Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
It is not lawful to explain the history of creation to two persons, or the history of the Mercaba even to one. If, however, he is naturally a wise and intelligent man, he may be intrusted with the heads of the chapters. (Extract from the Mischna, a Jewish cabalistic work, portions of which were translated by A. Franck of the Institute.)
As for the ten Sephiroth, there is no end, either in the future, or in the past, nor in good or evil, nor in depth or height, nor in the east, west, north, or south. The ten Sephiroth are like the fingers of the hands to the number of ten, five on either side, but at the middle lays the point of unity.
Keep your mouth closed that you may not speak of it, and your heart that you may not think of it; and if your heart forgets itself, bring it back again to its place, for that is the reason why the union was formed. (Sephir Jéoziroh, a cabalistic work, translated by A. Franck, of the Institute.)
In opposition to the outward observances with which the prescriptions of the Bible are encumbered under the Jewish law, by which all intelligent action, all freedom of the will are crushed out, there arose gradually by its side, in response to a demand for a greater independence of thought, and a wider philosophy, a mysterious doctrine which was known by the name of the Jewish Cabala.
Those who believed in this doctrine, the object of which was to unfold the secrets of the divine nature, as well as of the creation, wrapped themselves up in silence and mystery like initiates in the Indian temples. At distant intervals, says the illustrious Franck, in his admirable book upon this mystic philosophy, 1 with innumerable precautions they partly opened the doors of the sanctuary to some new adept, who was always chosen among those particularly eminent for their intellectual ability, and whose advanced age offered an additional proof of their wisdom and discretion.
When a new candidate was initiated into the mysteries of the Cabala, one of the elders murmured in his ears the following words:
"O thou who hast now gone to the fountain-head of all the graces, be careful, whenever tempted to do so, not to reveal the tenet of emanation, which is a great mystery in the judgment of all Cabalists. Another mystery is contained in the following words: 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord.'"
The necessity of a special initiation, an essential prerequisite of which was that the candidate should be far advanced toward the close of life, and the absolute secrecy which the person initiated was expected to preserve with regard to whatever was revealed to him, were two points of external discipline, in respect to which those who held to the doctrine of the Pitris in India, and the believers in the Jewish Cabala were very nearly agreed, though, in matters of belief, we shall soon see they were united by ties that bound them still closer to each other. In all times science has anxiously sought to discover the origin of the philosophical system of the Hebrews, which presents many points of resemblance with some of the Greek systems of Alexandria and with the mystical beliefs of Arabia.
As the Cabala is manifestly older than the Alexandrian school, it cannot be successfully held to have sprung from the latter, though it may have been influenced by it to some extent. The most that can be claimed is that both systems have drunk from the same source. As for the close connection that seems to exist between it and the mystical philosophy of the Arabs, we may well ask, with Messrs. Franck and Tholuck, who have investigated the subject in all its bearings, "What conclusion are we to draw from these many points of resemblance?"
"They are not of much importance, it is true, for what is similar in both systems is to be found elsewhere in more
ancient systems. In the books of the Sabeans and Persians, for instance, and also among the Neo-Platonists. On the other hand, the extraordinary form under which these ideas are presented to us in the Cabala is unlike that of the Arab mystics. In order to satisfy ourselves that the Cabala really sprang from intercourse with the latter, we should find among them some traces of the doctrine of the Zephiroth. But not a vestige of it is to be met with. They knew of but one form under which God reveals himself to himself. In this respect the Cabala is much more like the doctrine of the Sabeans and Gnostics.
"No trace, either, is to be found among the Arabs of the doctrine of metempsychosis, which occupies such a prominent position in the Hebrew system. We also search their books in vain for the allegories we are constantly meeting with in the Zohar, for those continual appeals to tradition, for those daring and multitudinous personifications with their endless genealogies, and for those astonishing and extraordinary metaphors which harmonize so well with the spirit of the East."
These multitudinous incarnations and interminable genealogies, or, in other words, these men elevating themselves to the infinite by the improvement of their spiritual nature; this belief in the doctrine of metempsychosis, and the tenet relating to the ten Zephiroth, or the creative faculty of the divinity; such are the recognized bases of the Cabalistic philosophy.
We have seen that the belief in the doctrine of the Pitris is based on similar principles. The ten Zephiroth of the Hebrews are substantially the same as the ten Pradjapatis of India, to whom all creatures are indebted for their existence.
The Zohar, which is the principal work of the Cabala, speaking of the philosophical system therein taught, says that it is precisely the same as the wisdom which the children of the East have known from the earliest times,
"Evidently," says Franck, "this cannot refer to the Arabs, whom the Hebrew writers invariably call the children of Israel, or the children of Arabia: they would not speak of a foreign and contemporaneous philosophy in such termsthe Zohar would not date it back from the earliest ages of the world."
While the origin of the Cabala cannot be successfully sought for either in the different systems of Greece or in the doctrines of the Alexandrian school, notwithstanding they have many points in common, or in the mystical philosophy of the Arabs; while, on the other hand, the Zohar, tracing it back to the earliest ages, speaks of it as having the East for its cradle; have we not good reason, therefore, in view of the antiquity of India and the similarity in principle of both systems, to say that the doctrine of the Cabala sprang from the doctrine of the Pitris?
We should not forget that India, that immense and luminous centre in olden times, besides spreading its ideas throughout the East, by means of emigration, from the earliest times, was in constant communication with all the people of Asia, and that all the philosophers and sages of antiquity went there to study the science of life. It is not, therefore, surprising that in periods of their captivity the elders of the Hebrews should have been initiated by the Persian Magi into the old conceptions of the Brahmins.
A few extracts from the Sepher Jeszireh and the Zohar, the two highest prized works of the Cabala, as to the nature of God, the creation, and the human soul, will show conclusively that this opinion is historically correct.
We shall be brief, for while we cannot resist the temptation to devote a few pages to the subject of these comparisons, we shall bear in mind that we cannot dwell upon it at any great length, except at the expense of our main subject.
159:1 The Cabala, or Religious Philosophy of the Jews.