The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 17

CHAPTER XVII

THE PILGRIM BEHOLDS THE ESTATE OF PRIESTHOOD

(The Pagans.)

And they lead me through certain passages, and we come to a market-place in which stood a multitude of churches and chapels built in divers shapes, and crowds were entering them, and then again leaving them; and we step into the one that was nearest, and behold, there were in every direction engravings and casts of men and women, also of divers animals, birds, reptiles, trees and plants; everything also was full of pictures of the sun, the moon, and the stars, and even of most vexatious devils. Now of those who entered, each one chose what pleased him, knelt before it, kissed it, incensed it, and sacrificed to it. But what appeared to me wondrous was the concord among these men; for though each one indeed performed his devotion differently, they yet permitted this, and peacefully allowed each one to retain his opinion (a thing that I saw not afterwards elsewhere). But then a certain stinking smell overcame me, so that terror seized me, and I hurried forth.

(The Jews.Talmudi Figmenta.)

2. We then enter into another temple, white and clean, in which there were but images of living beings; some of these were shaking their heads, muttering somewhat in a low voice; others raised themselves, stopped their ears and then opened their mouths wide, emitting a sound not dissimilar from the howl of a wolf. Then they crowded together and looked at certain books; and stepping up to them I saw wondrous paintings; for instance, a feathered and winged beast, birds also without feathers and wings, beasts with the limbs of men, and men with the limbs of beasts, one body with many heads, and then again a head with many bodies. Some of these monsters had instead of a head a tail, others again a tail instead of a head; others had eyes under their belly, and feet at their backs; some, again, had countless eyes, ears, feet; others had nothing of this sort; and all this was strangely displaced, twisted, bent, crooked, and most unequal. For one limb was a span, another fathoms long; one had the breadth of a finger, another that of a barrel; generally everything was monstrous, more than can be believed. They, however, said that these were but vain tales, and, praising how fine it was, the elders expounded the mystery to the younger men. And I said: "Who, then, could believe there were men who could relish such tasteless things? Let us leave them; let us go elsewhere." And going out, I see that these men walked about among the others, but displeased all, and caused but laughter and scorn. This induced me also to contemn them.

(The Mahomedans.)

3. We then enter another temple, which was rounded, and no less pretty than that of the others; but it was without ornaments, except a few letters on the walls and carpets on the floor. Meanwhile, the people within demeaned themselves quietly and piously; they were clothed in white, and were great lovers of cleanliness, for they were ever bathing; also did they give alms to the poor, so that in consequence of their behaviour I felt some affection for them. And I said: "What motive, then, have these men for their actions?" Searchall answered: "They carry under their clothing." And then I step nearer and endeavour to see. But they said that this was fitting but for the interpreters. Still, I wished to see, and based my request on the permission that I had received from the lord Fate.

(A Summary of the "Al Koran.")

4. And a tablet was procured and shown me, on which stood a tree with its roots extending upward towards the sky; but its branches jutted into the earth. All around a large number of moles were digging, and one large mole went round, called the others together and directed their work. And they told me that manifold delicious fruits grew on the branches of this tree under the earth, which, they said, these quiet and industrious little animals obtained. "And this," quoth Searchall, "is the summary of this their religion." And I understood that its foundation was on the air of vain opinion, and that its purpose and fruits was but to burrow in the earth, to seek solace in invisible delights that existed not, and blindly to search for they knew not what.

(Mahomedanism is founded on Force.)

5. And leaving this spot, I said unto my guide: "How, then, do these men prove that this is a certain and true foundation of a religion?" He answered me: "Come and see." And we go behind the church to a market-place, and behold these white-clothed and well-washed men ran about with tucked-up sleeves, with sparkling eyes, biting their lips, roaring fiercely, sabring all they met, and wallowing in human blood. Then I was afeard, ran back, and said: "What, then, are these men doing?" The answer was: "They are discussing concerning religion, and proving that the 'Al Koran' is a true book."

(There is Discord between the Persians and the Turks concerning the "Al Koran.")

6. And we again enter the temple, and lo! among those also who carried the tablet there was, as I ascertained, strife as to which was the foremost mole. Some, indeed, that one alone ruled the smaller moles, others that he should have two assistants; and on this matter they quarrelled among themselves, as they had with those outside the temple, and they disputed by means of iron and fire till it was terrible to behold.