Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/276

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264

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

depend a good deal on public approbation. Simon Stylites bad visitors from all parts of the Christian world, who admired and at last almost worshiped him. Besides sticking to his pillar, he had a trick of doubling himself up till his forehead almost touched his narrow pedestal. At evening prayers he often treated the spectators to a variety of Talmagian gymnastics, and, if they implored him to come down, his only answer was a grunt of stern defiance. In a lonely desert he probably would have anticipated their wishes. If there is anything meritorious in self-torture, the Indian fakirs, too, get all the encouragement they deserve. A Hindoo, who might dismiss an ordinary beggar with a kick, would share his last rice-cake with a mendicant presenting himself with a drag-chain round his neck and a bull-ring in his nose. The inventor of a new torture can count upon a liberal share of public patronage. The English garrison of Cawnpoor was once honored by the presence of a bikschu, or religious devotee, who had stationed himself in a corner of their parade-ground, and promoted the welfare of his soul by squatting down between two blazing fires, while the sun inflicted its caloric on his shaven head. A crowd of natives watched him with respectful admiration, and, whenever one of his fires threatened to go out, they fetched in a fresh supply of fuel, to further the progress of the good work.

The exploits of a sensational bikschu become the boast of his native place. Rass-el-Shork and Rass-el-Hissam, two suburbs of Delhi, had several riots about the respective merits of their fakirs. The matter was finally referred to a Mohammedan umpire, and the men of Hissam proved that their hero had passed forty-eight hours in tenter-hooks, and glorified Brahma by eating a three-pound bundle of wormwood, while the Shork party claimed the prize of virtue for a saint who had swallowed a gallon of cajeput-oil, and turned somersaults till the arithmetic of the suburb failed to express the number of thousands. He had also rolled himself from Delhi to Agra, fasted a full week, and abstained from drinking water while he counted the number of grains in a two-bushel measure of millet-seeds. But all his labors proved in vain when the umpire learned that the Hissam champion had once sat two days and a night in a nest-hill of the Formica rufa (a kind of red horse-ants).

Our word fakir is derived from the Arabian fakhar, a pauper, a mendicant. The Mohammedan dervishes, however, do not entirely part with their reason, though the Sufi sect believes in the sanctifying influence of celibacy and solitude. The Brahmans and Buddhists are both ultra-ascetic, but with this difference: that the former practice their penances as an expiation of some special sin; the others on general principles, and with a view of subduing the vitality of the body, for the world-blighting dogma of the antagonism of body and soul seems to have been first promulgated by Buddha Sakya-Muni, the Nepaul arch-pessimist.

—— In the columns of the "Catholic World" for August, the Rev. J. F. Callahan, D. D., discusses the "Cincinnati Pastoral" and its critics: "Liberty," says the Rev. J. F. C, D. D., "never did exist except under the shadow of the cross. Equality has no home except at the altar on which the shadow of that cross falls. Take the Catholic Church out of the world, and liberty would sink into an eternal grave. If Protestant nations are free, it is because they once were Catholics. If a republic was built in this New World, Catholic principles were the architect."

The absolute truth of the above rivals the candor of Dr. Christlieb's "Short Method with Infidels." Evidently the "persecuted classes," as the "Bavarian Brewers' Union" calls the Romanists and liquor-dealers, are learning the art of