MR. L. OLIPHANT'S new work "Land of Gilead" attracts considerable attention. Reviews appeared some time since, but we had to lay the subject aside until now for lack of space. We will now have something to say, not of the work itself -- though justice can hardly be sufficiently done to the writings of that clever author, -- but of what he tells us respecting the Druses -- those mystics of Mount Lebanon of whom so little is known. We may, perchance, shed some new light on the subject.
"The Druse," Mr. Oliphant thinks, "has a firm conviction that the end of the world is at hand. Recent events have so far tallied with the enigmatical prophecies of his sacred books, that he looks forward to the speedy resurrection of El Hakim, the founder and divine personage of the sect. In order to comprehend this, the connection between China and Druse theology has to be remembered. The souls of all pious Druses are supposed to be occupying in large numbers certain cities in the west of China. The end of the world will be signalised by the approach of a mighty army from the East against the contending powers of Islam and Christianity.
This army will be under the command of the Universal Mind, and will consist of millions of Chinese Unitarians. To it Christians and Mahomedans will surrender and march before it to Mecca. El Hakim will then appear; at his command, the Caaba will be demolished by fire from Heaven, and the resurrection of the dead will take place. Now that Russia has come into collision with China, the Druses see the fulfilment of their sacred prophecies, and are eagerly waiting for an Armageddon in which they believe themselves destined to play a prominent part." --(Pioneer).
Mr. Lawrence Oliphant is, in our opinion, one of England's best writers. He is also more deeply acquainted with the inner life of the East than most of the authors and travellers who have written upon the subject -- not even excepting Captain and Mrs. Burton. But even his acute and observing intellect could hardly fathom the secret of the profoundly mystical beliefs of the Druses. To begin with: El Hakim is not the founder of their sect. Their ritual and dogmas were never made known, but to those who have been admitted into their brotherhood. Their origin is next to unknown. As to their external religion, or what has rather transpired of it, that can be told in a few words. The Druses are believed to be a mixture of Kurds, Mardi-Arabs, and other semi-civilized tribes. We humbly maintain that they are the descendants of, and a mixture of, mystics of all nations, -- mystics, who, in the face of cruel and unrelenting persecution by the orthodox Christian Church and orthodox Islamism, have ever since the first centuries of the Mahomedan propaganda, been gathered together, and who gradually made a permanent settlement in the fastnesses of Syria and Mount Lebanon, where they had from the first found refuge. Since then, they have preserved the strictest silence upon their beliefs and truly occult rites.
Later on, their warlike character, great bravery, and unity of purpose which made their foes, whether Mussulmans or Christians, equally fear them, helped them toward forming an independent community, or, as we may term it, an imperium in imperio. They are the Sikhs of Asia Minor, and their polity offers many points of similarity with the late "commonwealth" of the followers of Guru Nanak -- even extending to their mysticism and indomitable bravery. But the two are still more closely related to a third and still more mysterious community of religionists, of which nothing, or next to nothing, is known by outsiders: we mean that fraternity of Tibetan Lamaists, known as the Brotherhood of Khe-lang, who mix but little with the rest. Even Cosmo de Koros, who passed several years with the Lamas learned hardly more of the religion of these Chakravartins (wheel-turners) than what they chose to let him know of their exoteric rites; and of the Khe-langs, he learned positively nothing.
The mystery that hangs over the scriptures and religion of the Druses is far more impenetrable than that connected with the Amritsar and Lahore "Disciples," whose grantha is well known, and has been traof the Lebanon mystics, none were ever seen, let alone examined, by any European scholar. Many manuscripts have never left the underground Holoweys (place of religious meeting) invariably built under the meeting-room on the ground-floor, and the public Thursday assemblies of the Druses are simply blinds intended for over-curious travellers and neighbours.
Verily a strange sect are the "Disciples of H'amsa," as they call themselves. Their Okhal or spiritual teachers besides having, like the Sikh Akali, the duty of defending the visible place of worship, which is merely a large, unfurnished room, are also the guardians of the Mystical Temple, and the "wise men," or the initiates of their mysteries, as their name of Okhal implies: Akl being in Arabic "intelligence" or "wisdom." It is improper to call them Druses, as they regard it as an insult; nor are they in reality the followers of Daruzi, a heretical pupil of H'amsa, but the true disciples of the latter. The origin of that personage who appeared among them in the eleventh century, coming from Central Asia, and whose secret or "mystery" name is "El-Hamma," is quite unknown to our European scholars. His spiritual titles are "Universal Source, or Mind," "Ocean of Light," and "Absolute or Divine Intelligence." They are, in short, repetitions of those of the Tibetan Dalai-Lama, whose appellation "Path to the Ocean," means, Path or "Way to the Ocean of Light" (Intelligence) or Divine Wisdom -- both titles being identically the same. It is curious that the Hebrew word Lamad should also mean "the God-taught."
An English Orientalist recently found that the religion of Nanak had a good deal of Buddhism in it. (Art. Diwali in Calcutta Review). This would be only natural since the Empire of Hindustan is the land of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas. But that the religion of the Druses, between whose geographical and ethnological position and that of the Hindus there is an abyss, should be so, is far more incomprehensible and strange. Yet it is a fact. They are more Lamaists in their beliefs and certain rites, than any other people upon the face of the globe. The fact may be contradicted, but it will be only because Europe knows next to nothing of either. Their system of government is set down as feudal and patriarchal, while it is as theocratic as that of the Lamaists, -- or as that of the Sikhs -- as it used to be.
The mysterious representation of the Deity appears in H'amsa, whose spirit is said to guide them, and periodically re-incarnate itself in the person of the chief Okhal of the Druses, as it does in the Guru-Kings of the Sikhs, some of whom, like Guru Govind, claimed to be the re-incarnations of Nanak, while the Dalai-Lamas of Tibet claim to be those of Buddha. The latter, by the way, are loosely called Shaberons and Khubilghans (both in various degrees re-incarnations not of Buddha, the MAN, but of his Buddh-like divine spirit) by Abbe Huc and others without any regard to the difference in the appellation: El Hamma or H'amsa came from the "Land of the Word of God." Where was that land? Swedenborg, the Northern seer, advised his followers to search for the LOST WORD, among the hierophants of Tartary, Tibet and China. To this we may add a few explanatory and corroborative facts. Ll'hassa, the theocratic metropolis of Tibet, is commonly translated as "God-land," that is to say, this is the only English equivalent that we can find.
Though separated by the Karakorum range and little Tibet, the great Tibet is on the same Asiatic plateau in which our Biblical scholars designate the table-land of Pamir as the cradle of the human race, the birth-place of the mythical Adam. Tibet or Ti-Boutta, will yield, etymologically, the words Ti, which is the equivalent for God in Chinese, and Buddha, or wisdom: the land, then of the Wisdom-Deity, or of the incarnations of Wisdom. It is also called "Bod-Jid." Now "Jid" and "Jod" are synonymous apocalyptic and phallic names for the Deity, -- YOD being the Hebrew name for God. G. Higgins shows in his Celtic Druids, the Welsh Druids altering the name of Bod-Jid into Budd-ud which with them too meant the "Wisdom of Jid" or what people now call "god."
The religion of the Druses is said to be a compound of Judaism, Mahomedanism and Christianity, strongly tinged with Gnosticism and the Magian system of Persia. Were people to call things by their right names, sacrificing all self-conceit to truth, they might confess things otherwise. They could say, for instance, that Mahomedanism being a compound of Chaldeism, Christianity and Judaism; Christianity, a mixture of Judaism, Gnosticism and Paganism; and Judaism, a wholesale Egypto-Chaldean Kabalism, masquerading under invented names and fables, made to fit the bits and scraps of the real history of the Israelite tribes -- the religious system of the Druses would then be found one of the last survivals of the archaic Wisdom-Religion. It is entirely based on that element of practical mysticism of which branches have from time to time sprung into existence.
They pass under the unpopular names of Kabalism, Theosophy and Occultism. Except Christianity which, owing to the importance it gives to the principal prop of its doctrine of Salvation, -- (we mean the dogma of Satan) had to anathematize the practice of theurgy, -- every religion, including Judaism and Mahomedanism, credits these above-named branches. Civilisation having touched with its materialistic all-levelling, and all-destroying hand even India and Turkey, amid the din and chaos of crumbling faiths and old sciences, the reminiscence of archaic truths is now fast dying out. It has become popular and fashionable to denounce "the old and mouldy superstitions of our forefathers;" -- verily even among the most natural allies of the students of theurgy or occultism -- the Spiritualists. Among the many creeds and faiths striving to follow the cyclic tide, and helping it themselves to sweep away the knowledge of old, strangely blind to the fact, that the same powerful wave of materialism and modern science also sweeps away their own foundations -- the only religions which have remained as alive as ever to these forgotten truths of old, are those which from the first have kept strictly aloof from the rest.
The Druses, while outwardly mixing up with Moslems and Christians alike, ever ready to read the Kuran as well as the Gospels in their Thursday public meetings, have never allowed an uninitiated stranger to penetrate the mysteries of their own doctrines. Intelligence alone communicates to the soul (which with them is mortal, though it survives the body) the enlivening and divine spark of the Supreme Wisdom or Ti-meami -- they say -- but it must be screened from all non-believers in H'amsa. The work of the soul is to seek wisdom, and the substance of earthly wisdom is to know Universal Wisdom, or "God," as other religionists call that principle. This is the doctrine of the Buddhists and Lamaists who say "Buddha" where the Druses say "Wisdom" -- one word being the translation of the other. "In spite of their external adoption of the religious customs of the Moslems, of their readiness to educate their children in Christian schools, their use of the Arabic language, and of their free intercourse with strangers, the Druses remain even more than the Jews a peculiar people" -- says a writer. They are very rarely if ever converted; they marry within their own race; and adhere most tenaciously to their traditions, baffling all efforts to discover their cherished secrets. Yet they are neither fanatical, nor do they covet proselytes.
In his Journey through Tartary, Tibet, and China, Huc speaks with great surprise of the extreme tolerance and even outward respect shown by the Tibetans to other religions. A grand Lama, or a "living Buddha," as he calls him, whom the two missionaries met at Choang-Long, near Koum-boum certainly had the best of them in good breeding as well as tact and deference to their feelings. The two Frenchmen, however, neither understood nor appreciated the act, since they seemed quite proud of the insult offered by them to the Hobilgan. "We were waiting for him ... seated on the kang ... and purposely did not rise to receive him, but merely made him a slight salutation" -- boasts Huc (Vol. ii. p. 35-36).
The Grand Lama "did not appear disconcerted" though; upon seeing that they as "purposely" withheld from him "an invitation to sit down" he only looked at them "surprised," as well he might. A breviary of theirs having attracted his attention, he demanded "permission to examine it;" and then, carrying it "solemnly to his brow" he said: "It is your book of prayer; we must always honour and reverence other people's prayers." It was a good lesson, yet they understood it not. We would like to see that Christian missionary who would reverently carry to his brow the Vedas, the Tripitaka, or the Grantha, and publicly honour other people's prayers! While the Tibetan "savage," the heathen Hobilgan, was all affability and politeness, the two French "Lamas of Jehovah" as Abbe Huc called his companion and himself, behaved like two uneducated bullies. And to think that they even boast of it in print!
No more than the Druses do the Lamaists seek to make proselytes. Both people have their "schools of magic" -- those in Tibet being attached to some la-khang (lamaseries), and those among the Druses in the closely-guarded crypts of initiation, no stranger being even allowed inside the buildings. As the Tibetan Hobilgans are the incarnations of Buddha's spirit, so the Druse Okhals -- erroneously called "Spiritualists" by some writers -- are the incarnations of H'amsa. Both peoples have a regular system of passwords and signs of recognition among the neophytes, and we know them to be nearly identical since they are partially those of the Theosophists.
In the mystical system of the Druses there are five "messengers" or interpreters of the "Word of the Supreme Wisdom," who occupy the same position as the five chief Boddhisattvas, or Hobilgans of Tibet, each of whom is the bodily temple of the spirit of one of the five Buddhas. Let us see what can be made known of both classes. The names of the five principal Druse "messengers," or rather their titles -- as these names are generic, in both the Druse and Tibetan hierarchies, and the title passes at the death of each to his successor -- are:
(1). H'amsa, or "El Hamma," (spiritual wisdom) considered as the Messiah, through whom speaks Incarnate Wisdom.
(2). Ismail -- Ti-meami -- (the universal soul). He prepares the Druses before their initiation to receive "wisdom."
(3). Mohammed -- (the Word). His duty is to watch over the behaviour and necessities of the brethren; -- a kind of Bishop.
(4). Se-lama, (the "Preceding") called the "Right Wing."
(5). Mokshatana Boha-eddin,(the "Following") named the "Left Wing."
These last are both messengers between H'amsa and the Brotherhood. Above these living mediators who remain ever unknown to all but the chief Okhals stand the ten Incarnates of the "Supreme Wisdom," the last of whom is to return at the end of the cycle, which is fast approaching -- though no one but El Hamma knows the day -- that last "messenger" in accordance with the cyclic recurrences of events being also the first who came with H'amsa, hence Boha-eddin. The names of the Druse Incarnations are Ali A-llal who appeared in India (Kabir we believe); Albar in Persia; Alya in Yemen; Moill and Kahim, in Eastern Africa; Moessa and Had-di in Central Asia; Albou and Manssour in China; and Buddea, that is, Boha-eddin in Tartary, whence he came and whither he returned. This last one, some say, was dual-sexed on earth. Having entered into El-Hakim -- the Khalif, a monster of wickedness -- he brought him to be assassinated, and then sent H'amsa to preach and to found the Brotherhood of Lebanon. El-Hakim then is but a mask. It is Buddea, i.e., Boha-eddin they expect.
And now for the Lamaic hierarchy. Of the living or incarnate Buddhas there are five also, the chief of whom is Dalay, or rather Talay, Lama -- from Tale "Ocean" or Sea; he being called the "Ocean of Wisdom." Above him, as above H'amsa, there is but the "SUPREME WISDOM" -- the abstract principle from which emanated the five Buddhas -- Ma´tree Buddha (the last Boddhisattva, or Vishnu in the Kalanki avatar) the tenth "messenger" expected on earth -- included. But this will be the One Wisdom and will incarnate itself into the whole humanity collectively, not in a single individual. But of this mystery -- no more at present.
These five "Hobilgans" are distributed in the following order:--
(1). Talay-Lama, of Lha-ssa, -- the incarnation of the "Spiritual" "passive" wisdom -- which proceeds from Gautama or Siddartha Buddha, or Fo.
(2). Bande-cha-an Rem-boo-tchi, at Djashi-Loombo. He is "the active earthly wisdom."
(3). Sa-Dcha-Fo, or the "Mouthpiece of Buddha," otherwise the "word" at Ssamboo.
(4). Khi-sson-Tamba -- the "Precursor" (of Buddha) at the Grand Kooren.
(5). Tchang-Zya-Fo-Lang, in the Altai mountains. He is called the "Successor" (of Buddha).
The "Shaberons" are one degree lower. They, like the chief Okhals of the Druses, are the initiates of the great wisdom or Buddh Esoteric religion. This double list of the "Five" shows great similarity at least between the polity of the two systems. The reader must bear in mind that they have sprung into their present visible conditions nearly at the same time. It was from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries that modern Lamaism evolved its ritual and popular religion, which serves the Hobilgans and Shaberons as a blind, even against the curiosity of the average Chinaman and Tibetan. It was in the eleventh century that H'amsa founded the Brotherhood of Lebanon; and till now no one has acquired its secrets!
It is supremely strange that both the Lamas and Druses should have the same mystical statistics. They reckon the bulk of the human race at 1,332 millions. When good and evil, they say, shall come to an equilibrium in the scales of human actions (now evil is far the heavier), then the breath of "Wisdom," will annihilate in a wink of the eye just 666 millions of men. The surviving 666 millions will have "Supreme Wisdom" incarnated in them. This may have, and probably has, an allegorical meaning. But what relation might it possibly bear to the number of the "grand Beast" of John's Revelation?
If more were known than really is of the religions of Tibet and the Druses, then would scholars see that there is more affinity, between Turanian Lamaists and the Semitic, "El-Hammites," or Druses, than was ever suspected. But all is darkness, conjecture, and mere guesswork whenever the writers speak of either the one or the other. The little that has transpired of their beliefs is generally so disfigured by prejudice and ignorance that no learned Lama or Druse would ever recognise a glimpse of likeness to his faith in these speculative fantasies. Even the profoundly suggestive conclusion to which came Godfrey Higgins (Celtic Druids Part I, 101) however true, is but half so. "It is evident" he writes "that there was a secret science possessed somewhere (by the ancients) which must have been guarded by the most solemn oaths ... and I cannot help suspecting that there is still a secret doctrine known only in the deep recesses of the crypts of Tibet." ...
To conclude with the Druses: As Selama and Boha-eddin -- two names more than suggestive of the words "Lama" and "Buddha" -- are the only ones entrusted with the secret of H'amsa's retreat; and having the means of consulting with their master, they produce from time to time his directions and commands to the Brotherhood, so, even to this day do the Okhals of that name travel every seventh year, through Bussora and Persia into Tartary and Tibet to the very west of China and return at the expiration of the eleventh year, bringing them fresh orders from "El' Hamma." Owing to the expectation of war between China and Russia, only last year a Druse messenger passed through Bombay on his way to Tibet and Tartary.
This would explain "the superstitious" belief that "the souls of all pious Druses are supposed to be occupying in large numbers certain cities in China." It is around the plateau of the Pamirs -- they say with the Biblical scholars -- that the cradle of the true race must be located: but the cradle of initiated humanity only; of those who have for the first time tasted of the fruit of knowledge, and these are in Tibet, Mongolia, Tartary, China and India, where also the souls of their pious and initiated brethren transmigrate, and rebecome "sons of God." What this language means every Theosophist ought to know. They discredit the fable of Adam and Eve, and say that they who first ate of the forbidden fruit and thus became "Elohim" were Enoch or Hermes (the supposed father of Masonry), and Seth or Sat-an, the father of secret wisdom and learning, whose abode, they say, is now in the planet Mercury, and whom the Christians were kind enough to convert into a chief devil, the "fallen Angel." Their evil one is an abstract principle, and called the "Rival."
The "millions of Chinese Unitarians" may mean Tibetan Lamas, Hindus, and others of the East, as well as Chinamen. It is true that the Druses believe in and expect their resurrection day in Armageddon, which, however, they pronounce otherwise. As the phrase occurs in the Apocalypse it may seem to some that they got the idea in St. John's Revelation. It is nothing of the kind. That day which, according to the Druse teaching "will consummate the great spiritual plan -- the bodies of the wise and faithful will be absorbed into the absolute essence, and transformed from the many, into the ONE." This is pre-eminently the Buddhist idea of Nirvana, and that of the Vedantin final absorption into Parabrahm. Their "Persian Magianism and Gnosticism," make them regard St. John as Oannes, the Chaldean Man-Fish, hence connects their belief at once with the Indian Vishnu and the Lamaic Symbology. Their "Armageddon" is simply "Ramdagon," and this is how it is explained.
The sentence in Revelation is no better interpreted than so many other things by Christians, while even the non-Kabalistic Jews know nothing of its real meaning. Armageddon is mistaken for a geographical locality, viz., the elevated table of Esdraelon or Ar-mageddon "the mountain of Megiddo," where Gideon triumphed over the Midianites. It is an erroneous notion, for the name in the Revelation refers to a mythical place mentioned in one of the most archaic traditions of the heathen East, especially among the Turanian and Semitic races.
It is simply a kind of purgatorial Elysium, in which departed spirits are collected, to await the day of final judgment. That it is so is proved by the verse in Revelation. "And he gathered them together into a place called ... Armageddon (XVI. 16), when the seventh angel will pour out his vial into the air." The Druses pronounce the name of that mystical locality "Ramdagon." It is, then, highly probable that the word is an anagram, as shown by the author of the "Commentary on the Apocalypse." It means "Rama-Dagon," the first signifying Sun-God of that name, and the second "Dagon" or the Chaldean Holy Wisdom incarnated in their "Messenger," Oannes -- the Man-Fish, and descending on the "Sons of God" or the Initiates of whatever country; those, in short, through whom Deific Wisdom occasionally reveals itself to the world.