Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
In order to show that these things are not to be taken in their literal signification, and that they have a hidden meaning which is contained therein, as in a seed, and has to be extracted from them, the Zohar repeats the following allegory:
Picture to yourself a man living alone in the mountain and unacquainted with the usages of the city. He produced and lived upon wheat, which he ate in its natural state.
One day he went to the city, where he was given some bread of good quality. He asked:
What is this good for?
He was answered,
It is bread to eat.
He took it and liked it, after which he asked again,
What is it made of?
The answer was,
It is made of wheat.
Some time afterward he was given some cakes mixed with oil. He tasted them and asked:
And what is this made of, pray?
He was answered
It is made of wheat.
By-and-by some royal pastry mixed with oil and honey was set before him.
He asked the same question as before.
What is this?
He was answered, they are cakes made of wheat. He exclaimed,
All these things are at my command. I use them already in their crude state; I use the wheat of which they are made.
So thinking, he was a total stranger to the pleasures they give, which were all lost to him. So it is with those who give their whole attention to the general principles of science, and are ignorant of the pleasures therefrom resulting.
The Zohar concludes as follows: "It is necessary to extract from the letter of the law, the charms of wisdom that are therein hidden."
We find also the following aphorisms in the same book.
Wo to the man who does not look beyond the letter of the law, but regards it as simply a record of events in ordinary language.
The words of the law are the garments, in which it is clothed. Wo to him who takes the garment of the law for the law itself.
There are some foolish people who, seeing a man covered with a handsome garment, never look any further, but take this garment for the body, while there is something which is more precious, and that is the soul.
The law also has its body. There are commandments which may be called the body of the law; the texts that are mingled with them are merely the garments by which they are covered.
Ordinary people pay heed to nothing but the garments, or to the texts of the law. That is all they know. They see nothing that is hidden beneath this garment. Those who are wiser pay no heed to the garment, but to the body by which it is enveloped.
The servants of the Supreme King, those who live upon the heights of Sinai, heed nothing but the soul, which is the basis of everything else, which is the law itself, and, in future times, they will be prepared to contemplate the soul of that soul which is manifested through the law.
By treating the sacred books in this allegorical way, the Cabalists, without doing violence to the Bible or tradition, made the conceptions which were the subject of initiation in ancient times in the East, a part of their religious law.
These last verses seem like a commentary upon the same subject as that which we have been considering, taken from the Book of the Pitris.
We merely call attention to the similarity between the two methods of interpretation, adopted by the adherents of either doctrine, without dwelling upon it any further.
We are reminded of what was said in the Agrouchada-Parikchai:
"As the soul is contained in the body;
"As the almond is concealed by its envelope;
"As the sun is veiled by the clouds;
"As the garments hide the body from sight;
u As the egg is included in its shell;
u And as the germ rests inside of the seed;
"So the sacred law has its body, its envelope, its clouds, its garments, its shell, which hide it from the knowledge of the multitude."
This opinion, that the words of the law were nothing but garments intended to conceal from the common people
the truths therein contained, led the Cabalists to construct what they called a Cabalistic alphabet, by whose aid they even prevented the material act of reading their mysteries.
According to Reuchlin, "De Arte Cabalistic.," and Wolf, "Bibligr. Hebr.," the method employed in that occult alphabet in order to make it necessary that the mere act of reading should be the subject of a special initiation, was tri-fold.
The first consisted of the substitution of one word for another, to which it was equivalent.
According to the second, the final letter of each word became the initial of another word.
The third changed the value of the letters by putting, for instance, the first in place of the last, and vice-versa.
We have seen that those who believed in the Indian doctrine of the Pitris also indulged in these puerile practices.