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VOL. XVI.-NOVEMBER, 1865.-No. 11.
Divers, indeed, are the dispositions of men. As to the ancient philosoa phic sects, some, yea many say, we are of the Epicurean, because here they have rich elbow room for the gratification of sense and all its delectable delights, and are not laden with the weighty care of the soul's hereafter. Others say, we are of the Stoic philosophy, as bordering on the very boundary line of Christianity, because here they can turn their vinegar face and iceberg heart to fruitful advantage. There are others still, who say, we are of the Pythagoreans, as far as they hold the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the belief in the passing of the soul, after death, into some other animal body.
By this doctrine some persons can best solve the problem of their present existence, as Pythagoras held that the soul must pass through eightyeight different animals before it can reach the dignity of man.
Then they can also, according to their own propensities, find an appropriate place in the body of some chosen animal, where to deposit their soul after death, and live happily.
This doctrine of the transmigration of souls is now a prominent feature in Brahminism and Buddhism, and prevails to this day in some parts of Asia, especially in India and China. We do not profess to be of any of these persuasions; but if we should, however, by a plumb-line, be found leaning the least towards any, it would be towards the tenets of the Pythagoreans, and especially towards that portion of them which is called metempsychosis, on account of the superior moral effects it must have exerted on humanity. Manicheism, Platonism, Pantheism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, and a whole string of other isms, have been introduced into Christianity
at different times without inflicting any essential harm on it, as far as human sight can reach, and perhaps have done it some good. Might not, therefore, a little of this soul-transmigration doctrine be carefully woven into our own religion, so as not to wound its fundamental and eternal principles, and be all the better for our purse, health, and morals?
We do not profess to belong to that school of philosophy which holds that man is an animal; but-must we confess it?—we are sometimes almost persuaded to believe a little in the transmigration of souls, because so many things seem to favor its truth. If some persons would tell us they had been calves, sheep, or oxen, we would almost be inclined to think the presumption on their side, and the burden of proof would then fall very heavily on us, without knowing whither to go for our ammunition of arguments.
The names of many persons would indicate that they come from certain animals, if not directly, at least through their forefathers. Besides, there are very striking resemblances between the features and habits of some men and those of some animals. The cynic philosopher so closely resembles a dog, that it did not require a large stretch of the imagination of those who suspected that he must have been one of those cold-nosed animals before he became a man. The extreme epicure bears a likeness to a swine so perfect, that if he has a soul at all, and if his soul is incarnate now, it is in startling danger of becoming in-pork-nate hereafter. Dr. Johnson was said to resemble a bear. We know a person even within the bounds of our own acquaintance, whose beard, mustache, and hair, contain very little iron, or else it must be rusty, whose molar bone projects exceedingly far,—and whose features, in short, taken collectively, build up almost the perfect physiognomy of a lion.
Remarkable resemblances between the habits of some men and those of some animals, can be seen now-a-days by the cheapest observation. How the shrewd, cunning, wily lawyer resembles a fox! The greedy, eager salesman may be likened unto a leech or gallinipper; and the thirsty broker, or speculator—a weed that enjoys all the conditions for thriving, and multiplies amazingly in these dark days—into a land-shark.
There are some persons who never can make any progress, whether they inhale the classic and philosophic air of college halls, or wear the sheep-skin apron of a blacksmith, but are eternally going backward in whatsoever under the sun they may undertake; them we would suspect of having been crabs once.
There is another species of persons, whose fauna is almost limitless—so stiff-necked and stubborn, and always holding on to erroneous ideas with such cohesiveness of attraction, that the only conclusion to which we can retreat, is that they must have steered over to man directly from the mule, or else will certainly enter that stage of existence hereafter. The husband and wife, afflicted with chronic quarrels and little skirmishes between each other as frequent as their daily bread, help to confirm our faith in this doctrine by the striking resemblance which they bear to a dog and cat. A woman much given to gossip, of all the forbidden passions perhaps the most tempting to woman, involuntarily reminds us of an uncaged parrot.
Almost every community is sorely troubled with a certain person, who wants to be at the very apex, to be looked up to by every one else,
who continually coins advice which he wants to pass for current, and who wants to be authority personified, and have a finger in every pie of the whole neighborhood; him we can cheaply liken unto an old rooster. To what a wonderful degree a fashionable, coquetting young lady resembles a wasp, or hornet! I have sometimes felt painfully alarmed myself on witnessing some grand performance on the piano, lest the enthusiastic player and singer, in her ecstasy, would actually be carried away out of my sight on the wings of a screech-owl. The perplexed student, sticking in the middle of a Greek sentence, at some crooked verb, whose twisted roots he cannot all dig out; or at the black-board, before a thousand-angled figure, trying to find the heliocentric parallax of the moon, which he cannot see because of an eclipse, has looked to me, at least, very much like a certain sober, big-headed, longeared animal, whose name I would not choose to mention.
Lest justice might wax wroth at us, we must confess that the Professor himself has not escaped all our suspicion of having been a certain animal before his lofty promotion. Meeting him in his study, chewing the tough cud of philosophy, I could not possibly desist from the temptation of being reminded of an owl in a hollow tree, where he wears a most mighty serious and important air, and is said to be engaged the livelong day in metaphysical contemplation. But one of the strongest probabilities of the truth of this doctrine, is the irresistible conclusion to which we are whipped by witnessing the actions, exhibitions, speeches and writings of many men, that their souls must certainly have resided, just before their present abodes, in the bodies of a certain kind of bugs, whose surname is hum.
If this doctrine of metempsychosis were generally received, it would produce many good and wholesome effects. It would yield the precious fruit of humanity and tender kindness, especially towards the lower animals. The Pythagorean would stand in no need of a compassionate Cowper, to caution him against treading upon the snail or worm that may be creeping in his path on a foraging expedition. If he would meet with even a beetle in his walk, he would reverently step aside and let the reptile live; for he would fear lest, by his inadvertent step, he would place his foot upon
the back of his own grandfather. The humane housewife of this persuasion would shrink with horror from the idea of killing an annoying fly, or teazing mosquito, before he has lived half his days, for fear she would destroy the soul of her former husband or lover. She would also feel loath to lay violent hands upon a spider, lest she might inflict death upon the departed tailor who made her husband's wedding coat.
It uld lead, too, to a total abstinence from all animal food, a consummation devoutly to be wished in these degenerate days of high prices, when the eyes even wax sore from the want of seeing gold, and the hand fairly itches for an agreeable touch of it again; and when we all know that spring chickens cost seventy-five cents a pair, and an appetizing roast of beef sells at thirty-five cents per pound. The price of pills for dyspepsia, is also rising to a fearful height. The Pythagorean, however, would not dare to dissect a turkey, lest he should be thrusting his fork into the breast of a deceased alderman. The legislature, if composed of Pythagoreans, would pass an act prohibiting manslaughter to be committed upon geese, or ganders, lest undeserved punishment would be inflicted upon the departed politicians, who annually stumped the state for the outspreading of the political kingdom to which the majority of the two houses always profess to belong. A lady of delicate sensibilities, and not too great appetite, would take for her choice no part of a fowl, lest she might, in partaking of it, be feasting upon the limbs of her own lamented grandmother.
The believer in the doctrine of the transmigration of souls would also be incited to the practice of the higher virtues by the prospect of promotion, or advancement in the scale of being. The poor slave of the “colored persuasion,” would be more faithful and obedient to his master, in order that his soul, after death, might pass into a body of "the white folks,” and be there become a freedman, and perhaps a master or lord himself. Many a farmer would try to live a holier life, in order to be promoted hereafter to a horse. The common soldier would fight more bravely, from the hopes of becoming, in the next stage of existence, if he falls nobly, an officer, and at last, perhaps, a Lieutenant General himself, and fearing lest if he should fall ignobly, his soul would pass into the body of a rebel. The epicure would not plunge himself so deeply into sensuality, and would try to diminish his resemblance to a swine, for the purpose of becoming an elephant, in order that he could eat more then. The private layman would, perhaps, become a more devoted member of the church, from the prospect of being lifted up, after death, to the dignity of a deacon, and of finally culminating, by the same process, in the existence of the preacher himself. The unfortunate husband could easily calm the turbulent emotions, and cool down the ire of his termagant wife, by softly reminding her that at the day of her death she might be converted into a snapping-turtle. In college, the “prep” would apply himself to his studies with more bitter severity, and be filled to greater overflowing of conscientiousness—if that be possible—from the hope of becoming a freshman, at least in the next stage of being, if not in this any more. The senior would fulfil the whole law of the college, without offending in one point, and carry a face twice as long,
order to secure himself, in the next scale of being, the enviable position of a Professor. This belief would incite all Christian people to live the most pious and godly lives, so that they might escape from being sent back to earth to do any more penance under the forms of animals, but be permitted at once, after death, to pass over into paradise, there to enjoy the happiness of the blessed.
This doctrine of the metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, is, after all, involved in great mystery. Of one thing, however, are we assured by divine authority, that if we fulfil the true end of life, death shall not separate the soul from the body for ever, but on the great resurrection morn it shall leave its abnormal state, and again unite with the body. And here is the highest promotion for which man can, and really does long; for the body, with which the soul unites again, will no more be in its present condition, subject to pain and suffering, and disease and wretchness, and decay and death,—but will be, as it rises from the dead, glorified and fitted for the soft light of heaven, and the immediate presence of Jehovah, there to drink in his celestial glory and bliss for ever and ever.
HOME INFLUENCE.—“We shall never know, until we are ushered into eternity," writes a living author,“ how great has been the influence which one gentle, loving spirit has exercised in a household, shedding the mild radiance of its light over all the common events of daily life, and checking the inroads of discord and sin by the simple setting forth of that love which -- seeketh not her own,' but which suffereth long, and is kind.'”
BY THE EDITOR.
We speak of the stages of life, youth, manhood, middle life, and old age, as if there were definite and fixed points when we make a conscious transition from one into another. But we look for such transition-points in vain. Childhood glides into youth, youth into manhood, manhood into middle life, and this into old age, by such easy and natural gradation, that we are not conscious that one period ends, and another begins, yea, we cannot realize that we are in that period of life to which we actually belong; so that while others see us to be in middle life, we still feel as if we belonged to the generation of young men.
Not so much in ourselves, as from that which surrounds us, do we become conscious in which generation we are moving. When we meet the playmates of our own childhood, and find them with families of almost grown-up sons and daughters around them, we have tangible data from which we may and do infer that we ourselves are ranked by others with those who have reached middle life. What if we do not realize it, the fact is well authenticated by the unmistakable records around us.
Sometimes we meet persons who are evidently full-grown, and we incidentally learn that their birth-day dates some years later than the time when we ourselves were full-grown. With these data we can easily, with the aid of such arithmetical rules as we have not yet entirely forgotten, figure up that we are certainly in the period of middle life. It may frighten us a little, when we discover that we can speak familiarly of events that took place thirty and thirty-five years ago, but there is nothing in it to be alarmed at; it is only another evidence that we are certainly in the period of middle life.
Occasionally some thoughtless person will speak of us—even in our hearing-asold Mr. or as "the old gentleman.” We perhåps give him a sharp look, or think for a moment of his indiscretion and want of culture; and by way of giving expression to a little disturbance of mind, we run our fingers through our hair—when, behold! we bring down a gray hair between our fingers! It is not so much a discovery as a reminder. At once we grow more charitable and tender toward him from whom the seeming offence came, and gracefully submit to take the place assigned us-in middle life.
Now and then our our eye falls upon a short newspaper biography of one of our statesmen and generals, and we are surprised that they were born long after we were. How can that be possible? we say to ourselves. They bear heavy public responsibilities—are looked up to as leaders in public affairs—have attained to honor and the confidence of the country, and yet are so young. But on further reflection our wonder abates, and