Oriental Mysticism (4)
ON THE INFLUENCE OF EARLY PREJUDICE UPON BELIEF.
THE influence and example of parents and teachers Influence of Parents and Teachers. are paramount in the formation of the character, and in nothing is this more conspicuous than in the matter of religious belief. Doctrines mistily blended with the earliest recollections of life, daily inculcated as truths by those on whose wisdom and affection the child instinctively and implicitly relies, surrounded by a halo of sanctity that he has been ever taught to regard with awe and veneration, to sully which by the slightest breath of doubt he has been led to believe the deadliest of sins, doctrines such as these become in after years part and parcel of the nature of the man, and are not to be lightly cast aside for systems more attractive to the reason or the sense.
The Traveller who has been so trained will Its practical effects. confess, and unreservedly believe, the principles of
his religion, and will act up to the practice of it, with more conscientious earnestness than he who at the outset of his journey constructs a scheme for himself upon the basis of his elders’ counsel, or the conclusions of his own unaided reasoning powers.
Its insufficiency without evidence and Grace.Early prejudice is an external influence, and that which is external is far more practical and active than that which is internal. For which cause much earnestness and devotion and faith in the outward attributes of God is found amongst Travellers of this class, but the light of evidence and Divine Grace is still wanting to make them fully understand that His Knowledge, Will and Power comprehend and pervade the whole range of natural causes and effects. God as the Causer of Causes. They fail to observe that causes as well as effects yield and are subservient to His will, and attribute every event to the action of some natural law. This class of Travellers will lay great stress upon the efficacy of energy and exertion, and care little for submission and resignation; thus their aspirations are checked by worldly thoughts and desires, and relying upon themselves rather than upon God, they can never hope to attain to a true and full knowledge of Him.
The next class, however, whose early faith has been ripened into conviction by the rays of evidence and proof, recognize God as the Causer of Causes, and relying fully upon Him, rather than upon their own energy and efforts, or upon the things of this world, pass their lives in submission and resignation to His Will. He is their only hope and stay, and
the only object of their affections and desires, nor are they ever distracted by the whisperings of doubt or shaken by superstitious fears. If beneath the weight of overpowering misery, or in the intoxication of unwonted prosperity, they should waver for a moment in their belief, they atone for their error by a long and earnest course of penitence and prayer. But when the Traveller has reached that higher Stage where he is illumined by the Divine Grace, then the day of resurrection dawns for him, the earthly clouds roll away, the Heavens are opened, and God in all His glory bursts upon his dazzled view.
Like those of the former class, he confesses with Faith a Divine gift. his tongue and believes in his heart, but his faith proceeds not from the precepts of others, or the convictions of his own reason; it flows from a higher source, the fountain-head of grace itself. These are the true Unitarians, for they know and see the Unity of God with a clear and certain eye. They are superior to every consideration, to energy and exertion, to resignation and submission alike, for with them God is all in all.
As a specimen of the arguments by which faith is to be strengthened into conviction, I may instance those of the Unitarians. They maintain that there neither is nor can be any other existence save that of God, and explain this position by a simile thus: Had there never been night, and had men dwelt always in continual day, they would never have known what day really was, but from the constantly Evidence from analogy. recurring contrast of night they can form a
clear conception of day; so had there been other than God, God would have been known, and man could have formed a clear conception of Him; but as he cannot do this, it follows that there is no other than God. Firdausi, the celebrated author of the Sháh-náma, says:
I know not what Thou art, Thou art what Thou alone canst be 1.
The following little parable is also a common-place with them, and points to the same idea.
THE PARABLE OF THE FISHES.
A parable.Once upon a time the fishes of a certain river took counsel together, and said, "They tell us that our life and being is from the water, but we have never seen water, and know not what it is." Then some among them wiser than the rest said: "We have
heard that there dwelleth in the sea a very wise and learned fish who knoweth all things; let us journey to him, and ask him to shew us water, or explain unto us what it is." So several of their number set out upon their travels, and at last came to the sea wherein this sage fish resided. On hearing their request he answered them thus:
Ye live in God, yet know him not.
Ye sit upon the river's brink,
Yet crave in vain a drop to drink.
Ye dwell beside a countless store,
Yet perish hungry at the door.
[paragraph continues] Then they thanked him, and said, "Forasmuch as thou hast shown us what water is not, we now know perfectly what it is." And they departed to their own homes satisfied.
Another class of Unitarians maintain that there Life a dream. are, it is true, two existences, but one is real, which is of God, and the other imaginative, which is but a mirage, and a reflection of the real. Thus neither the world nor the vicissitudes of human life have any real existence; they are mere reflections of the existence of God, beheld as it were in the changing diorama of a fleeting dream.
48:1 It was this couplet which his enemies made use of when accusing the poet before Sháh Mahmúd of heresy and Sufiism. The Sultan in consequence refused Firdausi the full reward which he had promised him for the composition of his Sháh-náma, and compelled him to seek safety in flight from Ghazní. This conduct called forth from Firdausi the spirited satire which is so much admired in the East, and in which he defends himself as follows:—
And say that heresy defiles my verse;
And sure no viler caitiff ere was born
Than he whose soul religious truths would scorn.
They lie! I serve my God and Prophet still;
Aye! though a tyrant would my life-blood spill!
Ne’er shall my soul from duty's path be led,
Not were thy sword uplifted o’er my head."