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Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, [1919], at

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Before searching the Book of the Pitris in order to see what it teaches, it may not be amiss to say a few words regarding the question of how the sacred books are to be interpreted. We deem the matter of sufficient importance to make it the subject of a separate chapter. It stands at the very threshold of our subject like a sentinel on duty.

On the first palm leaf composing the second part of the work in question we find the following words written, like an inscription, with a sharply pointed stick:

"The sacred scriptures ought not to be taken in their apparent meaning, as in the case of ordinary books. Of what use would it be to forbid their revelation to the profane if their secret meaning were contained in the literal sense of the language usually employed?

"As the soul is contained in the body,

"As the almond is hidden by its envelope,

"As the sun is veiled by the clouds,

"As the garments hide the body from view,

"As the egg is contained in its shell,

"And as the germ rests within the interior of the seed,

"So the sacred law has its body, its envelope, its cloud, its garment, its shell, which hide it from the knowledge of the world.

"All that has been, all that is, everything that will be, everything that ever has been said, are to be found in the Vedas. But the Vedas do not explain themselves, and

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they can only be understood when the Guru has removed the garment with which they are clothed, and scattered the clouds that veil their celestial light.

"The law is like the precious pearl that is buried in the bosom of the ocean. It is not enough to find the oyster in which it is enclosed, but it is also necessary to open the oyster and get the pearl.

"You who, in your pride, would read the sacred scriptures without the Guru's assistance, do you even know by what letter of a word you ought to begin to read them—do you know the secret of the combination by twos and threes—do you know when the final letter becomes an initial and the initial becomes final?

"Wo to him who would penetrate the real meaning of things before his head is white and he needs a cane to guide his steps."


These words of the Agrouchada, warning us against conforming to the strict letter of the sacred scriptures of India, remind us of the following words, in which Origen expresses himself like one of the initiates in the ancient temples:

"If it is incumbent upon us to adhere strictly to the letter, and to understand what is written in the law, after the manner of the Jews and of the people, I should blush to acknowledge openly that God has given us such laws—I should consider that human legislation was more elevated and rational—that of Athens, for instance, or Rome, or Lacedæmon.

"What reasonable man, I ask, would ever believe that the first, second, or third day of creation, which were divided into days and nights, could possibly exist without any sun, without any moon, and without any stars, and that during the first day there was not even any sky?

"Where shall we find any one so foolish as to believe that God actually engaged in agriculture and planted trees

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in the garden of Eden, which was situated in the East—that one of these trees was the tree of life and that another could impart the knowledge of good and evil? Nobody, I think, will hesitate to consider these things as figures having a mysterious meaning."

The old Jewish Cabalists, whose doctrines, as we have seen, appear to have been closely allied to those taught in the Indian temples, expressed a similar opinion in the following language:

"Wo to the man who looks upon the law as a simple record of events expressed in ordinary language, for if really that is all that it contains we can frame a law much more worthy of admiration. If we are to regard the ordinary meaning of the words we need only turn to human laws and we shall often meet with a greater degree of elevation. We have only to imitate them and to frame laws after their model and example. But it is not so: every word of the law contains a deep and sublime mystery." 1

"The texts of the law are the garments of the law: wo to him who takes these garments for the law itself. This is the sense in which David says: 'My God, open my eyes that I may contemplate the marvels of thy law.'

"David referred to what is concealed beneath the vestments of the law. There are some foolish people who, seeing a man covered with a handsome garment, look no farther, and take the garment for the body, while there is something more precious still, and that is the soul. The law also has its body. There are the commandments which may be called the body of the law, the ordinary record of events with which it is mingled are the garments that cover the body. Ordinary people usually only regard the vestments and texts of the law; that is all they look at; they do not see what is hidden beneath the garments, but

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those who are wiser pay no attention to the vestment, but to the body which is clothed by it."

"In short, the sages, the servants of the Supreme King, those who inhabit the heights of Mount Sinai, pay no regard to anything but the soul, which lies at the foundation of all the rest, which is the law itself, and in time to come they will be prepared to contemplate the soul of that soul by which the law is inspired.

"If the law were composed of words alone, such as the words of Esau, Hagar, Laban, and others, or those which were uttered by Balaam's ass or by Balaam himself, then why should it be called the law of truth, the perfect law, the faithful witness of God himself? Why should the sage esteem it as more valuable than gold or precious stones?

"But every word contains a higher meaning; every text teaches something besides the events which it seems to describe. This superior law is the more sacred, it is the real law."

It appears that the fathers of the Christian church, as well as the Jewish Cabalists and the initiates in the Hindu temples, all used the same language.

The records of the law veil its mystical meaning as the garment covers the body, as the clouds conceal the sun.

The Book of the Pitris, which we are about to examine, claims to reveal the essence, the very marrow of the vedas to those who have been initiated, but it is far from clear, except in the cosmological and philosophical portion. Whenever it treats of the rites of evocation and exorcism it resorts to obscure and mysterious formulas, to combinations of magical and occult letters, the hidden meaning of which, admitting that there is a hidden meaning, wrapped as it is in uncouth and unknown words, is quite beyond our comprehension and we have never been able to discover it.

In that portion which we propose to analyze, we shall preserve the dialogue form, as the lessons of the Guru were taught in that manner.

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Apart from the belief in spirits and supernatural manifestations to which human reason does not readily assent, our readers will see that no purer morality ever grew from a more elevated system of philosophical speculation.

Upon reading these pages, they will see that antiquity has derived all the scientific knowledge of life it possessed from India, and the initiates of the Hindu temples were very much like Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Essenes, and the Christian apostles.

Modern spiritualism can add nothing to the metaphysical conceptions of the ancient Brahmins: that is a truth well expressed by the illustrious Cousin in the following words:

"The history of philosophy in India is an abridgement of the philosophical history of the world."


104:1 A. Franck's translation of La Kabbale.

Next: Chapter VI. Psychology of the Book of the Pitris