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or established. In their eyes, and we fear not in theirs only, antiquity makes all things venerable. Venerable is every incident of the old time; and most venerable are ancient abuses. But, alas! abuse after abuse, and error after error, are following each other so rapidly to the family vault, that at the present rate of disappearance we shall shortly have nothing left to venerate at all. It is time to put a stop to this frightful progress of improvement, which is daily undermining the most cherished absurdities of our predecessors, and threatens at no distant period to bury every remaining inconvenience bequeathed to us by our wise ancestors, under an odious mass of new-fangled happiness and knowledge. We have lately resumed, with this intention, the study of the schoolmen and the fathers of the church. The latter are extremely venerable, but surprisingly dull. The former are also venerable, and somewhat less tedious; especially Johannes Picus Comes Mirandulanus, and the cabalists of the middle ages.
Pic de la Mirandole-for such is the "facetious phrase" to which a merciless Frenchman has frittered his sonorous name was renowned for a striking singularity, imitated no more by the feeble spirits of our latter days. It was said of James the Second, that he threw away three kingdoms for a mass: Picus of Mirandola bartered an Italian principality for a schoolman's gown and pulpit. George the Fourth, not a year ago, abandoned his noble library to his people; two centuries and a half before, the more illustrious Mirandola deserted his subjects for a library. Disdaining the low ambition of political reputation and power, he sought a learned celebrity in the disputatious arena of philosophy. Already master of twoand-twenty languages, he offered, at the age of twenty-four, to dispute, de omni scibili, in the schools of Rome. We have no doubt that Charles the Eighth, who took possession of his principality in his absence, was totally unable to have maintained an argument against him in any thesis of the universal science!—he was solely occupied in taking towns, whilst Picus was engaged in the nobler pursuits of knowledge. In consequence of his bad taste, the former has left nothing but his name, whilst the latter has eternized his memory by one of the biggest folios in the British Museum. Charles invested a fortress or scaled a wall, whilst Picus proved the infinity of an angel secundum quid, or discussed the ticklish problem," whether all things were written in heaven for him who could read them?" Prefixed to his works is a list of 1400 general conclusions, which were more celebrated then than the discoveries of Locke and Hume have been at a later period.
Of all his labours, none were more profound or more generally useful than his treatise on the Cabala. Thirteen of his
propositions on this head were censured by Innocent the Eighth. The ground of these censures, as is usual in such matters, seems scarcely more tenable than that of Mirandola's propositions. The arguments of his infallibility savoured strongly of the Indian logic. The Brahmins condemned a certain heresy, which asserted that the earth was borne by a dragon, because, as all the orthodox agree, it has always been supported by an elephant. Mirandola recanted, but complained with some appearance of reason of the incompetent knowledge of his censors. Of one who was eminently zealous against the abominable Cabala, he ventured to inquire, if he knew what the Cabala was "To be sure," replied the confident theologian, "he was a heretic, who wrote against Jesus Christ.”* In its conduct to the princely disputant, the court of Rome did not swerve from its usual policy. "He who is not with us is against us," is its maxim; and it acts upon it with undeviating exactness.
Mirandola's attachment to the Cabala was entirely owing to his zeal for the Romish church. It is true, he attributed the cabalistic books, which he had purchased at a great expense, to Egra and the Jewish prophets. But his mistaken ardour for these supposititious works, arose from a firm persuasion that they comprised a body of Jewish doctrine, prophetically compiled by the ancient Jewish doctors. He discovered, or what amounts in these cases to the same thing, he thought he had discovered, in the fictitious Cabala, the mysteries of the Trinity, the incarnation, the redemption of mankind, the passion, death and resurrection; the doctrines of baptism and purgatory; the substitution of the Gospel to the Jewish law; in short, the whole body of the Catholic Christian divinity.†
* «Horrendum enim istis patribus videtur hoc nomen, et ex ipso pene sono timendum, ita ut forti sint ex ipsis, cui Cabalistas non homines, sed hircocervos potius vel centaurum, vel omnino monstruosum aliquid esse suspicentur : quinimo audi rem ridiculum, cum semel quidam ex eis interrogaretur, quid esset ista Cabala? Respondit ille, fuisse perfidum quendam hominem et diabolicum, qui dictus est Cabala; et hunc multa contra Christum scripsisse." Apolog. pag. 116. Joannis Pici Mirandulanæ Concordiæque Comitis, Theologorum et Philosophorum, sine controversia, Principis, &c. &c. opera quæ extant omnia. Fol. Basileæ, 1661.
+ To those who are desirous of obtaining a more accurate account of Giovanni Pico of Mirandola, we regret that we cannot recommend the compilation of the Rev. W. Parr Greswell, curate of Denton, in Lancashire. Not to mention the careless and unmethodical manner in which the few anecdotes he has brought together are presented to the reader, it is obvious that Mr. Greswell is deficient in more impor
What we know of the Cabala is altogether Jewish. Those, however, who have found leisure and inclination for the inquiry, are divided as to its real origin. Some such there are who pretend, like the Free-masons, to have traced the birth and progress of this science from the Creation to the Christian æra. There is a way amongst incautious arguers of proving too much for their purpose, and amongst unwary scholars of knowing too accurately to produce a confidence in their knowledge. So is it with the critics we allude to. Their evidence is so decisive that it amounts to no proof at all. We are assured by more ignorant and credible witnesses, that the eastern priesthood of all religions were skilled in a mysterious science, which they carefully withheld from public knowledge, and whose objects were probably the same with those of the cabalistic philosophy. What the dogmas of this science were, how they were delivered, and to whom, and for what purpose, we are entirely uninformed. Thus much we may venture to affirm, that this sublime and secret science, like every other, in every age, which deals in mystical doctrines and unintelligible terms of art, is a species of the great genus HUMBUG. There is but little of ancient philosophy which cannot be classed under the same head. But wherever we meet with an exoteric and esoteric doctrine, we need not hesitate a moment in assigning them to the capacious limbo, where the Talmudic doctors and the Platonic divines are sweating side by side with Jacob Behmen and Joanna Southcote.
A system like that we have just mentioned, universally prevailing among the nations by whom the Jewish people were surrounded, could not long be concealed from that credulous We have no objection to admit, that the Cabala was early embodied in the Hebrew philosophy; but we cannot allow its Jewish origin, when we meet with this easy method of explaining its adoption into the mass of Rabbinical reveries. Yet more upon this point. It is certain that the cabalistic philosophy, (we use the technical term), was not invented among
tant qualifications for the task he has undertaken. He appears to be altogether unacquainted with the scholastic philosophy—even with its technical terms; and as the life of Picus of Mirandola is chiefly interesting from the light it throws upon the philosophical disputations of his age, we could scarcely mention a greater fault in his biographer than the ignorance of those intricate subjects. Mr. Greswell's Memoir is mainly composed of extracts from the correspondence of Politian, Nicolaus Leonicenus, Hermolaus Barbarus, Alexander Cortesius, and others of inferior note; which, in spite of their imposing air, have little of learning but its dullness, and only excite regret that so much research should have been directed to so little purpose.
VOL. IX. PART I.
the Jews of Palestine. The written and oral traditions of the ancient Hebrew divines were restricted to comments on the law and explanations of the ritual. There is no appearance of the cabalistic science in Palestine till the time of the Essenians. We learn from Philo Judæus and Josephus, that this sect of dreaming fanatics preserved a superstitious secresy on certain philosophical and religious mysteries.
We are far from insinuating that the introduction of the Cabala was owing to the spread of the Essenian mysticism. We know that no profane catechumen was initiated into their sacred absurdities. The Jewish philosophers were indebted for this sublime science to an individual of the seed of Abraham, who stands in need of all his eminence to redeem the cacophony of his name. Simeon Schetachides imported from the temples of Egypt the first elements of the Cabala. We cannot but regret that the difficulty of articulating his name should have proved so fatal to his glory. None have more reason to accuse the inflexibility of the European larynx than the Jewish sages. Their fame has past away from before our faces; and owing to their unhappy names, will probably never be revived till the restoration of their children to Jerusalem.
Of the Cabala there are two divisions, the practical and the contemplative. The latter is the art of interpreting the Scriptures by the aid of a secret tradition, through which the sublimest truths concerning the nature of things, the Deity and other spiritual essences, are laid open to sincere believers. It teaches a mystical metaphysic, much upon a level with Kant's, but superior to Reid and Dugald Stewart's. It affords the only means of acquiring a real knowledge of physics; and as it explains the phenomena of matter by the theory of occult qualities, it is doubtlessly well adapted to the advancement of
But the practical Cabala is more attractive. By a judicious combination of the words and sentences of Holy Writ, it enables the adept to perform the most astounding prodigies. There seems strong reason to suspect that his highness Hohenlohe has been dabbling in the practical Cabala.
The professors of this science assert that the names of objects have a certain reference to their secret qualities; and in the case of men and women, are in a manner the reflection of their souls. If this be true, what a reprobate, filthy soul is that of Schetachides! It is argued that God, who made the various forms of matter, and established relations between all, is also the creator of names. Whence we easily infer " from the analogy of the creation," that a mutual relation exists between names and the things they designate. Further; there were sounds in the ancient music which struck the senses so forcibly
that they were known to generate or extinguish insanity, love, or valor; some they inspired with mad and extatic joy, and others they affected with despair. These notes must have been pregnant with a secret virtue to have wrought these supernatural effects. Why then deny a similar and more potent efficacy to the names of God, and the words of Scripture? The argument is conclusive. Besides, the names even of men are written on the face of heaven. Is it probable they would be there inscribed, unless they influenced the nominees by an occult and powerful agency? No man can shut his eyes against reasons of this urgent force. In fact it is asserted that Moses employed the Cabala in his contest with the Egyptian sorcerers. By the same art did Elias draw down the fire of heaven, and Daniel close the jaws of the ravening lions.
The practical Cabalists affirm that the magisterial arrangement of certain words gives birth to supernatural events. The words best adapted to this purpose are those of the Hebrew, the holiest of the holy dialects; and the miracles are more stupendous when wrought in the very name of God. If the word express only a quality or emanation of the Deity, the miracle is proportionably smaller. On this account the Sephirots, or the names of God, are commonly preferred. These are seventytwo, and are collected from three verses of the fourteenth chapter of Exodus. It is not always necessary to employ the name of the Deity; that of the devil may be used with considerable effect. If any one, for instance, should be seized with thirst in the night and swallow water; he will not fail, according to the Cabalists, to be afflicted with vertigo and inflammation of the eyes. To remedy this inconvenience, the patient must write the Hebrew word Schiauriri in the form of a square upon his forehead. Schiauriri is the demon of vertigo and inflammation of the eyes; and indeed we might guess the character of this ugly devil from his ugly name. We strongly recommend the reader to use this prophylactic remedy, whenever he has occasion to drink cold water in the night.
The contemplative Cabala is subdivided into the symbolical and philosophical. The former is a method of symbolical interpretation of Scripture, which the Hebrews pretend to be of great antiquity. By the transposition of letters, syllables, and words, they affect to elicit from certain passages an interior and mystical meaning altogether different from the obvious one. This method of criticism must be one of incalculable value, although it is by no means confined to the Jewish Cabalists. It is, however, far inferior to that branch of the contemplative science which is graced with the epithet of philosophy. This is also a traditional science, and teaches a sublime and mysterious metaphysic concerning spirit and matter, God, angels, and