Scattered through ancient books of all the Eastern countries (including the Scriptures we ourselves accept as canonical though at present the so-called miracles which they record do not enjoy a very high reputation) are events so unusual and alien to everyday experience that the witnesses incline to attribute them to the manifestation of supernatural interference and there leave the subject without further explanation. They have been dismissed as a whole in a summary fashion with the apparent conclusion that until our own favored nineteenth and twentieth centuries people were incapable of weighing evidence, were shining examples of mendacity, and were as easily deceived as children. Certainly there were and are many people of this description even in the present day, but it is very difficult to suppose even in connection with the Bible that one or other of these was invariably the case. For my part, in my quest, I have thought it worth while in an extended course of reading to consider
these instances and endeavor to relate them to what I have learned further on my way and to note some of them for consideration. Let us for instance glance at the famous travels of Abu-Abdulla Mahommad, known as Ibn Batuta, the most famous of Arab travelers, a man born in the year 1304 and known to scholars all the world over, who made his way as far as China in those difficult days. The editor who set down the travels (70,000 miles) of Ibn Batuta from his own lips concludes thus:
"Here ends what I have put into shape from the memoranda of the Shaik Abu-Abdulla Mahommad Ibn Batuta whom God honor! No person of intelligence can fail to see that this Shaik is the Traveler of our age, and he who should call him the Traveler of the whole Body of Islam would not go beyond the truth."
In all that I relate I alter no fact nor implication though I condense. I give one singular incident which took place in Silhet in Bengal. Ibn Batuta says:
"My object in going to the hill country was to see a holy personage who lives there, the Shaik Jalaluddin, one of the most eminent of saints and singular of men who had wrought miracles
of great note. He was when I saw him a very old man. At a later date I heard from the Shaik's disciples of his death at the age of one hundred and fifty years. I was also told that for some fifty years he had lived only on milk. When I was going to visit him four of his disciples met me at a distance of two days' journey from his place of abode. They told me that he had said to the faquirs with him: 'The traveler from the West is coming: go and meet him.' Now he knew nothing whatever about me, but the truth had been revealed to him. I set out with these people and arrived at the hermitage outside his cave. . . . The day I entered his presence he was wearing an ample mantle of goats' hair which greatly took my fancy, so that I could not help saying to myself: 'I wish to God that he would give it to me.' When I went to take leave of him he went into a corner of his cave, took off this mantle and made me put it on. The faquirs told me that the Shaik was not in the habit of wearing it, but put it on at the time of my arrival, saying:--'The man of the West will ask for this dress. A Pagan king will take it from him and give it to our brother to whom it
belongs and for whom it was made.' When the faquirs told me this, my answer was:
"'I have the Shaik's blessing with his mantle and shall take care not to wear it in visiting any king whatever.'
"So I quitted the Shaik and a good while after it happened that when I was traveling in China I came to the city of Khansa [Hang-chow]. The crowd was great and I was separated from my companions. I had on this dress. The viceroy was passing with a great following and observed me. He called me, asked questions and would not let me go but took me in and presented me to the prince who bore the title of king, who asked me questions. While I answered his eyes were fixed with admiration on my dress.
"'Take it off,' said the viceroy, and there was no possibility of disobeying, so the prince took the dress and gave me ten robes of honor, a horse caparisoned and a sum of money. I was vexed but then came to my mind the saying that a Pagan king would take my dress, and I was greatly astonished.
"The year following I came to the residences of the King of China at Cambaluc [Peking].
[paragraph continues] I betook myself to the hermitage of the Shaik Burhan-uddin. He was reading and had on my very dress.
"'This,' said I, 'is the mantle the King of Hang-chow took from me.'
"'This mantle,' said the Shaik, 'was made for me by my brother Jalaluddin and he wrote to me that it would reach me by the hands of such a one.' So he showed me Jalaluddin's letter, which I read, marveling at the Shaik's prophetic powers. On my telling Burhan-uddin the first part of the story he said:
"'My brother Jalaluddin is above these prodigies now. He had indeed supernatural resources, but now he has passed to the mercy of God.'"
Now this, even if the story could be proved to be unreliable in some details, is an interesting example of what was believed of clairvoyance in a remote time. The shrine of this shaik is still venerated in India. Ibn Batuta gives also an interesting account of what we call hypnotism. A friend of his in discussing events of this kind tells him:
"I went once to see the Shaik [or Khan] in his cave. He took hold of my hand and all at once I imagined myself to be in a great palace where
this Shaik was seated upon a throne. I thought there was a crown upon his head. On each side were beautiful handmaidens and there was water about into which fruit was constantly dropping. I took up an apple to eat it, and straightway I found myself again in the cave with the Shaik beside me laughing. I had a bad illness which lasted several months and I never would go again to see that strange being."
At Hang-chow in China, where he mentions there were many Mohammedans, Ibn Batuta had also a singular experience. There he was entertained by a Mongol viceroy named Kurtia (it may be remembered that at this time the Mongol dynasty, best remembered by the famous Kublai Khan, was ruling China), and great are the accounts Ibn Batuta gives of his noble hospitality in his own palace. But here is the passage:
"That same night a juggler made his appearance and the Amir said:
"'Come. Show us some of your marvels.'
"Upon this he took a, wooden ball with several holes in it through which long thongs were passed, and laying hold of one of these, slung it into the air (we were in the middle of the palace court). It went so high that we lost sight of it.
[paragraph continues] There now remained only a little of the end of a thong in the conjuror's hand and he desired one of the bystanders who assisted him to lay hold of it and climb. He did so, climbing by the thong and we lost sight of him also. The conjuror then called him three times, but getting no reply snatched up a knife, climbed the thong and disappeared. Presently he threw down one of the boy's hands, then a foot, then the other hand, the other foot, the trunk, and last, the head. Then he descended, puffing and panting, with his clothes all bloody, kissed the ground before the Amir and said something in Chinese. The Amir gave an order, our friend took the lad's limbs and laid them together, gave a kick, and to! there was the boy who got up and stood before us. All this astonished me beyond measure and I had an attack of palpitation like that which overcame me in the presence of the Sultan of India when he showed me something of the same kind. They gave me a cordial. The Kazi was next me and said he:
"'Wallah! It is my opinion that there has been neither going up nor coming down. It is all hocus pocus.'"
This seems to be an excellent example of mass hypnotism.
The former occasion to which Ibn Batuta alludes here was very curious.
While visiting Mohammed Tuglak (whose noble mausoleum I have seen in India) he found two yogins in the King's room, one of whom, while sitting cross-legged, rose into the air. His comrade pulled off a shoe, and rapped it on the ground. The shoe immediately rose in the air and tapped the other on the nape of the neck, when he gradually subsided to the ground. Ibn Batuta was so horrified at this transgression of all natural law that he fainted away in the King's presence.
Ricold de Monte Croce ascribes the same practices to the Tibetan lamas. One of them was said to fly, but, according to Ricold's description, he did not exactly fly but skimmed over the ground without touching it, and could seem to sit without sitting upon anything.
I now give some particulars related by the Mogul Emperor (Jehangir) of India, son of the great Emperor Akbar, and father of Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. He was born in August,
[paragraph continues] 1570. I may mention that in his singular autobiography a man in the greatest position in the known world had no temptation to mislead anyone. He was what he was--and when the men whom he describes asserted that they could achieve effects passing the bounds of human belief they were running the risk of impalement (rather a favorite punishment with the Emperor) if they had failed to convince him.
"They stated that of any tree which should be named they would set the seed and I should immediately see the result. One of the nobles present desired a mulberry. They set ten different seeds in the ground and recited among themselves in unintelligible language, when instantly a plant sprang from each of the ten places, each of which was the tree required. In the same way they produced a mango, an apple tree, a cypress, a pine-apple, a fig-tree, an almond, a walnut and many others, and this without any attempt at concealment and open to the observation of all present. The trees sprang slowly from the earth to the height of one or perhaps two cubits, when they shot forth leaves and branches; the apple tree in particular producing fruit which was brought to me and of which I can attest the fragrance.
But the fruits were not confined to the apple; they said I should taste of the fruit of every tree. Then making a sort of procession and invocation about the trees there appeared on the respective ones a sweet mango without the rind, an almond fresh and ripe, a large delicious fig and so with the pine and the rest. This was not all. Before the trees were removed there appeared among the foliage birds of surprising beauty and melody of song such as the world never saw before. At the close of the operation the leaves, as in autumn, put on variegated tints and the trees gradually disappeared into the earth. I can say only that if what I describe had not happened in my own presence I could never have believed it. Also, they were furnished with a bow and about fifty steel-pointed arrows. One took the bow and shooting an arrow into the air it stood fixed at a considerable height. He shot a second which became attached to the first and so with all the arrows to the last, which striking the united sheaf in the air the whole broke asunder and fell to the earth. This it would be difficult to explain. Also, they brought a chain fifty cubits in length which they threw up into the air where it remained as if fastened. A dog
immediately ran up and disappeared in the air. A hog, a panther, a lion and a tiger were alternately sent up and disappeared. At last they took down the chain and put it in a bag, no one discovering in what way the animals were made to vanish. This, I may venture to affirm, was beyond measure strange. Also they excavated the earth in the shape of a tank of considerable size. They spread a covering over it, and this being removed, the water appeared to be a sheet of ice. They desired that the elephant keepers should lead their elephants across. Accordingly one of the men set his elephant upon the ice and it walked over with as much ease and safety as upon rock, remaining for some time on the surface of the frozen pond. The sheet was replaced and being again removed every vestige of ice or even moisture had completely disappeared.
"I can add only that though I had frequently in my father's court witnessed such performances never did I see or hear of anything so wonderfully strange. I dismissed them finally with a donation of 50,000 rupees with the intimation that all the Amirs of my court should each contribute something in proportion. In very truth, however we may have bestowed on these performances
the character of trick or juggle, they very evidently partake of the nature of something beyond the exertion of human energy. I have heard that the art has been called the Semnanian [perhaps "celestial"]. It may be said indeed that in some men exists a peculiar and essential faculty which enables them to accomplish things far beyond the ordinary scope of human exertion."
So speaks the Emperor. His translator, Major Price, adds in a note:
"I have myself been witness to the mango operation on the western side of India, but a sheet was used to cover the operation [i.e., the growth]. I have however no conception of the means by which it was done, unless the jugglers had the trees about them in every state from the seedling to the fruit."
I also have seen this done as I have said and can safely say there was no opportunity for an all but naked man to carry either trees or branches with him. Like others, I have seen very clumsy imitations of this performance--one no later than three months ago, and there is no mistaking the difference. These latter can be seen anywhere in India.
The Emperor had some remarkable experiences also with a famous astrologer at his court. I profess no belief in astrology, for I know nothing of it and think quite another explanation possible, but it is worth recording. Jehangir writes (I condense as usual):
"On the 17th a strange affair happened. Shah Shuja [his grandson] was playing in the palace. There was a window and the prince went to it to look out. He fell headlong from it. By chance there was a carpet below and a carpet-spreader sitting on it. The child's head fell on the carpet and his feet on the back and shoulders of the man and though the height was seven yards the compassion of God came to his aid and the carpet and the man saved his life. He was unable to speak. I ran out in a state of bewilderment and holding him in my affectionate embrace was distracted with this favor from Allah. A strange thing was that three or four months before the royal astronomer had represented to me that it was predicted from the Prince's horoscope that these three or four months were unpropitious to him and it was possible he might fall from some high place, but that the dust of calamity would not settle upon the skirt of his life. This dread
dwelt on my mind and I was never for a moment forgetful of that nursling of fortune. When I arrived in Kashmir this unavoidable catastrophe occurred."
"On Tuesday the 21st Padshah Begum Banu [one of the ladies of the harem] died and grief for this heart-rending event laid a heavy load on my heart. A strange thing is that the astronomer royal two months before this had informed some of my servants that one of the chief sitters in the harem of chastity would hasten to the hidden abode of non-existence. He had discovered this from the horoscope of my destiny."
"In these days Shah Shuja had an eruption so violent that no water would go down his throat and his life was despaired of. It was recorded in his father's horoscope that his son would die this year; all the astronomers were unanimous that he would not live,--but the astronomer royal said on the contrary that he would live. I asked 'By what proof?' He said that in the horoscope of my destiny it was recorded that in this year no trouble would find its way to the royal mind, and as I had a great affection for him no harm
would befall him and some other child would die. It came to pass as he said. Shah Shuja carried his life out of that deadly place, and another son of my son's died at Burhanpur. Besides this many judgments of the astronomer royal proved correct. This is not without strangeness and therefore is recorded in these memoirs. I ordered the astronomer royal to be weighed against money and the weight came to 6,500 rupees. This was given him."
It is a singular fact that though a devout Moslem the Emperor Jehangir, like his great father the Emperor Akbar, was fond of discussing the highest flights of Indian thought with the saints of that faith. His first notice of one of them, known as Jadrup Gosain, is as follows:
"When I arrived in the neighborhood of Agra I went on foot to see him. He has thoroughly mastered the science of the Vedanta. I conversed with him. He spoke well, so much so as to make an impression on me. My society also suited him. My revered father saw him in the same place and always remembered him very well."
The science of the Vedanta includes Yoga.
Jehangir then goes on to describe the initiation of the Brahmins with much accuracy. After a later interview he adds:
"Certainly association with him is a great privilege."
"In foregoing pages something has been written about Jadrup Gosain. At this time he changed his residence to Mathura, which is one of the greatest places of worship of the true God (under the aspect of Krishna) on the banks of the Jumna. As I valued his society I hastened to wait on him and for a long time enjoyed his company without the presence of any stranger. In truth, his existence is a great gain to me; one can be greatly benefited and delighted."
"On Monday the 12th my desire to see the Gosain Jadrup again increased and hastening to his hut without ceremony I enjoyed his society. Sublime words were spoken between us. God Almighty has granted him an unusual grace, a lofty understanding, an exalted nature and sharp intellectual powers, with a God-given knowledge and a heart free from the attachments
of the world. He has of worldly goods a piece of old cotton and a piece of earthenware from which to drink water. On Wednesday I went again to visit the Gosain and bade him good-by. Undoubtedly parting from him weighs upon my mind that desires the truth."
I have a motive in inserting these notices of the Emperor's meetings with the Sannyasin for in the final chapters of this book I hope to deal with the teaching which as I believe gives us the key to many of these mysteries, and undoubtedly the Emperor heard of them from Jadrup who was a, past master in the science, and derived from them the wistfulness for knowledge of which he speaks.
I cannot close this chapter without alluding to the strange experiences of the Lazarist Fathers Huc and Gabet in Tibet about the year 1849, and will then pass on to one of the most remarkable demonstrations on record of power for which it seems difficult to account on the theories either of fraud or spiritism.
The Abbé Huc in the record of their travels in Tibet, in allusion to a lamasery where they spent some time and which rejoices in the possession
of a so-called miraculous tree, writes as follows:
"The Monastery is called the Ten Thousand Images, alluding to the tree which according to the legend sprang from the saint Tsong-Kaba's hair and bears a Tibetan character on each of its leaves. At the foot of the mountain on which the lamasery stands is a great square enclosure formed by brick walls. Upon entering we were able to examine at leisure the marvelous tree. We were filled with an absolute consternation of astonishment at finding that there were on each of the leaves well-formed Tibetan characters all of a green color, some lighter, some darker. Our first suspicion was fraud of the monks, but after a minute examination we could not discover the least deception. The characters all appeared to us portions of the leaf, equally with its veins and nerves. In one leaf they would be at the top, in another in the middle, in younger leaves only partially formed. The bark and branches which are like those of the plane are also covered with characters. When you remove a bit of bark the young bark beneath exhibits the indistinct outline of germinating characters. We examined everything closely to detect trickery but could see
nothing of the sort and the perspiration absolutely trickled down our faces under the influence of the sensations which this most amazing spectacle created. More profound intellects than ours may be able to supply an explanation but we give it up. The tree seemed of great age. Its trunk, which three men could scarcely embrace with outstretched arms, is not more than eight feet high. The branches spread out and are extremely bushy. The leaves are always green and the wood has an exquisite odor, something like cinnamon. The lamas told us that in summer the tree produces beautiful large red flowers,--also that nowhere else exists such a tree, that many attempts have been made in various lamaseries to propagate it by seeds and cuttings but in vain. The [Chinese] Emperor Khang-Hi when upon pilgrimage constructed a dome of silver over the tree."
Again, on an occasion when they met with many pilgrims in the wilderness the Abbé and Father Gabet spoke to one:
"'Doubtless some great solemnity calls you together.'
"'Yes, tomorrow will be a great day. A lama
will manifest his power; he will kill himself yet not die,' the father continues.
"This spectacle is very common in the lamaseries of Tartary. The lama who is to manifest his power prepares himself for many days by fasting, prayer and no communication with mankind. On the day the multitude of pilgrims assembles in the great court there where an altar is raised. The lama seats himself upon the altar and takes from his girdle a large knife; at his feet numerous lamas commence the invocations. He suddenly throws aside his scarf, unfastens his girdle, and with the knife slits open his abdomen in one long cut. While the blood flows the multitude prostrate themselves and he is questioned about all sorts of hidden things. The replies are regarded as oracles. The recitation of prayer is resumed. The lama takes blood from his wound, breathes thrice upon it and throws it into the air. He passes his hand over the wound, closes it and everything resumes its pristine condition. He recites a short prayer and the multitude disperses. We do not believe there is any deception. We are persuaded the devil has a great deal to do with such matters.
[paragraph continues] There are other famous supernaturalisms. They heat irons red-hot and lick them. They make incisions in various parts of the body which an instant afterwards leave no trade. All these things are preceded by prayer."
I think these cases of mass-hypnotism very interesting. It is obvious that it is a most extraordinary force and power. These two men were students of the Tibetan languages and such earnest missionaries that they risked their lives daily in Mongolia and Tibet on their successful journey to Lhasa. It is difficult to believe they lied. They recorded many other matters of the same interest, attributing them to the machinations of the devil. In considering such things with an inclination to ridicule them as impossible it is interesting to remember the words of Galvani--that man who made the earliest experiments in electricity, and used frogs at first for the purpose. He said:
"I am attacked by two classes of people, the learned and the ignorant. Both of them treat me with ridicule and say I am only fit to be a dancing master for frogs. And yet I think I have discovered one of the grandest forces in
nature." A conclusion which none would question.
It was certainly the belief of Sir William Crookes, the great English scientist, that he too had discovered a mighty force in nature unknown and possibly dangerous to trifle with at present, and in his belief the Indian yogins share.
I have chosen the examples given above really at random from the mass available and regret to have omitted so much that is interesting, including Marco Polo's description of the occult happenings at the court of that Mongol Emperor of China who is best remembered by the public as the poet Coleridge's "Kublai Khan." One of my objects has been to show how ancient and modern experiences join hands in an almost equal mystification, and I especially regret not having had space for the extraordinary and yet proved fact of the power of certain yogins to suspend animation and the heart-beat and in that condition permit themselves to be buried. One case, supported by credible eye-witnesses, is that of the yogin Haridas, who, falling into a self-induced trance in the presence of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his court, was buried in a garden outside Lahore. "For forty days strict
watch was kept over the grave, and when they ended he was exhumed, cold, stiff and unconscious and restored by applying warmth to the head and friction to the body while forcing air gently into the lungs." He was buried in the presence of the Maharaja and Sir Claude Wade. Dr. Honigberger was also at the court at the time and cites this case.
But I must pass on.