The Grandest Mysteries of Religion in the Bhagavad Gita

Neither Renan nor Strauss, nor the more modern Viscount Amberley seem to have had the remotest suspicion of the real meaning of many of the parables of Jesus, or even of the character of the great Galilean philosopher. Renan, as we have seen, presented him to us as a Gallicized Rabbi, "le plus charmant de tous," still but a Rabbi; and one, moreover, who does not even come out of the school of Hillel, or any school either, albeit he terms him repeatedly "the charming doctor."* He shows him as a sentimental young enthusiast, sprung out of the plebeian classes of Galilee, who imagines the ideal kings of his parables the empurpled and jewelled beings of whom one reads in nursery tales.!

Lord Amberley's Jesus, on the other hand, is an "iconoclastic idealist," far inferior in subtilty and logic to his critics. Renan looks over at Jesus with the one-sidedness of a Semitomaniac; Viscount Amberley looks down upon him

* "Vie de Jesus," p. 219. f Ibid., p. 221.

from the social plane of an English lord. Apropos of this marriage-feast parable, which he considers as embodying "a curious theory of social intercourse," the Viscount says: "Nobody can object to charitable individuals asking poor people or invalids without rank at their houses. . . . But we cannot admit that this kind action ought to be rendered obligatory . . . it is eminently desirable that we should do exactly what Christ would forbid us doing — namely, invite our neighbors and be invited by them as circumstances may require. The fear that we may receive a recompense for the dinner-parties we may give, is surely chimerical. . . . Jesus, in fact, overlooks entirely the more intellectual side of society."* All of which unquestionably shows that the "Son of God" was no master of social etiquette, nor fit for "society"; but it is also a fair example of the prevalent misconception of even his most suggestive parables.

The theory of Anquetil du Perron that the Bhagavad-Gita is an independent work, as it is absent from several manuscripts of the Maha-Bharata, may be as much a plea for a still greater antiquity as the reverse. The work is purely metaphysical and ethical, and in a certain sense it is anti-Vedic; so far, at least, that it is in opposition with many of the later Brahmanical interpretations of the Vedas. How comes it, then, that instead of destroying the work, or, at least, of sentencing it as uncanonical — an expedient to which the Christian Church would never have failed to resort — the Brahmans show it

* "Analysis of Religious Belief," vol. i., p. 467.

the greatest reverence? Perfectly unitarian in its aim, it clashes with the popular idol-worship. Still, the only precaution taken by the Brahmans to keep its tenets from becoming too well known, is to preserve it more secretly than any other religious book from every caste except the sacerdotal; and, to impose upon that even, in many cases, certain restrictions. The grandest mysteries of the Brahmanical religion are embraced within this magnificent poem; and even the Buddhists recognize it, explaining certain dogmatic difficulties in their own way. "Be unselfish, subdue your senses and passions, which obscure reason and lead to deceit," says Christna to his disciple Arjuna, thus enunciating a purely Buddhistic principle. "Low men follow examples, great men give them. . . . The soul ought to free itself from the bonds of action, and act absolutely according to its divine origin. There is but one God, and all other devotas are inferior, and mere forms (powers) of Brahma or of myself. Worship by deeds predominates over that of contemplation."+

This doctrine coincides perfectly with that of Jesus himself.} Faith alone, unaccompanied by "works," is reduced to naught in the Bhagavad-Gita. As to the Atharva-Veda, it was and is preserved in such secrecy by the Brahmans, that it is a matter of doubt whether the Orientalists have a complete copy of it. One who has read what Abbé Dubois says may well f See the "Gita," translated by Charles Wilkins, in 1785; and the "Bhagavad-Purana," containing the history of Christna, translated into French by Eugene Burnouf. 1840. J Matthew vii. 21.

doubt the fact. "Of the last species — the Atharva — there are very few," he says, writing of the Vedas, "and many people suppose they no longer exist. But the truth is, they do exist, though they conceal themselves with more caution than the others, from the fear of being suspected to be initiated in the magic mysteries and other dreaded mysteries which the work is believed to teach."*

There were even those among the highest epoptx of the greater Mysteries who knew nothing of their last and dreaded rite — the voluntary transfer of life from hierophant to candidate. In Ghost-Landf this mystical operation of the adept's transfer of his spiritual entity, after the death of his body, into the youth he loves with all the ardent love of a spiritual parent, is superbly described. As in the case of the reincarnation of the lamas of Thibet, an adept of the highest order may live indefinitely. His mortal casket wears out notwithstanding certain alchemical secrets for prolonging the youthful vigor far beyond the usual limits, yet the body can rarely be kept alive beyond ten or twelve score of years. The old garment is then worn out, and the spiritual Ego forced to leave it, selects for its habitation a new body, fresh and full of healthy vital principle. In case the reader should feel inclined to ridicule this assertion of the possible prolongation of human life, we may as well refer him to the statistics of several countries. The author of an able article in the

* "Of the People of India," vol. i., p. 84.

f Or "Researches into the Mysteries of Occultism"; Boston, 1877, Edited by Mrs. E. Hardinge Britten.

Westminster Review, for October, 1850, is responsible for the statement that in England, they have the authentic instances of one Thomas Jenkins dying at the age of 169, and "Old Parr" at 152; and that in Russia some of the peasants are "known to have reached 242 years."} There are also cases of centenarianism reported among the Peruvian Indians. We are aware that many able writers have recently discredited these claims to an extreme longevity, but we nevertheless affirm our belief in their truth.

True or false there are "superstitions" among the Eastern people such as have never been dreamed even by an Edgar Poe or a Hoffmann. And these beliefs run in the very blood of the nations with which they originated. Carefully stripped of exaggeration they will be found to embody an universal belief in those restless, wandering, astral souls, which are called ghouls and vampires. An Armenian Bishop of the fifth century, named Yeznik, gives a number of such narratives in a manuscript work (Book i.,§§ 20, 30), preserved some thirty years ago in the library of the Monastery of Etchmeadzine.§ Among others, there is a tradition dating from the days of heathendom, that whenever a hero whose life is needed yet on earth falls on the battle-field, the Aralez, the popular gods of ancient Armenia, empowered to bring back to life those slaughtered in battle, lick the bleeding wounds of the victim,

J See "Stone Him to Death"; "Septenary Institutions." Capt. James Riley, in his "Narrative" of his enslavement in Africa, relates like instances of great longevity on the Sahara Desert.

§ Russian Armenia; one of the most ancient Christian convents.

and breathe on them until they have imparted a new and vigorous life. After that the warrior rises, washes off all traces of his wounds, and resumes his place in the fray. But his immortal spirit has fled; and for the remainder of his days he lives — a deserted temple.

Once that an adept was initiated into the last and most solemn mystery of the life-transfer, the awful seventh rite of the great sacerdotal operation, which is the highest theurgy, he belonged no more to this world. His soul was free thereafter, and the seven mortal sins lying in wait to devour his heart, as the soul, liberated by death, would be crossing the seven halls and seven staircases, could hurt him no more alive or dead; he has passed the "twice seven trials" the twelve labors of the final hour.*

The High Hierophant alone knew how to perform this solemn operation by infusing his own vital life and astral soul into the adept, chosen by him for his successor, who thus became endowed with a double life.+

* "Egyptian Book of the Dead." The Hindus have seven upper and seven lower heavens. The seven mortal sins of the Christians have been borrowed from the Egyptian Books of Hermes with which Clement of Alexandria was so familiar.

f The atrocious custom subsequently introduced among the people, of sacrificing human victims, is a perverted copy of the Theurgic Mystery. The Pagan priests, who did not belong to the class of the hierophants, carried on for awhile this hideous rite, and it served to screen the genuine purpose. But the Grecian Herakles is represented as the adversary of human sacrifices and as slaying the men and monsters

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