Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
"The inferior world has been created in the similitude of the superior. Everything that exists in the superior world appears here below like the reflection of an image, and yet it is all only one thing." (The Zohar.)
"It is needful for you to know that there is the same relation between the shadow and the body, as between the corporeal and spiritual worlds." (Al Gazali, a Cabalistic writer.)
The extraordinary similarity existing between the doctrines taught in the Indian pagodas and those of the Jewish Cabalists, was not, however, confined to their metaphysical conceptions. The Cabalists, as we shall show, also believed in mediating and inspiring spirits, and their belief was nothing but the logical consequence of the principles they held. The whole of creation, the entire universe, being merely a radiation from the divine nature, infinite space is peopled with spirits which have dropped, on the one hand, from the great all in the condition of sparks, or atoms, endowed with life, and who, on the other hand, are returning to it through a constant series of progressive transformations.
This condition of affairs is clearly unfolded in the Zohar, in the form of the following allegory:
"Spirits or the souls of the just," says that celebrated work, "are above all powers. If you ask why from a place so exalted they descend to the earth, so far away
from their source, this is my answer: Their case is like that of a king, to whom a son was born, and who took him into the country, to be there reared and educated until he had grown older, and had been instructed in the customs of his father's palace. When the king was informed that his son's education was finished, what does his love for him prompt him to do? He sends for the queen, his mother, to celebrate his return. He brings him back to the palace, where the whole day is spent in rejoicing. The saint also had a son by the queen, blessed be his name. This son is the superior and sacred soul. He sends him to the country, or, in other words, into the world, to grow up and become acquainted with the usages of his father's palace. When it comes to the knowledge -of the Ancient of Ancients that his son is grown, and that the time has come to introduce him into his presence, what does his love then prompt him to do? As a mark of honor, he sends for the queen, and brings her son home to his palace. Indeed, the soul has no sooner left the earth than the queen joins him, to show him the way to the king's palace, where she dwells forever and ever. And yet the inhabitants of the country are accustomed to grieve and weep at parting with the king's son. But if there is a wise man present, he says to them, Why do ye weep? Is it not the king's son? Is it not just that he should leave us and dwell in his father's palace? If all the just should know this, they would welcome the day when they muse leave this earth. Is it not the height of glory that the queen, the (Scheinah, or the Divine Presence,) should come down in the midst of them, that they should be admitted to the king's palace, and should live in delight forevermore and enjoy everlasting happiness?"
In the following passage the Zohar shows that the world is full of spirits:
"God animated every particle of matter with a particular spirit. Forthwith, all the celestial armies were formed,
and stood before himwith the breath of his mouth, he created all his armies. The spirits are the messengers of the Lord."
In order to show conclusively that the Cabalists, precisely like the believers in the Pitris in India, believed also in mediating, directing, and inspiring spirits, as well as in evil spirits, we propose to make one more quotation, which shall be the last, from the eminent translator and commentator to whom we have already so often referred.
"We shall understand still better," he says, "what is meant by the spirits animating all the celestial bodies, and all the elements of the earth, if we pay particular attention to the names and functions attributed to them. In the first place, we must dismiss from our minds all the purely poetical personifications, of whose character there is the slightest doubt. Such are all the angels which are named either after a moral quality or a metaphysical abstraction, such, for instance, as good and evil desires, which are represented as real persons, acting in our presence; Tahariel, the spirit of purity; Rachmiel, the spirit of mercy; Tsadkiel, the spirit of justice; Padael, the spirit of deliverance, and the famous Raziel, the spirit of secrecy, which watches with a jealous eye over the mysteries of Cabalistic wisdom. It is, moreover, a principle recognized by all Cabalists as a part of the general system of being that the angelic hierarchy only commences with the third world, which is called the World of Formation, or, as they say, in the space occupied by the planets and celestial bodies. The chief of these invisible forces is the angel Metratrone, so called because he stands immediately below the throne of God, and alone forms the World of Creation or of pure spirits. His task is to preserve unity, harmony, and motion in all the spheres. His office is precisely the same as that of that blind and indefinite power which it is sometimes proposed to substitute for God under the name of Nature. He has under his orders myriads of
subjects, who are divided into ten categories, no doubt, in honor of the ten Zephiroth. These subordinate spirits maintain the same relation to the different parts of nature as their chief does to the universe. Thus, one presides over the movements of the earth, another over those of the moon, and the same is true of the other celestial bodies. One is called the spirit of fire, Nouriel; another the spirit of light, Ouriel; a third presides over the distribution of the seasons; a fourth, over vegetation. Finally, all productions, all the forces, and all the phenomena of nature are represented in the same way."
As for the evil spirits, which the Cabalists also believe in, they regard them as grosser and more imperfect forms of existence. In the darkness and impurity in which they move, they are divided, like the superior spirits, into ten categories, personifying evil in all its degrees.
It will be readily seen that upon all these points the Hindu Book of the- Pitris and the Hebrew Zohar are inspired with the same idea. There is the same metaphysical basis, the same belief in good and bad spirits, and the same system with regard to the composition of the universe.
Although we are not in possession of any very precise information with regard to the evocation of spirits by the Cabalists, who probably never transmitted the prescribed formulas, except by word of mouth, still Hebraic tradition is so full to overflowing of the phenomena of evocation and occult manifestations, which are a necessary outgrowth of the beliefs we have just set forth, that it would be puerile to ask whether the ancient Cabalists, like the Hindu priests, ever claimed to exercise supernatural power.
We need only remind the reader of the witch of Endor, evoking the ghost of Samuel, the prophet, before Saul, on the eve of the battle of Gilboa; of Daniel explaining, in the presence of Balthazar, the magical writing upon the
walls of his palace, by an invisible hand, in the midst of a feast:
and of the witch Huldah, whom the high priest Hilkiah made use of, in order to influence the people, as well as of hundreds of other similar facts which are clearly nothing but exterior manifestations of an occult power.
We may be told, however, in opposition, that the Jewish Cabala cannot lay claim to such antiquity. It is the unanimous opinion of all Cabalists that this mysterious philosophy sprang originally from the primitive institution of the Levites, and grew out of their desire to arrogate to themselves a belief of a higher order than that which they vulgarly taught.
We are indebted to Cabalistic tradition for the following legend, which we give in conclusion: 1
"One day, our Master Jochanan Ben Zachai started upon his travels. He rode a donkey and was followed by Rabbi Eleazar Ben Aroch. The latter asked him to teach him a chapter of the Mercaba. 'Did not I tell you,' answered our master, that it was not lawful to explain the Mercaba unto one alone, if he did not possess the requisite degree of wisdom and intelligence?' 'Is it not lawful,' replied Eleazar, 'at any rate, for me to repeat in your presence what you have already taught me?' 'Well, speak,' said our master. Saying so, he dismounted, drew a veil over his head, and sat down upon a stone in the shadow of an olive tree. Eleazar, son of Aroch, had hardly commenced speaking of the Mercaba, when a fire descended from heaven and enveloped all the trees in the country, which seemed to sing hymns, and in the midst of the fire, a spirit was heard to express his joy at hearing these mysteries."
In the same passage we are told that two others who
had been initiated, Rabbi Josuah and Rabbi Joseph, following Eleazar's example, recited a chapter of the Mercaba. The most extraordinary prodigies again occurred.
"The sky was covered with thick clouds, a meteor very much like a rainbow appeared in the horizon, and the spirits were seen flocking to hear them, like spectators crowding to witness the passage of a wedding."
Upon learning of the prodigies which had been accomplished by his disciples Jochanan Ben Zachai told of one in his turn, which was as follows:
"We had been transported upon Mount Sinai, when from the heavens above a voice was heard, uttering these words: Come up here, where a splendid feast is provided for you, and for your disciples, and for all the generations who may hear these doctrines. You are destined to enter the third category."
Thus the phenomena of external manifestations, such as the fire hovering around the trees, and a meteor suddenly exhibiting itself among the clouds; the phenomena of evocation, such as the spirits flocking to hear the mysterious secrets of the Mercaba; the phenomena of transformation, where Jochanan and his disciples were transported upon Mount Sinai to converse with the invisible spirits; and finally, their admission to the third category of initiation, in short, everything in this Cabalistic passage, goes to show that those who believed in the Zohar claimed the power to evoke spirits and to produce external phenomena.
187:1 Thal. Bab. Traii. Chaguiga, fol. xiv.