Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/204

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By Prof. E. P. EVANS.

IF, as it has often been stated, the age of miracles in the history of religions is past, it is certain that the age of marvels in the evolution of science is just beginning. The Orient, which from time immemorial has been the chief seat and source of theosophic systems and theurgic traditions, is still peculiarly prolific in all sorts of magical phenomena and other mysterious manifestations.

In illustration of this fact we may refer to the performances of the Arabian fakirs which excited so great astonishment at the Paris Exposition of 1889, and to the more recent but equally wonderful feats of the East Indian, Soliman, in the Panoptikum at Berlin. These fakirs are called 'Aïssavίdya from the name of the founder of the fraternity, Sid Mohammed Ben 'Aïssa, a saint of royal lineage born at Mekinez, in Morocco, about the end of the fifteenth century. 'Aïssa, or 'Yissa, is the Arabic for Jesus: 'Aïssavίdya is therefore etymologically synonymous with Jesuits, and both orders are really somewhat akin in scope and spirit, although to a superficial observer the Mohammedan society may seem to have little in common with that founded by Ignatius Loyola, except the name and the general principle of absolute obedience, which is thus forcibly inculcated in one of 'Aïssa's statutes: "Thou shalt be in the hands of thy sheik like a corpse in the hands of the embalmer; his commands are the commands of God himself." In this injunction the Jesuitical doctrine of the "sacrifice of the intellect" is pushed to its extreme consequences. It is also a curious coincidence that 'Aïssa should have established in northern Africa a religious order having for its general aim the revival and propagation of Islam, at the same time that Loyola established a religious order in Paris under the same name, having for its object the revival and propagation of Catholicism. Both orders are likewise exceedingly intolerant and fanatical, notwithstanding wide differences in their methods of procedure and the manner in which this zealotry manifests itself.

Besides the common purpose of propagandism as an association, each individual member of the order aspires by means of a severely ascetic life and long-continued physical and spiritual discipline to attain perfection through emancipation from the flesh with all its trammels and torments. In order to arrive at this state, called Tauhidi, and corresponding to the Jίuanmukti (release from the body before death) of the Hindu Yogi, the candidate passes through seven stages of penitential purification, each more rigorous than the preceding one, resulting not only in the com-