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AN ORIENTAL VISION.
Methought I stood upon the skirt of an illuminated cloud in the upper Tegions of the air, with a power of vision extending over half the world. A human form of angelical beauty suddenly appeared, smiling with ineffable benignity, thus addressed me:-That superb building which thou beholdest rising amidst fine and beautiful groves of ever blooming verdure, adorned with blossoms of the richest fragrance, and fruits of the most exquisite flavour, is the Temple of Final Felicity, designed by Alla, for the reward of his faithful votaries. It is surrounded by gardens of interminable extent, diversified with all the beauties which the endless varieties of nature can bestow, in the forms of hill, valley, fountain, lake, and river. Nothing impure or unholy is permitted to enter the sacred precincts where love, peace, benevolence and piety, in harmonious union, conspire to render the days of its inhabitants truly blessed. It is, as you observe, placed within view, and apparently within reach of all, though few there be that surmount the snares, dangers, difficulties, and temptations which are necessarily to be surmounted, for it is the just appointment of Alla, that nothing great and glorious shall be attained without correspondent exertion, and that where the reward is of transcendent value, the toil of the successful aspirant must be proportioned to the magnitude of the prize. And, said I, asking pardon for interrupting him, can any toil be deemed too great, or any difficulties be thought discouraging, by those whose hopes are stimulated with the prospect of so glorious a reward? Surely it requires no extraordinary degree of wisdom, no uncommon measure of fortitude to resolve upon encountering and subduing any obstacles, not altogether insurmountable, that may happen to oppose themselves to the progress of him whose views are fixed upon the attainment of a felicity, exquisite as it is eternal ? Knowing as we do of what exertions man is capable in the pursuit of objects comparatively worthless, transitory in their nature, insecure in their possesion and unsubstantial in their enjoyment, it is hard to reconcile unwillingness to encounter peril in such a pursuit, or want of perseverance to obtain such a prize, with the idea of common prudence, and' rational understanding, so, said my conductor, it should seem to the sober contemplatist, but meditation in the closet is a different theory from action in the world, and they who are most confident of integrity in possession, are often the most ready to dispense with it in practice. It is easy to say, I intend 10 be good,—the really wise will say—“probation must precede praise, let me be tried by my deeds."
Now turn your eyes, said my conductor, towards that distant quarter, where
of greater or less amount, and apparently under the direction of adult leaders. That is the Mount of Education, to be travelled over by all candidates for glory and happiness. Such as are not fortunate enough to obtain the assistance of guides, unable of themselves to ascend the mount, wander away among the deserts and wildernesses on the other side, differing little in habits and attainments from the beasts of the field, by the chace of which, and the casual production of wild fruits, they support a savage existence. You may observe, that even of those who are under the patronage of early directors, several advance with reluctant steps, some lag behind, and others finally
return to that state of sensual depravity to which their carnal propensities
grow weary of e
expressing its admiration of effects, for which, were they not actually presented to the senses, no private comprehension would conceive that there could exist an adequate cause. But when it is further considered, that these bodies moving in majestic harmony, stupendous as they be, are destined to be habitationis of beings still more wondersul than they are; that though not possessed of life themselves, they are the seat of others life, the substratum of an animation, varied, extended and multiplied beyond the reach of human intellect, to compute and calculate even within the limited sphere of its own observation, how is it possible to set bounds to the awe, the reverence, the love, the gratitude, and the astonishment such a display of the Divinity seems naturally calculated to excite. There is no single attribute of Omnipotence in which his inconceivable might is more disLinctly displayed, than in that of bestowing life. The genius of man is capable
pf accomplishing many things, which, in the eye of common beholders, are justly esteemed wonderful. Besides the exertion of those mental faculties by which he obtains fame as a poet, an orator, a legislator, a philosopher, or a hero, he can perform works that surprize by their grandeur, or please by their utility. He can erect magnificent bridges, build sumptuous palaces, and raise monuments, that almost defy the crumbling hand of time.
even construct mechanical figures, that exactly imitate the motions of living bodies, but all the power, all the wealth, and all the ingenuity of all mankind, were they put together for the purpose, are unable to give life—To an earth-worm, it is as much beyond his ability, as to make another sun, another moon, or another world. Even vigorative life is above his power, he can increase and improve the stock he finds, but he can produce nothing de novo. The chemist, by analyzing, can discover the substances of which a grain of wheat is composed, but all the chemists upon earth cannot combine those several substances, so as by that combination to procure a grain possessing the capabilities of vegetation. When all this is considered, and compared with that profusion of vegetable and animal life, with which, through the bounty of the Creator, all nature abounds, what is left for the rational contemplatist, but the deepest sense of his own littleness, and an increased veneration for the Almighty Father of all ?
To all classes of worldly existants but one, a rule of life is given, called instinct, under whose fixed and unerring direction they pursue a prescribed course, fulfil their stated number of days, hours, or years, enjoy the pleasures and subsistence allotted for them, complete their periods and die. Acting under a compulsory direction, they are irresponsible for their conduct,--are objects neither of punishment or reward, and though often exhibiting curious specimens of cunning and intelligence, yet, never passing the eternal boundery that seperates the rational from the irrationthe intellectual soul, from the vivified animal. Man, therefore, is the only responsible creature, the only free agent of the animal creation, and this he could not be without a soul, that is, without an immortal spirit, united for a season with body, but not depending on that body for its existence. If it did, in what is he better than the beasts of the field ? In many cases he is worse, having more of actual misery, and less of pleasurable enjoyment. To one only can that soul be responsible—the God who gave it, for no human law can take cognizance of that which is unseen, lay hold of spiritual irrisibility, or fix its chains or immortal existence. To him he is responsible for the use or abuse of those faculties which so eminently distinguish Man from other animals, and which, unless debased by sensual indulgence, or corrupted by the unsubstantial pursuit of wordly vanities, are capable of raising him to a higher rank in the scale of spiritual existence, and approximating the human nature to the divine. · Such was the situation of Man under the original appointment of the beneficent Alla, and the early records of every country preserve a more or less distinct account of his primitive innocence and felicity, and his subsequent lapse and deterioration. li you ask, why did he fall ? Because he was made free-because to be responsible, it was necessary that he should be unconstrained—to conquer disturbing passions, it was requisite that he should feel them—to exercise the virtues of humility, love, submission, piety, justice, moderation and obedience, it was necessary that he should have to contend with the counteracting influence of their opposites, for where there is not choice of action, th (agent is no better than a passive machine where motive is compulsory, he is not fulfilling voluntary duties, but performing irresistable commands. Still however, there is room for restitution, and reward. Though the difficulties have been increased, they are not insurmountable—virtuous exertion has the encouraging promise of final success,--the Temple of Eternal Felicity is in view, and where the capability of attainment has been so graciously accorded, the misery of final disappointment must rest on him whose unhappy negligence, or incurable depravity have interposed incurable obstacles, to the ultimate acquisition of the glorious recompence.
Now, continued my conductor, cast your eyes, again upon the Land of Trial, and see what it presents--I see, said I, a prodigious number of small airy tigures or phantoms hovering over the human travellers, but as it seems to me, not always, if at all, perceptible by those whom they appear so solicitously to attend. —You are right, rejoined my conductor, they are exhibited to your view as representatives of the secret motives by which the judgment of mortals is directed, or as, according to the doctrine of some Eastern sages, the genii which superintend all human concerns, and of whom each individual has two, known by the name of his good and evil genius. The former endeavours to operate upon his understanding by teaching him to prefer the solid and permanent good, however remote, to the turbulent and temporary nature of present enjoyment, to bring his passions under the controul of his reason, and under no vicissitudes of life, to fall from virtue, or lose sight of the dignity of an immortal spirit. The other counsels him to catch the fleeting lour, to indulge those propensities which offer immediate gratification, to leave future objects to time and accident, to make sure of what he has, and to turn his present regard to the attainment of that which courts his acceptance under the fascinating shape of glory, honour, riches, pleasure, fame, and dominion. The prudent genius points, but too often points in vain, to the page of experience which displays the disastrous events of all inordinate pursuits of terrestrial felicity, and even in the instances of happiest success, elicits the confession of wisdom, that all is “vanity and vexation of spirit.” His rival too often carries all before him, and though there are who see their error before it is too late, and are fortunate enough to retrace their steps, multitudes perish under the delusion, destroyed by the unforeseen dangers which the wily genius had concealed from their crew, the sword, the traitor, the self earned discease, or victims of an upbraiding conscience, and drowned, in what you can discera in the very centre of their pleasures and palaces,--the gulph of despair !
Oh! said I, to my conductor, that I could but impress on the minds of my inconsiderate countrymen, the admirable lesson your benevolence has so kindly imparted--that I could but persuade them to see with my eyes, and to think with my understanding. —That said he, you may at least endeavour to do, and under the assistance of Alla, not without success; to give you therefore an immediate opportunity, I now say to you--and he raised his voice-Awake!-) started from the couch on which I had been taking my meridian slumber, and determined to profit myself, and as far as in me lay, to communicate profit to others, I lost no time in committing to paper an account of this instructive vision.
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE NIGHT.
The following papers were drawn up at the desirè of a dear friend; when 1 sat down to write, I did not intend them for the public eye, circumstances however, which I will not detail, have altered my determination.
It may be objected, that the profound and eloquent “Confessions of an English Opium Eater" have forestalled the subject which I have chosen, and that the terrors of the realm of Sleep are a twice told tale; now this assertion, like most other sweeping ones, is partly true, and partly false; it is true that the writer of whom I speak, has with a depth of thought and a clearness of style seldom equalled, developed one of the most striking cases of bodily and mental suffering that ever occurred; but the kingdom of Sleep has many regions, countless dungeons of dumb sightless torment, bolts, and racks, and wheels innumerable, and since there is a mysterious relation between the events of our lives and the sufferings of our dreams ; and since, however distorted and exaggerated, the scenery and actors of Sleep are not utterly unknown, either to our reading or our experience, it stands to reason that the subject-the biography of night,--can never be exhausted, until the causes which create fearful dreams, -fever-misfortune
– dreary watching by the bed of sickness--inexorable death, deat to the voice of deep love, and the terrible struggles with despair when the reason is dragged to the brink of insanity, shall be no more.
It is possible that I may be accused of exaggeration.-I will not pause to answer the charge. I might as well endeavour to discourse a blind man into a knowledge of colours, as to teach superficial readers the art of examining a statement by its internal evidence, and discovering from itself, its truth or falsehood; those for whom I write, will feel I trust, while they read, that I am not spinning fictions out of my brain, but relating facts and their
Our Life is twofold, Sleep hath its own world.
If there be a man living, who can attest the truth of the motto which I have chosen, I am that man; after groaning for years of nights, in the Egyptian bondage of the dark taskmasters of sleep, after doing and enduring their terrible bidding, until resistance had nearly wasted into despair, I have escaped from slavery, I have earned my freedom by hard struggling, and I may tell the secrets of my prison-house without fear.
And here, in limine, I protest against the canting sophistry, which calls sufferings of the imagination, imaginary sufferings;-1 have sat at the table of life for a good many years, and I have drank as deeply of the cup of misfortune, as most of my fellow guests --I have endured fierce anguish, both of body and mind in the waking world, and I solemnly declare that I did not conceive what the human intellect could endure, and not perish, until I was bound, hand and foot, and plunged into the realm of sleep, to abide the prolific cruelty of the stern race who dwell in it,