it is a blank impossibility. To the mystic alone it need not be a mystery, for his whole life lies in the world whence literature and art have come—the world that begins where the world enclosed by the five senses ends, that takes up the thread where waking life drops it, that adds to the facts of the ordinary world the meanings and colours which alone render them significant. I would say, therefore, that far from having nothing to say to the literary man the Theosophist has everything to say; that, no less than the rejuvenation of religion, is his work the restoration of its ancient lights to literature, that literature may become, as once it was, the handmaid of the Spirit sacramental in its nature and divinely illumining for the darkling sight of men.
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Much of this I have been led into writing by the reading of a book by Arthur Machen, Hieroglyphics. Arthur Machen's name is known to many for an intensely horrible book he wrote a few years ago, The Great God Pan. This book is a fantastic story woven round what are undoubtedly facts of experience, the result of some dim communication with a parallel and somewhat unpleasant scheme of evolution. There was plenty of terrified imagination in the book, and plenty of crudeness too; but the author was evidently a student of the lesser known things, with an eye for the bizarre.
In his latest book, Hieroglyphics, he has attempted to do for one of the literary problems what I have suggested the Theosophical view would enable us to do for all. He has defined literature from the standpoint of mysticism. There seems no doubt that he has read a considerable amount of Theosophical writings, and has by no means arrived at his conclusion without help. But he has preferred to translate the terms into their native English obscurity, which is perhaps the wisest thing a writer who is not writing for students can do. Matthew Arnold, it may be remembered, used the two terms "ordinary self" and "best self" where our own text-books speak of astro-mental body and causal body, or some such thing. With these latter terms I am not finding fault. They enable one to appreciate if not to realise the exactness of the things named, and one can always translate them into currency for daily use as Arthur Machen has done.
What then is his "word of the enigma," his answer to the question: What is literature? Well, to cut his very long story short, it is this. Literature is the expression of ecstasy, and ecstasy is the withdrawal of the consciousness from the ordinary into the inner and more real world. In the word ecstasy, rightly understood, "I claim," he says, "that we have the touchstone which will infallibly separate the higher from the lower in literature." In order rightly to understand the word, however, it is necessary to know the background of the author's mind. He, like so many of our modern men, has been impressed with the Theosophical idea—at least it was the Theosophists who made it known—of the relation between the ordinary and the extraordinary consciousness. Our normal life is confined within a small circle, beyond which stretches a larger circle of unexplored mystery. This smaller circle is the personality, the ordinary self, the waking consciousness. From time to time in the lives of most men, more frequently in the lives of the greatest men, and rarely in the ordinary person, there flashes from the unknown outer region ideas of wonderful beauty, bright messengers of other worlds, other truths, other glories. And to this region, which of old poets named after their fancy,—the World of Ideas, the distant Island of Avilion, our flat-footed modern psycho-physiologists have given the name of Subconscious or even Unconscious. For Theosophical students, it is all that is represented by the term "Higher Ego," "Causal Body," "Individuality," and, as H. P. B. says, is the personal deity of our daily ordinary selves. Arthur Machen, who is by way of being poetic, remembering perhaps Emerson's "Jove that nods behind us," prefers to call this Sub-conscious, Unconscious, Super-conscious, Higher Self, the "Shadowy Companion," and "the invisible attendant who walks all the way beside us though his feet are in the Other World." And it is this Shadowy Attendant "who whispers to us his ineffable secrets which we clumsily endeavour to set down in mortal language."
The idea is then clear enough. Literature is literature only in so far as it partakes of the nature of the Higher Self, only in so far as it belongs to the Spirit. There is not merely a difference of degree between the best verse workmanship and the worst poetry, but it is a difference in kind. The division is not an imaginary line, it is an impassable gulf. All great literature is symbolic; it has always been produced by men who have preserved a certain loneliness of soul, who have been nearer than the rest to their Shadowy Companions: and the ecstasy their work revealed was the withdrawal of themselves from the world about us to the world around us. All the quintessence of art is distilled from the sub-conscious and not from the conscious self, that is from the higher, not from the lower.
It is an interesting idea, and falls in with many of the things one has often thought. But there are difficulties in the way which Arthur Machen has either not seen or has leaped over. It is not enough simply to have the idea—this secret whispered by the Shadowy Companion—in order to produce literature. We can all think of books full enough of ideas, but absolutely devoid of the grace of God. And it is fatal to his own theory for Mr. Machen to say that besides the idea there are other elements needed to produce literature, namely, plot,, construction and style. If these be necessary, then a definition of literature is incomplete which does not take them into account. And obviously Mr. Machen's definition does not take them into account, for it is concerned solely with the quality of the idea, with the idea alone.
Perhaps the solution lies in a subtler analysis of the elements named, and in the perception of their relations. We are all persuaded that literature without ideas is impossible; we feel also that ideas without style, construction and the rest are somehow unsatisfying. But suppose the relation between ideas and style were a relation of cause and effect, suppose style to be the channel dug by ideas? As Bernard Shaw suggests somewhere, no amount of canal-making will produce water, and no amount of word-polishing will of itself produce ideas; but when the Mississippi comes along it will make its own channels. What and where exactly those channels shall be, whether they shall be streams of living water making fragrant thirsty deserts, or whether they shall be tumultuous, devastating torrents, depends upon the quality of the mind through which they come. Every idea expresses itself when it can in channels already formed, and when these are inadequate it bursts the weakest dams.
Thus style—the chart, as it were, of a writer's mind—is the man. Has he been secretly preparing himself for ages for the reception and transmission of great ideas; has he faithfully trimmed his lamp and filled it with oil during the long waiting period before the coming of the heavenly flame; has he, in Theosophical phrase, "trained his vehicles"? If so, happy for him and for the language he writes. His work will then be literature as to ideas, and literature also as to the perfect expression of ideas. Meanwhile it is still true that life and ideas are of the first importance, even if it be only an "ass that bears the sacred burden."
Perchance a few more years will see further light thrown on the problem of style—in poetry perhaps first, because there I sometimes believe we have the unconscious magic of words as the test. I purposely leave the suggestion vague, but may not the inner eye and ear of the reader be charmed by the shapes and sounds evoked in the subtle world by the words of beautiful poetry? Is not all poetry mantric, and verse simply not?
But that is wandering from the immediate subject of Arthur Machen's book. There are in Hieroglyphics some stimulating criticisms by the way. How suggestive, for example, is the comparison he makes between Pickwick, Pantagruel, the Persian poets, and the Dionysos myth, their community of origin in the symbolism of ecstasy by the Vine and the juice of the Vine, by that which most potently draws a man from his ordinary self into the other world. It is a change to hear of Dickens' affinity with ancient Greece, of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn as a modern version of the wanderings of Odysseus, but the attempt is made to see the poets of to-day in the light of their age-long past and their age-long future.
Mr. Machen does not possess all the qualifications for literature; he has the modern vice of mixing together the language of the street with the language of the library. He seems to have lived in the atmosphere of the Daily Mail and of Keats, and to have acquired the vocabularies of both. On the first page the eye is assaulted by these phrases, coming not so far apart: "delicious tea at ninepence," and "dim region of surmises." Again, on p. 2 we have "sugary and soapy enterprise," and also, "delves after hidden things." How reminiscent of Stevenson all that is, even as the smell of sulphur reminds us of the flame!
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Sunday, February 21, 2016
SUN, MOON AND TALIA by Giambattista Basile 1634
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It is a well-known fact, that the cruel man is generally his own hangman; and he who throws stones at Heaven, frequently comes off with a broken head. But the reverse of the medal shows us that innocence is a shield of fig-tree wood, upon which the sword of malice is broken, or blunts its point; so that, when a poor man fancies himself already dead and buried, he revives again in bone and flesh, as you shall hear in the story which I am going to draw from the cask of memory with the tap of my tongue.
There was once a great lord, who, having a daughter born to him named Talia, commanded the seers and wise men of his kingdom to come and tell him her fortune; and after various counsellings they came to the conclusion, that a great peril awaited her from a piece of stalk in some flax. Thereupon he issued a command, prohibiting any flax or hemp, or such-like thing, to be brought into his house, hoping thus to avoid the danger.
When Talia was grown up, and was standing one day at the window, she saw an old woman pass by who was spinning; and never having seen a distaff or a spindle, and being vastly pleased with the twisting and twirling of the thread, her curiosity was so great that she made the old woman come upstairs. Then taking the distaff in her hand Talia began to draw out the thread, when by mischance a piece of stalk in the flax getting under her fingernail, she fell dead upon the ground; at which sight the old woman hobbled downstairs as quickly as she could.
When the unhappy father heard of the disaster that had befallen Talia, after paying for this cask of Asprino [A sour Neapolitan wine] with a barrel of tears, he placed her in that palace in the country, upon a velvet seat under a canopy of brocade; and fastening the doors, he quitted for ever that place which had been the cause of such misfortune to him, in order to drive all remembrance of it from his mind.
Now a certain king happened to go one day to the chace, and a falcon escaping from him flew in at a window of that palace. When the king found that the bird did not return at his call, he ordered his attendants to knock at the door, thinking that the palace was inhabited; and after knocking for some time, the king ordered them to fetch a vinedresser's ladder, wishing himself to scale the house and see what was inside. Then he mounted the ladder, and going through the whole palace, he stood aghast and looked just like a mummy, at not finding there any living person. At last he came to the room where Talia was lying, as if enchanted; and when the king saw her, he called to her, thinking that she was asleep, but in vain, for she still slept on, however loud he called. So, after admiring her beauty awhile [he rapes her while she is unconscious], the king returned home to his kingdom, where for a long time he forgot all that had happened.
Meanwhile Talia gave birth to little twins, one a boy and the other a girl, who looked like two little jewels; and two fairies appeared in the palace, who took care of the children, and placed them at their mother's breast. But once, when they wanted to suck, not finding the breast, they seized by mistake her finger, and went on sucking until they drew out the splinter. Thereupon she seemed to awake as from a deep sleep; and when she saw those little jewels at her side, She took them to her heart, and loved them more than her life; but she wondered greatly at seeing herself quite alone in the palace with the two children, and food and refreshment brought her by unseen hands.
After a time the king, calling Talia to mind, took occasion one day when he went to the chace to go and see her; and when he found her awakened, and with two beautiful little creatures by her side, he was struck dumb with rapture. Then the king told Talia who he was, and they formed a great league and friendship, and he remained there for several days, promising as he took leave to return and fetch her.
When the king went back to his own kingdom, he was for ever repeating the names of Talia and her little ones, insomuch that, when he was eating he had Talia in his mouth, and Sun and Moon (for so he named the children); nay, even when he went to rest he did not leave off calling on them, first one and then the other.
Now the king's wife had grown suspicious at her husband's long absence at the chace, and when she heard him calling thus on Talia, Sun and Moon, she waxed wrath, and said to the king's secretary, "Hark-ye, friend, you stand between Scylla and Charybdis, between the hinge and the door, between the axe and the block; tell me who it is that my husband is enamoured of, and I will make you rich; but if you conceal the truth from me, I 'll make you rue it."
The man, moved on the one side by fear, and on the other pricked by interest, which is a bandage to the eyes of honour, the blind of justice, and an old horseshoe to trip up good-faith, told the queen the whole truth, calling bread bread and wine wine. Whereupon she sent the secretary in the king's name to Talia, saying that he wished to see the children. Then Talia sent them with great joy; but the queen, with the heart of a Medea, commanded the cook to kill them, and serve them up in various ways for her wretched husband to eat.
Now the cook, who had a tender heart, seeing the two pretty little golden pippins, took compassion on them, and gave them to his wife, bidding her keep them concealed: then he killed and dressed two little kids in a hundred different ways. When the king came, the queen quickly ordered the dishes to be served up; and the king fell to eating with great delight, exclaiming, "By the life of Lanfusa how good this is! Oh how excellent, by the soul of my grandfather!" And the queen all the while kept saying, "Eat away! for you eat what is your own." At first the king paid no attention to what she said; but at last, hearing the music continue, he replied, "Ay, I know well enough that what I eat is my own, for you brought nothing to the house." And at last getting up in a rage, he went off to a villa at a little distance to cool his anger.
Meanwhile the queen, not satisfied with what she had done, called the secretary again, and sent him to fetch Talia, pretending that the king wished to see her. At this summons Talia went that very instant, longing to see the light of her eyes, and not knowing that only the smoke awaited her. But when she came before the queen, the latter said to her, with the face of a Nero and full of poison as a viper, "Welcome, Madam Slycheat! are you indeed the pretty mischief-maker? are you the weed that has caught my husband's eye and given me all this trouble? So so, you are come at last to purgatory, where I 'll make you pay for all the ill you have done me."
When Talia heard this she began to excuse herself; but the queen would not listen to a word; and having a large fire lighted in the courtyard, she commanded that Talia should be thrown into the flames. Poor Talia, seeing matters come to a bad pass, fell on her knees before the queen, and besought her at least to grant her time to take the clothes from off her back. Whereupon the queen, not so much out of pity for the unhappy girl, as to get possession of her dress, which was embroidered all over with gold and pearls, said to her, "Undress yourself—I allow you." Then Talia began to undress, and as she took off each garment she uttered an exclamation of grief; and when she had stripped off her cloak, her gown and her jacket, and was proceeding to take off her petticoat, they seized her and were dragging her away. At that moment the king came up, and seeing the spectacle he demanded to know the whole truth; and when he asked for the children, and heard that his wife had ordered them to be killed, in revenge for his unfaithfulness, the unhappy king gave himself up to despair, exclaiming, "Alas then, I have myself been the wolf to my little lambs! Woe is me! why did not my veins recognize that they were the fountain of their blood? Ah, renegade Turk, what barbarous act have you done? but your wickedness shall be punished; you shall do penance without being sent to the Coliseum."
So saying he ordered her to be thrown into the same fire which had been lighted for Talia, and the secretary with her, who was the handle of this cruel game and the weaver of this wicked web. Then he was going to do the same with the cook, thinking that he had killed the children; but the cook threw himself at the king's feet and said, "Truly, sir king, I would desire no other sinecure in return for the service I have done you than to be thrown into a furnace full of live coals, I would ask no other gratuity than the thrust of a spike, I would wish for no other amusement than to be roasted in the fire, I would desire no other privilege than to have the ashes of a cook mingled with those of a queen. But I look for no such great reward for having saved your children, and brought them back to you in spite of that wicked creature who wished to kill them."
When the king heard these words he was quite beside himself; he appeared to dream, and could not believe what his ears had heard. Then he said to the cook, "If it is true that you have saved the children, be assured I will take you from turning the spit, and place you in the kitchen of this breast, to turn my will as you please, rewarding you so that you shall call yourself the happiest man in the world."
As the king was speaking these words, the wife of the cook, seeing the dilemma her husband was in, brought Sun and Moon before the King, who playing at the game of three with his wife and children, went round and round kissing first one and then another. Then giving the cook a large reward, he made him his chamberlain: and he took Talia to wife, who enjoyed a long life with her husband and children, acknowledging that
"He who has luck may go to bed,
And bliss will rain upon his head."
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