Sogno di un elefante bianco
The origin of the savage gods is clearly indicated in scores of authoritative works, but there are few, if any, of our first-class men thet have the courage to point to the further truth that our modern ideas of god are descended from these primitive and clearly mistaken beliefs, and rest on no other and no better foundations (stavo leggendo The Portable Atheist).
This is not the place to argue how we should strike a balance between these contributions of religion on one hand and the long cruel story of crusade and jihad and inquisition and pogrom on the other. But I do want to make this point that in striking this balance, it is not safe to assume that religious persecution and holy wars are perversions of true religion.
Lastly, to the prognostics of time to come, which are naturally but conjectures upon the experience of time past, and supernaturally, divine revelation, the same authors of the religion of the Gentiles, partly upon pretended experience, partly upon pretended revelation, have added innumerable other superstitious ways of divination, and made men believe they should find their fortunes, sometimes in the ambiguous or senseless answers of the priests at Delphi, Delos, Ammon, and other famous oracles; which answers were made ambiguous by design, to own the event both ways; or absurd, by the intoxicating vapour of the place, which is very frequent in sulphurous caverns: sometimes in the leaves of the Sibyls, of whose prophecies, like those perhaps of Nostradamus (for the fragments now extant seem to be the invention of later times), there were some books in reputation in the time of the Roman republic: sometimes in the insignificant speeches of madmen, supposed to be possessed with a divine spirit, which possession they called enthusiasm; and these kinds of foretelling events were accounted theomancy, or prophecy: sometimes in the aspect of the stars at their nativity, which was called horoscopy, and esteemed a part of judiciary astrology: sometimes in their own hopes and fears, called thumomancy, or presage: sometimes in the prediction of witches that pretended conference with the dead, which is called necromancy, conjuring, and witchcraft, and is but juggling and confederate knavery: sometimes in the casual flight or feeding of birds, called augury: sometimes in the entrails of a sacrificed beast, which was haruspicy: sometimes in dreams: sometimes in croaking of ravens, or chattering of birds: sometimes in the lineaments of the face, which was called metoposcopy; or by palmistry in the lines of the hand, in casual words called omina: sometimes in monsters or unusual accidents; as eclipses, comets, rare meteors, earthquakes, inundations, uncouth births, and the like, which they called portenta, and ostenta, because they thought them to portend or foreshow some great calamity to come: sometimes in mere lottery, as cross and pile; counting holes in a sieve; dipping of verses in Homer and Virgil; and innumerable other such vain conceits. So easy are men to be drawn to believe anything from such men as have gotten credit with them; and can with gentleness, and dexterity, take hold of their fear and ignorance.
Oggi primo giorno di Ramadam. The Sufi phenomenon is not easy to sum up or define. The Sufis never set out to found a new religion, a mazhab or denomination. They were content to live and work within the framework of the Moslem religion, using texts from the Quran much as Christian mystics have used to Bible to illustrate their tenets. Their aim was to purify and spiritualize Islam from within, to give it a deeper, mystical interpretation, and infuse into it a spirit of love and liberty. In the broader sense, therefore, in which the word religion is used in our time, their movement could well be called a religious one, one which did not aim at tying men down with a new set of rules but rather at setting them free from external rules and open to the movement of the spirit.
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