CHAPTER XVII

THE PILGRIM EXAMINES THE RELIGIOUS PROFESSION

THE PAGANS. Thereupon they led me through some passages from which we emerged upon a square full of churches and chapels of different archictectures. Multitudes kept going in and out of them. We stepped into the nearest and lo! there were pictures and statues of men and women on all sides, as well as of all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, tress, and plants; likewise of the sun, the moon, the stars, and of many ugly +53demons. Each of those entering this place chose whatever pleased him best and kneeling before it, kissed it, burning incense or a sacrifice before it. I was amazed at the concord among them, for in spite of the ritual differences, they tolerated them all, and peacefully allowed everyone to keep his own opinion (a practice I have not since seen elsewhere); being assailed by an overpowering stench, I was seized with terror; so I soon hastened out.

2 THE JEWS. We then entered another temple, white and clean, containing nothing but living +54image; these, wagging their heads, mumbled something in a low voice; or arising and stopping up their ears, they opened their mouths wide and gave out sounds not unlike those of howling wolves.

TALMUDI FIGMENTA*. Then they gathered themselves together to examine certain books; approaching closer, I saw in them bizarre illustrations. For instance, feathered and winged beasts and wingless birds; beasts with human and men with beastlike limbs; one body with many heads and one head with many bodies; some of these monsters had a head in place of the tail and a tail in place of the head; some had eyes on the belly and feet on their backs: some had ears, mouths, and feet without number, while others had none. Everything was strangely transposed, twisted, inverted, and perverted, as well as greatly out of proportion: one limb was a foot long, another a rod in length; one was a finger's width, another a barrel's; in a word, all was monstrous beyond +55belief. But they, claiming all this to be historically correct, praised it as excellent, and the older exhibited it to the young as a mystery. "Who would have imagined that there would exist folk who actually relish such unappetizing things, " I remarked. "Let us go elsewhere, leaving them alone." We went out, and I noticed these people mingling with the rest; however, they were disliked by all others and were the target of their jests and pranks. This inclined me to disdain them.

3 THE MOSLEMS. We then entered another temple, which was round, and although not inferior in beauty to the former, was without any ornaments; save some lettering on the walls and carpets on the +56floor. The worshippers, all clad in white, behaved quietly and reverently, they were great lovers of cleanliness and were constantly performing ablutions, and distributing alms, so on account of their external appearance I began to feel favorably inclined toward them. "What is the foundation of their belief?" I inquired. "They carry it hidden under their robes," Mr. Searchall answered. I approached closer and begged to see it. But they replied that it was not proper for anyone but their interpreters to examine it. I persisted in my request, adducing the permission of the Lord Fate in my behalf.

4 A SUMMARY OF THE KORAN. Finally they took out and showed me a +57chart upon which a tree was depicted with its roots up in the air and its branches stuck in the ground; many moles, supervised by a large mole who was running about, calling the others and assigning them their several tasks, were busy digging around this tree. They told me that the branches of the tree underground bore all kinds of delicious fruit which the silent and industrious little creatures brought to light. "And that is, " explained Mr. Searchall, "the sum of their religion." I understood therefrom that its foundation rests upon the wind of supposition and its goal and fruit consist in burrowing in the ground and rejoicing over invisible delights which do not exist, and seeking blindly they know not what.

5 MUHAMMEDANISM IS FOUNDED ON FORCE. Leaving the place, I remarked to my guide: "How do they prove that this really is a reliable and true foundation of religion?" "Come and see!" he replied. We passed behind the temple into a square where we saw those white-clad and well-washed folk rolling up their sleeves and with fire in their eyes, biting their lips and roaring terribly, rushing about and putting to the sword anyone whom they encountered as they waded in human blood. I was terrified and ran back, exclaiming: "What are they doing?" "They are disputing about religion and proving that the Koran is true, " they answered me

6 PERSIANS AND TURKS QUARREL ABOUT THE KORAN. We re-entered the temple and there witnesses a controversy among those who carried the chart concerning, as I understood, the chief mole. One party claimed that he alone was directing those smaller moles, while the other party contended that he had two +58helpers. This question involved them in such an interminable struggle that in the end they fought with sword and fire both among themselves and with those outside, until it was terrible to behold.

Chapter 18 ||| Labyrinth index page



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