Salomon Maimon.

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One was the Tree^ or the representation of the divine
emanations in their manifold and intricate complexities.
The other was God's Beard^ in which the hairs are
divided into numerous classes wuth something peculiar
to each, and every hair is a separate channel of divine
grace. With all my efforts I could not find in these
representations any rational meaning.

My prolonged visits however were extremely incon-
venient to the preacher. He had, a short time before,
married a pretty young wife ; and as his modest little
house consisted of a single apartment, which was at once
parlour, study, and bedroom, and as I sat in it at times
reading the whole night, it happened not infrequently
that my elevation above the sphere of sense came into
collision with his sensibility. Consequently, he hit upon
a good plan for getting rid of the incipient Cabbalist.
He said to me one day, " I observe that it necessarily
puts you to a great deal of inconvenience to spend your
time constantly away from home for the sake of these
books. You may take them home with you one by one
if you please, and thus study them at your convenience."

To me nothing could be more welcome. I took home

I oo Solo7no7i Maimon :

one book after another, and studied them till I believed
that I had mastered the whole of the Cabbalah. I con-
tented myself not merely with the knowledge of its
principles and manifold systems, but sought also to make
a proper use of these. There was not a passage to be
met with in the Holy Scriptures or in the Talmud, the
occult meaning of which I could not have unfolded,
according to Cabbalistic principles, with the greatest

The book entitled Shaarei Orah * came to be of very
good service here. In this book are enumerated the
manifold names of the ten Sephiroth, which form the
principal subject of the Talmud, so that a hundred or
more names are given to each. In every word of a verse
in the Bible, or of a passage in the Talmud, I found
therefore the name of some Sephirah. But as I knew
the attribute of every Sephirah, and its relation to the
rest, I could easily bring out of the combination of names
their conjoint effect.

To illustrate this by a brief example, I found in the book
just mentioned, that the r\2imQ Jehovah represents the six
highest Sephiroth (not including the first three), or the
person of the Godhead generis niascuUni, while the word
Koh means the Shechmah or the person of the Godhead
generis fe)ni?iim, and the word a7?iar denotes sexual

The Gates of Light. — Trans,

An Autobiography. loi

union. The words, " Koh amar Jehova,"* therefore,
I explained in the following way, " Jehovah unites with
the Shechinah," and this is high Cabbalism. Accord-
ingly, when 1 read this passage in the Bible, I thought
nothing else, but that, when I uttered these words, and
thought their occult meaning, an actual union of these
divine spouses took place, from which the whole world
had to expect a blessing. Who can restrain the excesses
of imagination, when it is not guided by reason ?

With the Cabbalah Maasith, or the practical Cabbalah,
I did not succeed so well as with the theoretical. The
preacher boasted, not publicly indeed, but to everybody
in private, that he was master of this also. Especially he
professed roeh veeno nireh (to see everything, but not to
be seen by others), that is, to be able to make himself

About this trick I was specially anxious, in order that
I might practise some wanton jokes on my comrades.
More particularly I formed a plan for keeping my ill-
tempered mother-in-law in check by this means. I
pretended that my object was merely to do good, and
guard against evil. The preacher consented, but said at
the same time, that on my part certain preparations were
required. Three days in succession I was to feast, and
every day to say some Ichudi7n. These are Cabbalistic
forms of prayer, whose occult meaning aims at produc-

* "Thus saith the Lord " in the English version. — Trans.

I02 Solomon Maimon:

ing in the intellectual world sexual unions, through
means of which certain results are to be brought about
in the physical.

I did everything with pleasure, made the conjuration
which he had taught me, and believed with all confidence
that I was now invisible. At once I hurried to the Beth
Hamidrash, the Jewish academy, went up to one of my
comrades, and gave him a vigorous box on the ear. He
however was no coward, and returned the blow with
interest. I started back in astonishment ; I could not
understand how he had been able to discover me, as I
had observed with the utmost accuracy the instructions
of the preacher. Still I thought I might, perhaps, un-
wittingly and unintentionally have neglected something.
I resolved, therefore, to undertake the operation anew.
This time, however, I was not going to venture on the
test of a box on the ear; I went into the academy merely
to watch my comrades as a spectator. As soon as I
entered, however, one of them came up to me, and
showed me a difficult passage in the Talmud, which he
wished me to explain. I stood utterly confounded, and
disconsolate over the failure of my hopes.

Thereupon I went to the preacher, and informed him
of my unsuccessful attempt. Without blushing, he re-
plied quite boldly, " If you have observed all my in-
structions, I cannot explain this otherwise than by sup-
posing that you arc unfit for being thus divested of the
visibility of your body." With great grief, therefore, I

A?i Autobiography. 103

was obliged to give up entirely the hope of making my-
self invisible.

This disappointed hope was followed by a new delu-
sion. In the preface to the Book of Raphael, which the
angel of that name is said to have delivered to our first
father Adam at his banishment from paradise, I found
the promise, that whoever keeps the book in his house
is thereby insured against fire. It was not long, how-
ever, before a conflagration broke out in the neighbour-
hood, when the fire seized my house too, and the angel
Raphael himself had to go up into heaven in this chariot
of fire.

Unsatisfied with the literary knowledge of this science,
I sought to penetrate into its spirit ; and as I perceived
that the whole science, if it is to deserve this name, can
contain nothing but the secrets of nature concealed in
fables and allegories, I laboured to find out these secrets,
and thereby to raise my merely literary knowledge to a
rational knowledge. This, however, I could accomplish
only in a very imperfect manner at the time, because I
had yet very few ideas of the sciences in general. Still,
by independent reflection I hit upon many applications
of this kind. Thus, for example, I explained at once
the first instance with which the Cabbalists commonly
begin their science.

It is this. Before the world was created, the divine
being occupied the whole of infinite space alone. But
God wished to create a world, in order that He might

1 04 Solomon Maiinon :

reveal those attributes of His nature which refer to other
beings besides Himself For this purpose He contracted
Himself into the centre of His perfection, and issued into
the space thereby left void ten concentric circles of light,
out of which arose afterwards manifold figures {Farzo-
phim) and gradations down to the present world of sense.

I could not in any way conceive that all this was to
be taken in the common sense of the words, as nearly
all Cabbalists represent it. As little could I conceive
that, before the world had been created, a time had past,
as I knew from my Moreh Nebhochim^ that time is a
modification of the world, and consequently cannot be
thought without it. Moreover, I could not conceive
that God occupies a space, even though it be infinite ;
or that He, an infinitely perfect being, should contract
Himself, like a thing of circular form, into a centre.

Accordingly I sought to explain all this in the follow-
ing way. God is prior to the world, not in time, but in
His necessary being as the condition of the world. All
things besides God must depend on Him as their cause,
in regard to their essence as well as their existence. The
creation of the world, therefore, could not be thought as
a bringing forth out of nothings nor as a formation of
something independent on God, but only as a bringing
forth out of Himself. And as beings are of difi'erent
grades of perfection, we must assume for their explana-
tion different grades of limitation of the divine being.
But since this limitation must be thought as extending

An Autobiography. 105

from the infinite being down to matter, we represent the
beginning of the limitation in a figure as a centre (the
lowest point) of the Infinite.

In fact, the Cabbalah is nothing but an expanded
Spinozism, in which not only is the origin of the world
explained by the hmitation of the divine being, but also
the origin of every kind of being, and its relation to the
rest, are derived from a separate attribute of God. God,
as the ultimate subject and the ultimate cause of all
beings, is called Ensoph (the Infinite, of which, con-
sidered in itself, nothing can be predicated). But in re-
lation to the infinite number of beings, positive attributes
are ascribed to Him; these are reduced by the Cabbalists
to ten, which are called the ten Sephiroth.

In the book, Fardes, by Rabbi Moses Kordovero, the
question is discussed, whether the Sephiroth are to be
taken for the Deity Himself or not. It is easy to be
seen, however, that this question has no more difficulty
in reference to the Deity, than in reference to any other

Under the ten circles I conceived the ten categories
or predicaments of Aristotle, with which I had become
acquainted in the Moreh Nebhochim, — the most universal
predicates of things, without which nothing can be
thought. The categories, in the strictest critical sense,
are the logical forms, which relate not merely to a logical
object, but to real objects in general, and without which
these cannot be thought. They have their source, there-


I o6 Solomon Mai??io?i :

fore, in the subject itself, but they become an object of
consciousness only by reference to a real object. Con-
sequently, they represent the ten Sephiroth, which be-
long, indeed, to the Ensoph in itself, but of which the
reality is revealed only by their special relation to, and
effect upon, objects in nature, and the number of which
can be variously determined in various points of view.

But by this method of explanation I brought upon
myself many an annoyance. For the Cabbalists main-
tain that the Cabbalah is not a human, but a divine,
science; and that, consequently, it would be degrada-
tion of it, to explain its mysteries in accordance with
nature and reason. The more reasonable, therefore, my
explanations proved, the more were the Cabbalists
irritated with me, inasmuch as they held that alone to
be divine, which had no reasonable meaning. Accord-
ingly I had to keep my explanations to myself. An
entire work, that I wrote on the subject, I brought with
me to Berlin, and preserve still as a monument of the
struggle of the human mind after perfection, in spite of
all the hindrances which are placed in its way.

Meanwhile this could not satisfy me. I wished to get
an insight into the sciences, not as they are veiled in
fables, but in their natural light. I had already, though
very imperfectly, learned to read German ; but where
was I to obtain German books in Lithuania ? Fortun-
ately for me I learned that the chief rabbi of a neighbour-
ing town, who in his youth had lived for a while in

An Autobiography. 107

Germany, and learned the German language there, and
made himself in some measure acquainted with the
sciences, continued still, though in secret, to work at the
sciences, and had a fair library of German books.

I resolved therefore to make a pilgrimage to S , in

order to see the chief rabbi, and beg of him a few
scientific books. I was tolerably accustomed to such
journeys, and had gone once thirty miles* on foot to see
a Hebrew work of the tenth century on the Peripatetic
philosophy. Without therefore troubling myself in the
least about travelling expenses or means of conveyance,
and without saying a word to my family on the subject,
I set out upon the journey to this town in the middle of
winter. As soon as I arrived at the place, I went to the
chief rabbi, told him my desire, and begged him earnestly
for assistance. He was not a little astonished ; for, during
the thirty one years which had passed since his return
from Germany, not a single individual had ever made
such a request. He promised to lend me some old
German books. The most important among these were
an old work on Optics, and Sturm's Physics.

I could not sufficiently express my gratitude to this
excellent chief rabbi; I pocketed the few books, and
returned home in rapture. After I had studied these
books thoroughly, my eyes were all at once opened. I
believed that I had found a key to all the secrets of

* About 150 English miles. — Trans.

io8 Solofjwn Maimon:

nature, as I now knew the origin of storms, of dew, of
rain, and such phenomena. I looked down with pride
on all others, who did not yet know these things, laughed
at their prejudices and superstitions, and proposed to
clear up their ideas on these subjects and to enlighten
their understanding.

But this did not always succeed. I laboured once to
teach a Talmudist, that the earth is round, and that we
have antipodes. He however made the objection, that
these antipodes would necessarily fall off. I endeavoured
to show that the falling of a body is not directed towards
any fixed point in empty space, but towards the centre
of the earth, and that the ideas of Over and Under re-
present merely the removal from and approach to this
centre. It was of no avail ; the Talmudist stood to his
ground, that such an assertion was absurd.

On another occasion I went to take a walk with some
of my friends. It chanced that a goat lay in the way. I
gave the goat some blows with my stick, and my friends
blamed me for my cruelty. " What is the cruelty ? "
I replied. '' Do you believe that the goat feels a pain,
when I beat it ? You are greatly mistaken ; the goat is
a mere machine." This was the doctrine of Sturm as a
disciple of Descartes.

My friends laughed heartily at this, and said, " But
don't you hear that the goat cries, when you beat it ? "
" Yes," I replied, " of course it cries ; but if you beat a
drum, it cries too." They were amazed at my answer,

An Autobiography. 109

and in a short time it went abroad over the whole town,
that I had become mad, as I held that a goat is a drum.

From my generous friend, the chief rabbi, I received
afterwards two medical works, Kulm's Anatomical Tables
and Voit's Gaziopilatiiwi. The latter is a large medical
dictionary, containing, in a brief form, not only explana-
tions from all departments of medicine, but also their
manifold applications. In connection with every disease
is given an explanation of its cause, its symptoms, and
the method of its cure, along with even the ordinary
prescriptions. This was for me a real treasure. I
studied the book thoroughly, and believed myself to
be master of the science of medicine, and a complete

But I was not going to content myself with mere
theory in this matter ; I resolved to make regular applica-
tion of it. I visited patients, determined all diseases
according to their circumstances and symptoms, ex-
plained their causes, and gave also prescriptions for
their cure. But in this practice things turned out very
comically. If a patient told me some of the symptoms
of his disease, I guessed from them the nature of the
disease itself, and inferred the presence of the other
symptoms. If the patient said that he could trace none
of these, I stubbornly insisted on their being present all
the same. The conversation therefore sometimes came
to this : —

J. " You have headache also."

1 1 o Solomon Mavno7i :

Patient " No."

/. " But you must have headache."

As many symptoms are common to several diseases,
I took not infrequently quid pro quo. Prescriptions I
could never keep in my head, so that, when I prescribed
anything, I was obliged to go home first and turn up my
Gaziopilatium. At length I began even to make up
drugs myself according to Voit's prescriptions. How
this succeeded, may be imagined. It had at least this
good result, that I saw something more was surely
required for a practical physician than I understood at
the time.

Ah Autobiography,

1 1 1


A brief Exposition of the Jewish Relij^ion, from its Origin down
to the most recent Times.

To render intelligible that part of the story of my life,
which refers to my sentiments regarding religion, I must
first give in advance a short practical history of the Jtiuish
religion^ and at the outset say something of the idea of
religion in general^ as well as of the difference between
natural and positive religion.

Religion in general is the expression of gratitude,
reverence and the other feelings, which arise from the
dependence of our weal and woe on one or more
powers to us unknown. If we look to the expression of
these feelijigs in general^ without regard to the particular
mode of the expression, religion is certainly natural to man.
He observes many effects which are of interest to him,
but whose causes are to him unknown ; and he finds
himself compelled, by the universally recognised Principle
of Sufficient Reason, to suppose these causes, and to
express towards them the feelings mentioned.

This expression may be of two kinds, in conformity
either with the imagination or with reason. For either


Solomon Maivion:

man imagines the causes to be analogous to the effects,
and ascribes to them in themselves such attributes as
are revealed through the effects, or he thinks them merely
as causes of certain effects, without seeking thereby to
determine their attributes in themselves. These two
modes are both natural to man, the former being in
accordance with his earlier condition, the latter with that
of his perfection.

The difference between these two modes of representa-
tion has as its consequence another difference of religions.
The first mode of representation, in accordance with which
the causes are supposed to be similar to the effects, is the
mother of polytheisfji or heathenism. But the second is
the basis of true religion. For as the kinds of effects
are different, the causes also, if held to be like them,
must be represented as different from one another. On
the other hand, if, in accordance with truth, we conceive
the idea of cause in general for these effects, without
seeking to determine this cause, either /;z fe^ (since it
is wholly unknown), or analogically by help of the
imagination, then we have no ground for supposing
several causes, but require to assume merely a single
subject, wholly unknown, as cause of all these effects.

The different philosophical systems of theology are
nothing but detailed developments of these different modes
of representation. The atheistic system of theology, if so
it may be called, rejects altogether this idea of a first
cause, (as, according to the critical system at least, it is

An Autobiography. 1 1 3

merely of regulative use as a necessary idea of reason).
All effects are referred to particular known or unknown
causes. In this there cannot be assumed even a co?i-
nection between the various effects, else the reason of this
connection would require to be sought beyond the
connection itself.

The Spinozistic system, on the contrary, supposes one
and the same substance as immediate cause of all
various effects, which must be regarded as predicates of
one and the same subject. Matter and 7ni7id are, with
Spinoza, one and the same substance, which appears,
now under the former, now under the latter attribute.
This single substance is, according to him, not only the
sole being that can be self-dependent, that is, independent
of any external cause, but also the sole self sub sistent
being, all so-called beings besides it being merely its
7}iodeSi that is, particular limitations of its attributes.
Every particular effect in nature is referred by him, not
to its proximate cause (which is merely a mode), but
immediately to this first cause, which is the common
substance of all beings.

In this system unity is real, but multiplicity is merely
ideal. In the atheistic system it is the opposite. Mul-
tiplicity is real, being founded on the nature of things
themselves. On the other hand, the unity, which is
observed in the order and regularity of nature, is merely
an accident, by which we are accustomed to determine
our arbitrary system for the sake of knowledge. It is


Solomon Matmon

inconceivable therefore how any one can make out the
Spinozistic system to be atheistic, since the two systems
are diametrically opposed to one another. In the latter
the existence of God is denied, but in the former the
existence of the world. Spinoza's ought therefore to be
called rather the acosmic system.

The Leibfiitzian system holds the mean between the
two preceding. In it all particular effects are referred
immediately to particular' causes ; but these various
effects are thought as cofinected in a single system, and
the cause of this connection is sought in a being beyond

Positive religion is distinguished from natural in the
very same way as the positive laws of a state from
natural laws. The latter are those which rest on a
self-acquired, indistinct knowledge, and are not duly
defined in regard to their application, while the former
rest on a distinct knowledge received from others, and
are completely defined in regard to their application.

A positive religion however must be carefully distin-
guished from a political religion. The former has for its
end merely the correction and accurate definition of
knowledge, that is, instruction regarding the first cause :
and the knowledge is communicated to another, accord-
ing to the measure of his capacity, just as it has been
received. But the latter has for its end mainly the
welfare of the state. Knowledge is therefore communi-
cated, not just as it has been received, but only in so far

An Autobiography. 115

as it is found serviceable to this end. Politics, merely
as politics, requires to concern itself about true religion
as little as about true ?noralify. The injury, that might
arise from this, can be prevented by other means which
influence men at the same time, and thus all can be kept
in equilibrium. Every political religion is therefore at
the same time positive, but every positive religion is not
also political.

Natural religion has no mysteries any more than merely
positive religion. For there is no mystery implied in
one man being unable to communicate his knowledge to
another of defective capacity wnth the same degree of
completeness which he himself has attained ; otherwise
mysteries might be attributed to all the sciences, and
there would then be mysteries of ??iathematics as well as
mysteries of religion. Only political religion can have
mysteries, in order to lead men in an indirect way to the
attainment of \hQ political end^ inasmuch as they are made
to believe that thereby they can best attain their private
ends, though this is not always in reality the case.
There are lesser and greater mysteries in the political
religions. The former consist in the material knowledge
of all particular operations and their connection with
one another. The latter, on the contrary, consist in the
knowledge of the form, that is, of the end by which the
former are determined. The former constitute the
totality of the laws of religion, but the latter contains the
spirit of the laws.

1 1 6 Solomon Maiinon :

The Jeivish religion^ even at its earliest origin among
the nomadic patriarchs, is already distinguished from the
heathe7i as natural religion^ inasmuch as, instead of the
many comprehensible gods of heathenism, the unify of an
incoinprehensible God lies at its foundation. For as the
particular causes of the effects, which in general give
rise to a religion, are in themselves unknown, and we do
not feel justified in transferring to the causes the
attributes of the particular effects, in order thereby to
characterise them, there remains nothing but the idea of
cause in general, which must be related to all effects
without distinction. This cause cannot even be atialogi-

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