The Alchemy of Happiness (Homes)/On Knowledge of the Future World
On Knowledge of the Future World.
Know, beloved, that we cannot understand the future world, until we know what death is: and we cannot know what death is, until we know what life is: nor can we understand what life is, until we know what the spirit is....
If you wish, O student of the mysteries of God, to learn the essential facts about death, you must know that there are in man two kinds of spirit, one of which is of the nature of the spirit in animals and which we call animal spirit, and the other is of the nature of the spirit of angels, which we call human spirit. The fountain of the animal spirit is in that heart which is in the left side of the breast, and is a piece of flesh. It is a delicate exhalation from the humors within the animal. Its constitution is fixed in certain proportions, just as is that of oxymel, which is composed of honey and vinegar that on being mixed, while they lose their own flavor, acquire a new, delicate and useful flavor, so also, by the blending of the various elements of the body,a delicate exhalation is the result, which finds its home in the heart. It gains other delicate qualities from the heart, and from thence the blood channels, which are the veins of pulsation, are supplied. The exhalation passes by their means to the brain and from thence flows to all the members. It is exceedingly hot, but in its passage to the brain, it loses some of its heat and becomes tepid. By the distribution of this spirit through the body, the eye sees, the ear hears, the tongue tastes, the nose smells, and the rest of the organs are endowed with their proper movements and perform their appropriate functions....
So long as the spirit works in equilibrium, it is capable of delicate operations and effects ; but so soon as excess of heat or cold destroys the equilibrium, the exhaled fluid is diminished, and it becomes incapable of movement and sensation....
That cause which throws the constitution out of balance and occasions the complete absence of the exhalation, is called the Angel of death, who is also a creature of God. Most persons merely know his name....
The second kind of spirit, which is called both human spirit and heart, is not a body, and is not susceptible of division. It is the seat of the knowledge of God. In the same manner, God himself is one, is not susceptible of separation into parts and the place of his knowledge is one....
Even if the action of the larger part of the members should be paralyzed, it is still possible that life should continue in a man. Death occurs, when, after the ruin of the constitution, the delicate exhalation on that very account is no longer transmitted to the members, and they are all paralyzed together and cease from movement. Although you still remain in being, you possess neither sensation nor motion. You know, also, that in infancy the ingredients of your body were drawn from pure blood. These underwent a change and disappeared, and the ingredients derived from food took their place. You know moreover that the form which you had on your entrance into the world, and your present form are not the same. It follows therefore that there is no necessity of your perishing on account of the perishing of the body. The body is earth and must therefore return to its original earth. Your spirit, however, is of an angelic nature, and you must therefore mingle with your original spirit. If the influences of the world operate with such power that you are separated from your original spirit, it is fixed and sure that you will have to endure the torment of separation and misery.
It should be kept in mind, that you possess two classes of qualities or attributes. One class includes those which result from the union existing between your body and your spirit, viz: hunger, thirst, sleep, eating and drinking. These qualities become useless at death. The other class includes qualities belonging solely to your spirit, such as the knowledge of God, and the love of God, and the qualities which tend to secure these two, as gratitude, submission and supplication. These are qualities of your individual self, which do not pass away with death, but on the contrary the fruits of them will be ever growing and developing. The language of the blessed God in the words, "the permanent things are the holy virtues," points to these qualities. That spirit is also enduring and eternal, which is destitute of love and knowledge, which indeed knows nothing and has no delight in or affection for these things, but it will be blind and wretched: as God declares in his word: "He who was blind in this world will be blind in the future world, and in a most fatal path of error."
The nature of death cannot be understood, unless we are acquainted with these two kinds of spirit and with the relations of dependence between them. Know, then, seeker, that the animal spirit belongs to the inferior world. The elements of its four humors, blood, phlegm, bile and black bile, are fire, air, water and earth. The animal spirit is a product of a delicate exhalation from these elements. The variations in the measure of a man's health depend on the variations of heat, cold, drynessandmoisture. Hence it is the object of the science of medicine to preserve these four elements in their due proportions, so that they may serve as instruments to secure perfection to the human spirit.
The human spirit belongs to the superior world and is of an angelic substance. It has come into this world a stranger, and has descended from its original state to this temporary home, to receive its destiny from divine direction, and for the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of God. In accordance with this, God declares in his holy word, "We said to them—leave paradise all of you just as you are: a book destined for your guidance will come to you from me: fear shall never befall those who will follow it, and they shall not be afflicted." And that which God says in another place, points to the different degrees of worlds: "I create man of clay: and when I shall have formed man of clay and shall have breathed ray spirit in him, prostrate yourselves before him in adoration." First of all in his saying "from clay" he points to a material body. The phrase "I shall have formed" indicates the animal spirit. The phrase "shall have breathed my spirit in him," means that I have given to the body of man a well balanced constitution with power and motion. I have made it capable of receiving the law, and to be a home for the knowledge of God.
In the same manner as the equilibrium of the inferior spirit is to be preserved by the science of medicine, the equilibrium of the human spirit is to be preserved by virtue, self-denial and holy zeal, that it may not be destitute of the love of God and perish.It is plain, then, that a knowledge of the future world cannot be acquired, until we have learned the true nature of the two spirits. We cannot obtain, for example, a knowledge of God, unless we previously possess a knowledge of the soul. But as Islamism consists essentially in believing and confessing the Lord God and the future world, it becomes our duty to acquire a knowledge of the future world as far as the thing is possible. There is, however, a mystery regarding the future world, which the holy law has not authorized to be explained or to be mentioned, be,cause it could not possibly be understood. Seeing then that the knowledge of the future world cannot possibly be acquired, until that mystery is revealed, strive that it may be revealed in your own soul by pious endeavor, self-denial and divine guidance. You cannot learn it by any possible efforts from any other person by the hearing of the ear. Many persons have heard this mystery, which represents one of the attributes of God, but they did not acknowledge it as true, and said that it was impossible, not because it was in its nature exempt from being known, but because it was an unemployed mystery. It is not named either in the Koran or in the Traditions. God commanded the prophets not to inform the people of the essence of his attributes, saying "for they will not understand them, will accuse you of falsehood, and will do injury to themselves."
It has been clearly shown to you, student of the mysteries, that the human spirit in its essence and attributes is to live forever, and that it is able to exist without a frame, that the meaning of death is not the annihilation of the spirit, but its separation from the body, and that the resurrection and day of assembly do not mean a return to a new existence after annihilation, but the bestowal of a new form or frame to the spirit, which shall be under its control in the second period, as the body was under its control in the first period....
In saying that in the second period, the control of the spirit is easy, it is said in respect to our contracted understandings, and in comparison with our operations, and to make the matter intelligible to others. When God says in the powerful Koran, "It is easier," and "For me it is easy," he uses the phraseology only for the sake of being understood by man. On the contrary in the first period, there was nothing difficult for God: it would have been nothing to him to have created without matter, in a moment, a thousand worlds like this which we inhabit.
It follows from what has been said, that it is not a necessary condition of the resurrection and restoration that the spirit should possess exactly the original mould. For that which we seek is not the vehicle of the spirit, but the spirit itself. This mould undergoes change even in this world. Thus, for example, the materials derived from the condensation of the exhalations and the inspissation of the blood in the stomach of the mother are changed by food, and new flesh is produced. Many questions may be asked of those who say that the identical mould must return and rise in the resurrection, and that its absence can in no wise be tolerated, and they will find much difficulty in answering them. One may ask for example, if one man eat another man, and the man eaten become a portion of the man who ate him, will that portion rise with the eater or with the man who was eaten?...
They say, moreover, that man is created from seed, that seed is derived from food, and that food is derived from the milk, the fat or the flesh of an animal: now with which of all these will the ingredient rise up ? Again, suppose the hand of a thief has been cut off, and he afterwards leads a life of good works and enters Paradise. Must he enter Paradise, where nothing maimed or defective can enter, without his hand, or will he enter with his hand, notwithstanding his good works were not performed when he possessed that hand? The source of all these perverse speculations is in the pretence of those who say that in the day of assembly, the mould reappears and that the spirit follows in its train, that if it was not for the mould there would be no semblance of man, and that the permanency of the spirit results from its connection with the body.
If, O seeker, you say that the well known language of the wise in the law and in discourse is, that at death a man becomes non-existent, and that he exists afterwards in the resurrection with this identical body, and that our language contradicts theirs, we reply. He who merely follows in the track of the language used by others, will never acquire a knowledge of the truth. However, the words you have cited are not those, either of people of intelligence or of imitators. For the intelligent and learned know that the body is not annihilated at death, but that the materials of which it is composed are separated, and that it is this separation which they call death. The imitator has likewise heard from the doctors of the law, that the spirit lives eternally after death.
It is well known that spirits are divided into two classes, in one of which all blessed spirits are embraced and in the other all miserable spirits. With respect to the blessed spirits God says, "Think not that those who have been slain on the divine road are dead: they are alive near their Lord and are sustained by him." In regard to the miserable spirits, the apostle of God came to the infidels who had been slain in the battle of Bader, and called upon each by name, and said, "O! such a one, son of such a one, I have found the victory and triumph which ray Lord promised. And you, have you found that latter end and torment of which the Lord assured you, or have you not found it?" His honored companions having remarked to him, "they are dead and how can they hear and how can they speak?", the glory of the world replied, "By the truth of God who has commissioned me to be a true prophet, they are better able to hear than yourselves: there is only this difference, that they are not able to answer." And the prophet of God declared that the spirits of martyrs are in lanterns under the empyrean: and according to another account that they are suspended to the fruits of the trees of Paradise in the craws of green birds. In brief, whoever will study carefully the verses of the Koran, the Traditions and recollections that have reached us respecting death, and will consider the well substantiated accounts of the movements of the dead in grave yards, he will know, in a manner that should remove all doubt, that the dead clearly do not become non-existent....
Hence it happens, that when a person becomes breath- less and is entranced, as sometimes happens in the first exercises among the Soofees, he has a delightful vision of the state after death, notwithstanding the animal spirit continues in the enjoyment of health. Yet if, while in that state, fear and terror should happen to predominate and deprive him of feeling and motion, and if he become so far like the dead that he perceives no external object, the same things may be revealed to him which are revealed to others after death. It is sometimes permitted, after he returns from that state to the sensible world, that all he has seen should remain in his memory, or that if he does not remember it, traces of it should remain in his mind. If he saw hell, he will retain traces of despondency, sadness, heaviness of spirit, suspicion and melancholy. If in the treasury of his imagination he has preserved these traces, it is lawful for him to communicate them to others....
The torments of the grave, O seeker after the divine mysteries, are of two kinds: one kind is spiritual and the other is material torment, and they have been repeatedly explained.The spiritual torment cannot be understood, until a person is acquainted with his own soul and spirit. His soul exists in its own individuality: it is not dependent upon form or mould : it has neither hand or foot, nor eye or ear. The external senses which it possessed were dependent on the body, and remain inactive and useless after death, and all the enjoyments resulting from them become entirely null. Wife, children, friends, property, slaves and domestics, equipage, cattle, estates and fields were formerly sources of enjoyment to it. And if he were a lover of, and a seeker after these things, so that he had been always occupied with them, the torment of separation from them will make a deep impression upon his soul, and he will be most certainly the subject of sorrow and lamentation. But if his heart was untrammeled by these delights, and was inclined towards the future world and was always awaiting death, if the enjoyments of the world were distasteful to him, while he was always occupied with the wants of the soul, which are to find out God—then, in the event of death, he will have attained his longing and his love, and have reached rest, joy and happiness.
Call to mind now, that the spirit of a man is eternal: It has not perished at death. Can you doubt then, that that spirit which had chosen the glare and glitter of the world for its beloved object, and had been absorbed heart and soul in the occupations of the world—when in a moment of time, all that which it had been gaining day after day, which it had obtained with great perseverance and industry, and which it had been coveting and striving for during many years, is taken out of its hands by death, can you doubt that it will be the prey of endless sorrow and grief, of abundant mortification, regret and remorse? This accords with what the apostle of God declares, "Love what thou hast loved: but thou shalt be separated from it." But when a man realizes that this world is a stage of a journey, and that the purpose of his coming hither is to attain the knowledge and love of God, and when he is day and night occupied with this, forsaking the world before death arrives, and perhaps even envying and longing for death, there can be no doubt that in the event of death, he is delivered from all pain and sorrow, and obtains rest and spiritual union.
From what has been said, it follows that the torments of the grave are for the friends of this world and the seekers of the world, and not for the devout and pious. And here we find an explanation of what the prophet of God said: that "the world is the prison of the believer and the paradise of the infidel."
Since you have now learned, student, that the torment of the grave is occasioned by love of the world, know also that there are different degrees of it. It is in proportion to each person's affection and love for the world, and will come upon some with great severity....
If, for example, a person possess a female slave to whom he is exceedingly attached, and on account of his being every day by her side, he is not conscious of his attachment, and then if suddenly he should become offended with her and sell her to another person, and should afterwards become conscious of his concealed love, bis heart would hourly assail him and sting him like a serpent. The fire of regret and rage would burn within him, so that he might be not only sick from its effects, but might even die. Now if it is possible that such results should follow from the loss of a female slave, consider what must be the degree of grief and affliction of a man who is suddenly called upon to part with all his beloved objects in a moment. Just as it might happen that the master of the female slave should throw himself into the water to drown himself, or cast himself into the fire to burn himself, all on account of his separation from her, so those spirits of men who are in theirgraves utter many wishes, exclaiming, "Ah! would that these scorpions and serpents, like those in the material world, would only sting us and destroy us, that at least we might be delivered from this torment."
Pain in the world is an accident of the body, and passes from the body to the spirit, and thus the spirit participates in the torment. Butin the future world, pain has its home in the spirit itself, and hence it is excruciating.
Every one bears away from this world within himself the essence of his torment, but men are not aware of it. God says in his eternal word, "Ah! if you knew by infallible knowledge, you would see hell, you would see it with the eyes of certainty," and again He says in another place in the glorious Koran, "Truly hell encompasseth the infidels." He does not say, it shall encompass, but rather that it already surrounds them....
If you say, O student of the mysteries, that "the torments of the grave are occasioned by the relations arising from ttiis present world, from which no one can be exempt, since every one has either children, a house, horses or servants, and that it results, without doubt, in causing a feeling of dependence upon them: and hence, no person will be able to escape the torments of the grave," we observe, in reply, that what you say is correct, but then there are persons who have no relations of dependence upon the world, and who always desire death from the Lord God. The prophets themselves did not pass away from the world until they longed for death. You should know also, that the rich who are attached to this world are of two classes. One class includes those, who although they have a love for the world, yet they love the blessed God more. An illustration of the character of men of this class, may be found in the man who owns a house in each of two cities; while living in one of them he has no longing to remove to the other. But it happens that an office is conferred upon him in that other city, and immediately he is overjoyed, and is eager to go there, and makes every preparation to remove thither and to forsake his first house. His longing for an office, leads him to move, and takes away all desire of remaining where he was previously. Now although meu of this class have an inclination to the world, yet as on the other side the love of God preponderates, they prefer to go to the future world, and would not indeed, if it were possible to do otherwise, remain here a day. When persons of this class die, whose affections preponderate towards the other world, they do not experience the torments of the grave.
The other class, beloved, includes those who are entirely absorbed in the love of the world, and of pleasure. This class cannot escape from the torments of the grave, as the Lord in his everlasting word declares: "There are none of you who will not be precipitated." But some of this class occasionally have a leaning towards eternal truth, especially if there is any trace of the love of God remaining in their hearts, and when they are about to leave the world, they forget it and never more yearn towards it. In that case they also are saved from the tribulations of the grave. A picture of this class is found in the person who also has a house in each of two cities, and as long as he is living in the one, he has no longings for the other. But at last some necessity compels him to quit his first house, and to go and reside in the second. After a few days residence, the love he had for the first house dies away from his heart and it appears better to him not to return thither. This class suffer torment in the grave up to the point where they forget the world, but after familiarizing themselves with the mansions of the future vwrld, they are freed from their pain. Those, however, whose hearts were immersed in the pleasures and cares of the world, and whose hearts bore no trace of the love of God, or of thoughtfulness for the future world, and who preferred this world to the other, will never be delivered from torment.
There is not a person in the world who will admit that he does not love God, or but that will pretend that he does love God. But this pretention can be brought to a touchstone and standard and found out by experiment. Just •look at his actions and conduct, and see whether he will do a thing which has the holy approbation of God, or whether he will abstain from doing a thing which has not the divine approbation, notwithstanding the strong opposing inclinations of his soul, and thus show his reverence for the Holy Law. If he does thus oppose the desires of his soul, he is correct when he affirms, "I love God." But if he is following the inclinations of his soul, and is only saying with his tongue that he loves God, his declaration is a lie. When a person in this state of mind utters the confession, "There is no God but God," a voice from God addresses him saying, "You are a liar, for your actions are opposed to your words." In this state of mind there is no use in making the declaration, "I love God." The prophet of God says however, that it is not an idle act to utter the phrase "There is no God but God" for the sake of preserving a man from the divine vengeance, so long as the man is one who does not prefer worldly works to the works of the future world....
Let those, then, who wish to be saved from the torments of the grave, be earnest in cutting ojSf the ties of the world; and let them, acquire a habit of being satisfied with just that which is of actual necessity. Be satisfied for example with that amount of food and drink which is necessary to give strength for devotional exercises; be satisfied with the amount of clothing necessary to protect the body from cold and heat; and so in everything else. If a man cannot purify his heart from attacli'ment to the world let him at least be assiduous in devotion and in calling upon God, and show a preference for cultivating an intimacy with the love of God. Let him look with fear and dread upon trust in the world, and weaken and relax the demands of sense by strict obedience to the law. If notwithstanding he should prefer to yield to the animal soul and to trust in this world, let him prepare himself to experience the torment of the grave and the terrors of the future world. And may the grace and mercy of God which embrace all men, and his pardon and forgiveness which extend to rich and poor, to great and small, reach and save him! The moterul torments of the grave, seeker after the divine mysteries, are those which are addressed to the body and through the body to the spirit. Spiritual, torments are those which reach the spirit only. The language of God, "It is the fire of God, the lighted fire which shall reach the hearts of the reprobates," refers to spiritual torments which affect the heart. The spiritual hell then is of three kinds. The first is the fire of separation from the lusts of the world; the second is the fire of shame, ignominy and reproach; and the third is the fire of exclusion from the beauty of the one Lord. These fires only burn the soul and do not touch the body.
There is in the world a cause or source of each kind of torment. Then let us examine the cause of the fire of separation from the lusts of the world. In explaining previously the torments of the grave, we said that they arose from love of the world. Love and desire constitute the Paradise of the heart. So long as the heart is with its beloved object, it is in paradise, and as soon as the heart is separated from its beloved object, it is in hell. The men of this world, by their supreme love of the world, have made it to be their beloved object, and as long as they are in the world it is a real paradise to them; but as soon as death comes and separates them from their beloved, their state is a real hell to them. Believers, by loving God and the future world, have made them their best beloved, and as long as they are separated from them they are in hell. But as soon as this separation is annihilated, and they leave this world and go to the other, having attained their chief purpose and desire, they are in paradise in reality. Suppose a person, a prince, had been passing his life in banqueting and pleasure, and every one around him had been submissive and obedient to his orders. But an enemy comes and deprives him of his principality, enslaves bis wife and servants, and they plunder him of his money and property before his eyes. His pearls and jewels are wasted upon trifles, and his beautiful studs of horses and his retinue are dispersed. He becomes a subject in his own city, is compelled to wear coarse clothing in the presence of his former servants, and is appointed to guard and feed the dogs. Can you in any wise appreciate the misfortune into which the prince has fallen, and how deeply he must be a prey to anguish? Probably he exclaims many times in a day, "Would rather that I had fallen into the abyss of the earth and perished!" The severity of his torture is in proportion to the amount of sensual enjoyments in which he had participated while he was a prince. And it is plain that this torture is not inflicted on the body, but upon only the spirit, and that it is more excruciating than any pains of the body would be.
So long as a man is attached to the things of this world engrossed with the care of his body, and gives over his nature to intercourse with sensual enjoyments, he will not care for the warnings his spirit receives in this world, nor for the torment that it will incur in the future world. A sick man for example will not be so excessively despondent about his malady in the day time, because his senses are interested in other things, and as his heart follows in their train, he in some measure forgets his malady. In the night, however, when his senses have nothing to be employed about, his thoughts about his malady do not leave his mind free for one moment, and his pain increases. So also in death, the cares and thoughts of the world and the external senses cease entirely to operate on account of the torment of the spirit, and then the perfect torment of the spirit becomes manifest.
The second kind of torment in hell, beloved, is the fire of ignominy and shame. In illustration of this, suppose that a prince receives into his friendship a poor and humble man, treating him with great honor and making him the favorite among all his confidential servants. He gives into his hands the keys of all his treasuries, commits his honor and wife and family to his care, and in short confides all his affairs into his hands, in full reliance upon him. Then, suppose that the poor man, after being elevated to this high rank, should be puffed up with pride, and should be disposed to betray the honor of the prince,—that he should begin to indulge in unworthy conduct with his wife and servants, and should open his coffers and spend his property for his own pleasures. Suppose farther that he should even be consulting with the prince's enemy who has designs upon the principality, and should enter into a compact with him. Just at this point the prince from a concealed retreat espies his conduct in his family, and learns how he has wasted his money and his possessions, and in short becomes acquainted with everything he has done. The man also learns that for some time the prince has been aware of his course of conduct, but that the reason of his delaying and postponing punishment was that he might see what other crimes he would commit, that he might punish him accordingly. In these circumstances the reflecting can easily appreciate what would be the confusion and mortification of this individual. He would think it a thousand times better to fall from a precipice and be dashed to pieces, or that the earth should open and he sink into the abyss, than that he should continue to live. So also is it with you. How many actions you perform, of which you say, "it is in private and no one sees it," or of which Satan cloaks over the guilt from your mind, by persuading you that it is all right and fair. But at last, when death comes and makes your sin manifest, then the fire of ignominy and shame makes you captive to fierce torments and long continued misery....
Suppose you should throw a stone over against a wall, and some one should come and inform you that the stone had hit your own house, and had put out the eye of your son. When you rush to your house and find that it is even so, can you conceive of the fire of repentance and anguish yon will have to meet?...
Nor can the overwhelming nature of the remorse or the pain of the punishment be compared with the pain of putting out your son's eye, because the former is eternal. The pains and sorrows of the world are but for a few days and then pass away, while thoughts upon the advantage and profit in the future world of pains endured here, will bring joy to those who reflect upon them. Your happiness does not depend upon your son's eye nor upon your own eye, but upon being accepted of God, and being honored and enriched with a vision of the divine beauty and excellence.
Another illustration of the fire of shame and ignominy is, to suppose that a prince is giving his son in marriage, and that after many days spent in feasting and rejoicing on the occasion the moment has come for the son to receive his bride. The son, however, has secretly withdrawn with some of his friends and become so intoxicated as to be incapable of reasoning. But at last he concludes that it is time for him to return, and that he will go secretly and alone. He sets out, therefore, on his return home, out of his mind and unconscious of what he is about. He walks on until he reaches a door through which he sees lights burning. He fancies that it is his own house, and straightway he enters in. He looks around and observes that there is not the least movement, not even a breath, but that all have gone to sleep. At last in the middle of the court he sees some one covered over with damask silks and brocades, from whose body is exhaled the odor of musk. He fancies and exclaims that this must be his lawful bride, and he kneels down before her and kisses her lips. He observes that his mouth is damp with moisture that exudes from her lips, and that he is touching something wet. The mouth of his beloved is wounded and bloody, and he thinks that it is rose water, and continues to caress her, till he is stupified with sleep. After a while he awakes and comes into his right mind, and perceives that he is in a sepulchral chapel of the fire-worshippers, and that what he had embraced was nothing but the body of an old woman ninety years old, who had died six months previously. On that night they had anew changed the coverings, burned incense and lighted the candles.
When the prince's son sees himself in this condition, shame and mortification overvphelm him to such a degree, that he is upon the point of destroying himself. But still severer anguish lays hold of him, lest, when he should leave the place iu this filthy state, he should be seen by some person. While he is asking himself what he should do, his father who knew nothing as to the place where his son had been, but who had left his palace with his friends and his suite in search of his son, meets him just at the moment he is coming out of that house in that state. Imagine now the shame of the son and what must be his feelings, No doubt but that he would have given his life to any one who could have offered him a refuge and deliverance from his shame. You see that the torment here is spiritual and not material; for there is not an iota of paiu here that affected the body.
In like manner the men of this world when they go to their graves, will see that what they called pleasure was flesh and corruption which they had unlawfully taken into their mouths. They will see that that beloved object, dressed in rich clothing, obtained by illicit means and stained with pollution, is but the old bag the world, with her disgusting face and horrid smell and putrefied corruption, on account of whom so many drowned in illusions have become victims to shame and remorse. Still more bitter torment will that be, beloved, which will be the lot of man, when iu the day of resurrection and assembly all these crimes and sins shall be laid open before all the angels and prophets. Our refuge is in God!
Think not that the shame and remorse of the future world is only of the kind that we have been describing. For we have before said that nothing belonging to the future world can be understood in the present world, or be rightly conceived of by our minds. The doctors of the law however (upon whom may God show mercy!), for the sake of warning and admonition in the world, and so far as the mind can appreciate it, have spoken in parables and illustrations, and they have in various ways compared the ignominy and remorse of the future world to the shame and misery existing in the present world, notwithstanding the misery in this world is but for a moment or a few days, while the other is everlasting.
We come now, beloved, to the third fire, the fire of separation from the divine beauty, and of despair of attaining everlasting felicity. The cause of this fire, is that conduct and stupidity which led the individual, while in the world, not to acquire a knowledge of God, to neglect purifying the mirror of his heart from the consuming cares of the world and from the rust of sensual pleasures, and to omit those austerities and exertions by which his blamable inclinations and dispositions might be changed to laudable ones. The individual did not act in accordance with the tradition which says, "Acquire a character resembling the character of God," and by means of which he might have been worthy of the vision of the beauty of the Lord, and of being received at the king's court. The heart which is full of the love of the world, and of the rust of worldly cares and transgressions, will see nothing in the future world, must be shut out from all kinds of felicity and will rise blind at the resurrection. Our refuge is in God! An illustration of this fire of reprobation and banishment may be found in this world, by supposing that a company travelling by night should come into a valley that was very stony, and as they went on their way, they should hear a voice calling out, "Take good heed and carry away with you an abundance of these stones; you will have occasion to use them at some future time." Some of those who heard the voice, exercised prudence, and carried off as many stones as they could; others for the sake of saving themselves trouble, carried off only a few. Others still, did not carry away any, saying, "it is folly to take pains and trouble for the sake of an advantage that is future and prospective: indeed it is not clear that there will be any advantage at all." Besides, they treated as stupid and foolish those "who did carry any away, and said, "look at those insane people, who, from pure cupidity and craving for what is impossible, load themselves down like asses, and give themselves useless pains. We are the comfortable ones, who go on our way free, joyful and without concern for the future." When the light of day dawned, they saw that all the stones were invaluable rubies and sapphires, each one of which was worth at least three thousand drachms of silver. Then those who had brought away stones, exclaimed, "alas! that we were not able to bring away any more." But those who had brought away nothing and had traveled with comfort and ease, were overwhelmed with the fire of reprobation; they strike their heads upon the ground with the energy of remorse, and are filled with sighs and lamentations. Those who had brought away stones, arrived at the city whither they had been going, and bought estates and slaves, jewels and rich and pleasant eatables and all kinds of raiment, and gave themselves up to banqueting and enjoyment, while those who had not brought away any stones, became so hungry, destitute and naked, that they went about desiring to perform for them some kind of service. But when they begged of them either food or drink, they said, in accordance with what God says in his ancient word. "The dwellers in fire shall call out to the inhabitants of Paradise, pour out upon us a little of your water and of the enjoyments God has bestowed upon you.'" They will answer, "God has forbidden the unbelievers either." "No, we shall give you nothing, for God has prohibited you from having anything. Yesterday you were laughing at us, to-day we laugh at you: as God declares in his eternal word, 'If you mock at us, we will in our turn mock at you, as ye have mocked at us.'"
This illustration of the enjoyments of Paradise has been made in very brief and comprehensive language, to serve as an example, but it is impossible by any similitude to give an idea of what it is to be separated from the contemplation of the beauty of the Lord. For whoever has but once experienced the delight of being near to God, and has enjoyed the vision of the beauty of the Lord, would perish if he should be for one moment separated from it. Even the last and least person who quits hell will receive a mansion from the Lord God which is equal to ten of these worlds. But we do not mean to say ten worlds in surface or in amount by number and weight, but ten worlds in value and in the beauty they display and the pleasure they afford.Having now become acquainted with the three kinds of spiritual torment, know, student of the divine mysteries, that these spiritual fires of which we have been speaking, are more severe than the fires which burn the body. The body does not itself perceive pain, and until pain reaches from the body to the spirit, it does not make a trace or impression. If, then, the anguish that is occasioned to the spirit through the channel of the body is so agonizing, imagine how intense must burn the fire of that anguish which has its origin in the centre of the soul. The pain which any thing suffers is occasioned by the excess of something contrary to the nature and necessities of its constitution.
The necessities of the constitution of the spirit are to know God and to contemplate his beauty and excellence. But if stupidity and blindness, which are opposed to this tendency of the spirit, become predominant, the soul will be vexed and tormented, and there will be no end to the torment. If it were not that the body is subject to maladies in the world, the fact of this blindness and stupidity would have been visible and apparent to the soul in this world also, and it would also have been the source of immense anguish, and torment would at no moment have ceased to afflict men. Just as when a person has a severe sore upon the hand or foot, if besides it should be cut with a knife or fire should be put upon it, he would not feel the pain of the knife or the fire, on account of the pain of the sore, so likewise the maladies of the body, such as hunger and thirst, or such maladies as love of possessions and family, combined with the absorbed attention of the senses to these things, prevent the soul from being conscious of its disquiet and distress. But when in death, the torment to which the body was subject is taken away, it will be seen how excruciating is the torment of the soul. And thus also God announces in his holy word: "Ah! if you knew it with infallible assurance. But you will see hell: you will see it with the eyes of certainty."
You should know, inquirer, that the many arguments we have adduced to prove that spiritual torment is more severe than material torment, and the many illustrations of it that we have developed, are understood by intelligent and discerning minds, but the mass of the people understand nothing about them. Suppose, for example, that the son of a prince has begun to go to school, and he is admonished that if he do not study, his father will not give him the principality. The boy does not understand the import of the warning, and continues busy in playing with tops and nuts. But, if he is told instead, if you do not learn to read and write, your master will whip you or pull your ears, from that moment, understanding the force of the admonition, he leaves his sport and play, and is diligent in his studies. Since, therefore, the commonalty cannot understand the torment of being forbidden and shut out from the vision of the beauty of God, the doctors of the law and the preachers, frighten them with serpents and scorpions, and with the fire of hell; for they are not capable of understanding anything else. In the other case, how should the "look out! take care!" from the mouth of the master, with the pain of one or two boxes on the ear, have any relation or resemblance in the mind of the boy with the loss of the principality?...
The heavenly pilgrim must forsake his own city, and not fix himself for permanence in the place where he happens to be. And by the word city, worldly cares and employments are designated. He must quit them, and find his home in the path of obedience, and forsake the land of tribulation: for the prophet has said, "Love of country is an article of religion."
This road has four stages: the things of sense belong to the first stage; the things of fancy belong to the second stage; the things of speculation to the third, and those of reason to the fourth stage....
The view which man obtains of things in the visible world is through matter, as in the contemplation of a prospect on land. But in the fourth stage, which is that of the reason, man's view is entirely through the medium of pure spirit, as when a man looks into water. But the view he takes, and the intercourse he enjoys in the world of speculation, is as if he was looking at an object from a ship. There is, besides, in the sphere of reason a still higher degree of sight and vision, which is enjoyed by the prophets, the saints, and the most devout, which may be compared to a prospect in the clearest weather. Hence, when some one observed to the apostle of God, that Jesus (upon whom be peace!) walked upon the waters, he replied, that "if his faith had been greater, he would have walked in the air."
The view that can be taken by the heart of man, embraces all things that lie in the world of perception and understanding. Its sphere of action and exercise is the whole world. The ascent of man from the rank of beasts to that of angels, is an ascent where he is always exposed to danger and to destruction. He may, with the guidance of the divine guide, mount up to the highest heaven, or may descend through the deceits of Satan to the lowest hell. And the prophet has warned us of this danger in these words: "We have proposed to the heavens, to the earth and to the mountains to accept the deposit of the faith: they trembled to receive it. Man accepted the charge, but he became stupid and a wanderer in darkness."
Know, farther, that inanimate objects are the lowest in rank in the quantity and degree of happiness they obtain, and it is a happiness which knows no change. The place of beasts is in the lowest abyss and there is no path by which they can ascend out of it. The mansion of the angels is in the highest heavens where they ever continue in the same condition, there is neither abasement or ascent from their place. And God also says in his eternal word, "And what have we except for each one a certain and appointed habitation." The position of man is between the rank of angels, and that of animals, because he partakes of the qualities of both. No other rank except man accepted the deposit of the true faith, and indeed no other had the qualities and capacities necessary for the acceptance of it. In accepting the deposit man became bound at the same time to accept the dangers and penalties connected with it.
The doctors of the law have not commented upon these topics to the people in general. But this is not to be wondered at, when we consider that the mass of the people regard themselves as fixed in their character and position, and not as pilgrims and travellers to a higher state. There is no possibility of unveiling the things of truth, to those who settle down without desiring to make any progress, and who are contented with the first stages and degrees of the sensible world and of the world of fancy. They can neither attain to a spiritual state, nor understand spiritual laws and precepts. We have ventured, however, to unveil a little of the mysteries, as a type of the knowledge belonging to the future state, so that men might be prepared to understand the questions and affairs relating to that state. But if we had entered into any farther developments, they would not have been able to understand us, for none but those who are endowed with penetration and experience can by any possibility understand the topics to which we have alluded.There is a class of foolish people, O inquirer after the divine mysteries, who have neither capacity for knowledge, or sound judgment to be able to understand anything of themselves, and who have remained doubting and speculating about the nature of the future state, till they have become bewildered. Finally, as the lusts of the world harmonized with their natures, they have yielded to the whisperings of Satan, and deny that there is any future state. They pretend that the only need there is of speaking of heaven and hell, is for the sake of correcting and guiding the conduct of the people, and they regard as folly the course of those who follow the law and are constant in their devotions.
If these foolish persons have one jot of sense, it will be easy to convince them with a single word. One hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets more or less, the whole multitude of the saints and all the learned doctors of the law have faithfully followed the Holy Law, have been diligent in their devotions, and with prudent anxiety and dread about the future state, they have endured much pain and suffering. And how does it happen that you, who are so ignorant and stupid, have found out that they were mistaken and in error? What should lead you to prefer your baseless and corrupt fancies to their knowledge and science, and to say that the spirit has no real existence and that it does not continue to live after death? Perhaps you do not even admit that there is any material punishment. Truly the health of your moral being is so corrupted and depraved, that there is no cure for you; you belong to that class of whom God says in his holy word: "Even, when thou shalt call them into the right path, they will never follow in it."
If one of these men should, however, reply: "Indeed I do not know for a certainty, but why should I on account of an uncertainty, pass my precious life in devotional austerities, and forbid myself the delights and pleasures of the world?" We observe in return. According to your principles, the probabilities are balanced as to whether the events spoken of as belonging to the future world will or will not happen. It follows then as a most rational conclusion, that you ought to act in the same way you would do, if you wished to preserve yourself from a great risk and danger. For, if these events should take place, you may thereby be saved from intense torment and obtain eternal felicity; whereas, if they should not occur, you will have suffered no injury from your precautions. We have, besides, the inspired word which declares that all these things will take place; and all the prophets (upon whom be peace!) and all the saints and teachers of religion (upon whom may God have mercy!) have testified to the truth of them.
Do you not see that if you were desirous to partake of food and were just stretching forth your hand to take it, and some one should say, "Beware, and do not eat of that food, for it is deadly poison," or "a serpent has vomited upon it," that although there was a doubt in your mind whether what he said was true or false, still you would believe him and refrain from eating the food? You would say to yourself: "If I do not eat it, I have nothing to suffer but to remain hungry for a while longer, but if I eat it, I may kill myself. It is prudent, therefore, for me to refrain from it."
Again, if you were sick, and a person who writes magical phrases and charms, should say to you, "give me a drachm of silver, and I will write for you a well tried charm by means of which you will immediately get well," although you know that there is no relation of fitness between an external charm, and an internal disorder of the stomach for instance, and that there is little probability of your recovering by its means, you are still disposed to take it. And you say, "Come, let me have it, if it act as a medicine, I shall be a gainer by so many drachms of silver, and if it do me no good, I shall only have lost a single drachm. I ought therefore to try it."
Once more, if an astrologer should say to you, "if you will drink this bitter and disagreeable medicine, you will not be attacked with illness during the whole of this coming year, for the moon is in such a station among the heavenly bodies," notwithstanding the lie of the astrologer should be very clear to your mind, and you have no confidence in what he says, you would reply, "well, let me drink it and see; if it do me no good, it will do me no harm." And with the fancied hope of advantage from it, you swallow down the bitter and unpalatable potion as if it were sugar.
Now come and be candid with yourself; you give credit to a false physician, to a false writer of charms and to a false astrologer, for the sake of being delivered from a day or two of illness in this world, and you even undergo suffering for the sake of it. But the learned in religion, for the sake of saving you from the malady of stupidity and rebellion and bringing you to everlasting health and felicity, have exerted themselves to make the verses of the Koran and the holy traditions to serve as a medicine to deliver you from bitter torment. Still you attach no credit to their words. You treat the Koran and the traditions with entire disregard, neither clinging to the commandments of God, nor avoiding forbidden things. You follow the bent of your own inclinations, instead of following the example and law of the prophet of God, and you indulge in many acts of transgression. Nor do you call to mind what will be your condition in the end of it all, nor how long a time you have yet to live in the world, nor what eternity is compared with this world. Do you not know that by choosing a very little pain in the business of religion during this short life and in this worthless world, you may gain eternal felicity, and riches that cannot be taken from you? The pain which we may suffer in this world, however severe, yet does not weigh the amount of an atom in comparison with the pains and torment of the other world. This world is a fading shadow, but the future world is abiding and eternal.
The following is an illustration of the duration of eternity, so far as the human mind can comprehend it. If the space from between the empyreal heaven to the regions below the earth, embracing the whole universe, should be filled up with grains of mustard seed, and if a crow should make use of them as food and come but once in a thousand years and take but a single grain away, so that with the lapse of time there should not remain a single grain, still at the end of that time not the amount of a grain of mustard seed would have been diminished from the duration of eternity.
Beware, therefore, beloved of exposing yourself to eternal torments; call to mind the great risk and danger you are to encounter in the future world: address to your soul serious admonitions, before you come to be ashamed and fall into captivity and chastisement: ask your soul, saying, "O rebellious soul, how much misery thou dost undergo for the sake of gaining the world! What long and distant journeys thou dost undertake, how often dost thou remain hungry and thirsty, notwithstanding thou are both transitory thyself and all thou dost gain is transitory; and yet all this time God himself has engaged to supply all your needs. But on the other hand what hast thou done to secure eternal salvation in the mansions of the future world, to be delivered from misery and reach unchanging felicity? If thou art not able to endure the least pain or toil for religion in this world, how wilt thou be able to bear in the future world both material and spiritual torments, together with the torments of the imagination?"
Every man ought to take as the subject of his thoughts, the things which concern the future state,—the pains of its torments, the joys of its felicity, the delight and ecstasy of the vision of the beauty of the Lord, and finally the fact that these states are eternal. Now, is it not strange folly and sottishness to be proud of the transitory pleasures of the world in a life which lasts but for one or two days, and to turn our backs upon future eternal joys? If you are wise you will acknowledge the frailly and errors of your soul, and with an understanding of the purpose for which it was created, you will meditate upon your soul, and upon the almighty power and greatness of God as far as the human mind can comprehend them. Recognizing that God's design in creating you was, that you should know him and love him, you should never cease for one moment to walk with humility and prayer in the path of obedience. Regard this world as the place to sow seed for eternity, and after taking such a portion from this world as may give you strength to take the journey to the other world, turn away from whatever is more than this. Realize that the future world is the place for enjoyment and happiness which is eternal, and the land to behold the excellence and beauty of the Lord; and make it your purpose, divine and omniscient grace assisting you, never to cease from the pursuit of them, but to secure as your prey, the phœnix of felicity and happiness.