The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Third Commandment
The Third Commandment
"Thou shalt not take the name of the
Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will
not hold him guiltless that taketh his name
The Animistic Significance of Names
This Commandment follows in perfect continuity the previous one as regards the magical origin of religion and the taboos that are the inevitable outgrowth of a belief in animism. The taboo against mentioning names has the same genesis as the prohibition against making graven images. This Commandment emphasizes the vindictiveness of the priest-magician-god as exemplified by the Hebrew deity. Just as we discovered in the analysis of the Second Commandment that image making was prohibited because of the fear that a person could be sympathetically injured through his image, so we find that mentioning names was prohibited for the identical reason.
It was once firmly believed that a person's name was a substantial part of himself, and that serious injury could be inflicted on him just as effectively through the medium of his name as on his physical body. Primitive man considered his name a vital part of his soul, and his regard and care for it were a matter of serious concern.
To the primitive mind, that which had no name did not exist. Only after a name was given was a person supposed to have a "soul." In some languages the words for "name," "breath" and "soul" are synonymous. This is accounted for by the fact that a particular person responds to a particular name which he has received at birth. His name is his mark of identification, and he would be a "nobody" without it. He would feel as chagrined or hurt if he were denounced by name as though physically attacked; on the other hand, a pleasurable reaction would follow if favorable things were said about him when his name was used. [**1]
This belief, which is based on sympathetic magic, was widespread in primitive societies of the same tribal pattern as that of the early Hebrews. In order to understand the real significance and meaning of this Commandment and the reason for its inclusion in the Decalogue, it is pertinent to show its prevalence and influence upon the thoughts and actions of some primitive peoples.
The natives of the Duke of York Island believe that by persistently calling the name of a man whom they wish to appear, he will be drawn to them even from a great distance. [*2] The Zulus believe that to "name a being is to invoke him, to render him present." [**3]
The Indians of North America are afraid to utter their own names. Significant, as well as interesting, is the fact that the real name of the young Indian girl who saved the life of Captain John Smith was not Pocahontas It was Matokes. She was given the name of Pocahontas to conceal her real name from the British because of the superstitious fear that if her real name were known some injury would be inflicted on her. This superstition prevails throughout all Indian tribes, and personal names are mentioned with great reluctance. It is reported that on many occasions, while in court, Indians have refused to state the names of the persons involved in disputes. Often, when forced to make an identification, the Indian will move his lips, without speaking, in the direction of the person he wishes to identify. [*4] The North American Indian regards his name not as a mere label, but as distinct a part of his personality as his eyes or teeth. He believes that injury will result as surely from the malicious handling of his name as from a wound inflicted on any part of his physical organism. [*5]
One of the most serious charges that can be brought against a Hindu woman is to accuse her of mentioning her husband's name. [*6] A Bobo wife would rather be unfaithful than commit the monstrous sin of allowing her husband's name to pass her lips. In antiquity, Ionian women would not call their husbands by their names. After marriage, an Aino wife may not mention her husband's name; to do so would be deemed equivalent to killing him. [*7] The Tolampoos of Central Celebes believe that by writing a man's name his soul could be carried off.
Among the Taculius, the priest "seizes" the name of a dead man from his mouth, and "places" it on the forehead of one of those present. They believe that it becomes incorporated in him and will pass, by the sexual act, into the embryo of the first child born to this man's wife; the child will bear the name of the dead. [*8]
To the Egyptian no being is complete without a name, and he believes that by the use of magic a man's life can be taken from him through the medium of his name. Cursing a person when mentioning his name will bring upon him those misfortunes incorporated in the curse.
The medieval Germans believed that if a smock-frock was laid on the doorsill, and over it was pronounced the name of a person whom one wanted to injure, he would feel every blow as though he were inside it in the flesh. [*9]
The secrecy with which the Australian aborigine guards his name arises from the belief that if any enemy knows his name he can through some form of magic bring him injury. [*10] The Australians believe that "the life of an enemy may be taken by the use of his name in incantation." To that end the name given to a child at birth is held in the utmost secrecy and only imparted to him by his father on initiation. At the threshold of manhood (or womanhood) a new name is conferred upon him (or her), and the name he (or she) bore during infancy and childhood is forgotten. These people are also convinced that a curse will strike a foe dead at a distance of a hundred miles.
Among the Yuin of New South Wales, the totem name is said to have been something magical rather than a mere name in our sense, and it was kept secret lest an enemy should injure its bearer by sorcery. [*11]
The aborigines of Lake Tylers, in Victoria, mention the name of a member of their tribe with great reluctance. Their usual method of addressing each other is by the words "cousin," "friend" and "brother." [*12]
Among some primitive tribes, it is believed that even to utter one's own name is tantamount to parting with one's soul. The Ojibwa warn their children never to give their own names lest they cease to grow. In Java the natives believe that all that is needed to kill a person is to write his name on a piece of bone and bury it in a damp place; as the name gradually fades away, so will the person to whom it belongs. The ancient Greeks used to write the names of their foes on tablets and drive nails through them in the belief that they were inflicting injury on the actual person. [*13]
In Abyssinia, at the present day, it is customary to give a child a secret name at baptism and call him by a nickname which the mother gives him after the church ceremony. A similar belief prevailed among the Egyptians. Every Egyptian child received two names at birth, which were described as great and little names. The little name was made public and the great name was carefully concealed. [*14]
The Indians of British Columbia have a strange fear of uttering their own names, but have no hesitation in giving each other's names. [*15] The Abipone of South America thinks it a sin to utter his own name and, if asked what his name is, will nudge his neighbor to answer for him.
The Wolofs of Senegambia, even today, are very much annoyed if anyone calls them in a loud voice; for they say that their name will be remembered by an evil spirit and made use of by him to do them mischief at night.
Among the hill tribes of Assam, each individual has a private name which may not be revealed. Should anyone violate this rule, the whole village is tabooed for two days, during which a ceremonial feast is provided at the expense of the guilty one. Among the Kru Negroes of West Africa, a man's real name is always concealed from all but his nearest relations; to other people he is known only under an assumed name.
The Ewe-speaking people of the Slave Coast believe they can harm a person by "injuring" his name. This is usually done by beating the stump of a tree while pronouncing the name. This will bring the person to the stump, where he will meet his death. [*16]
While a member of the Bangala of the Upper Congo is away fishing or hunting, his name must not be mentioned by those of his household for fear that the spirits of the woods will bring ill luck to his efforts. [*17]
Among savage tribes the name is associated with the person and his accomplishments. The following is an admirable illustration recorded by Cadwallader Colden:
"The first time I was among the Mohawks, I had this compliment from one of their own Sachems, which he did by giving me his own name, Cayenderngue. He had been a notable Warrior; and he told me that now I had a right to assume to myself all the Acts of Valour he had performed, and that now my name would echo from Hill to Hill over all the Five Nations." [*18]
Ancient Chinese physicians used to write the name of their patients on a piece of paper, burn it to ashes, and then mix it with the medicine for the patient to swallow. This was to insure the identification of the medicine with the patient. [*19]
In Borneo it is the superstitious custom to change the name of a sickly child to deceive the evil spirits that torment it. In South America, among the Abipones and Lenguas, when a man died, his surviving family would change their names to cheat death when he should come to look for them. The Tonquin give their children ugly names to frighten the demons away from them. The Abyssinians conceal the names of their children for fear of bewitchment by evil spirits. [*20] This accounts for the prevalence of the belief that children of different families possessing the same names should not marry, because they would be unlucky; also that families of the same name should not live in the same community.
The Hebrews believed that if a man experienced ill fortune for a considerable length of time, he could change his luck by changing his name. [*21] Also, when several children in a Hebrew family have died, no name is given to the next one born. It is referred to as "Alter," in the belief that if the Angel of Death does not know the name of the child, he will be unable to seize it. Another widespread practice among orthodox Hebrews even today is to give a new name to a person who is very ill, so that the Angel of Death will not be able to recognize the one he is seeking. If the person recovers, he discards his old name and is known only by his new one. [*22] Many orthodox Hebrews consider it unlucky to call an only child by its right name.
Even the names of savage animals are never mentioned for fear lest they should suddenly appear. The natives of Madagascar never mention lightning for fear that it will suddenly strike. The Boziba never mention earthquakes for fear that one will occur. In Samoa rain is not mentioned because of the constant menace of storms. In China fire is not mentioned for fear of a conflagration. The ancient Scandinavians, while making beer, would not use the word denoting water for fear that the brew would turn out flat. [*23]
The Greeks avoided using the right names of the Furies (imaginary evil spirits). They believed that referring to them in a conciliatory manner would moderate them to a more desired attitude and disposition [*24]
The superstitious people in parts of London and Scotland, even as late as the eighteenth century, would not mention the name of the devil when reading the Bible for fear that he would appear. They avoided this "calamity" by corrupting the pronunciation of the word to "divil." [*25]
Another instance of the relationship between this Commandment and animism and sympathetic magic is furnished by the taboo against mentioning the names of the dead. Just as the orthodox Hebrew never fails to use the magic word "ava sholem" [*26] as a means of protection when mentioning the name of the dead, so do the superstitious people of Albania abstain from mentioning the names of their dead for fear of disturbing the ghosts of the departed. [*27] If, however, the name is inadvertently mentioned, they spit three times in propitiation for violating the taboo This is done for fear that the spirit of the dead man, which is supposed to hover over the place where he died, will return and do evil. [*28]
If primitive peoples were convinced that a man's name was an integral part of himself and that revealing it would put his life in jeopardy, one can well understand how seriously they regarded mentioning the sacred and secret name of their deity. If a mere mortal could be injured through the use of his name by an enemy, it was certainly that much more vital to protect the name of one's god. If a person of lesser degree conceals his identity from evil forces by the use of a substitute name, how much more necessary to protect the name of one's god.
Names of Gods Taboo
Just as it was believed that evil results would follow mentioning a person's name, so it was believed that if the name of a god were known and used contrary to his wishes, the consequences would be nothing short of a world catastrophe. In fact, there is abundant evidence available that primitive man, ignorant of the natural causes of events, attributed earthly disasters to those guilty of violating this taboo. [**29]
It was also the superstitious belief among primitive peoples that the Creator of the universe brought the world into existence by uttering his own name. "There was a time," says an ancient Egyptian papyrus, "when no one and nothing existed except himself. A desire came over him to create the world, and he carried it into effect by making his mouth utter his own name as a word of power; and straightway the world and all therein came into being." [*30] Even today Christianity maintains a similar belief with its doctrine of the creation of the world by the magical power of words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [*31]
There is a whole literature on the subject of what the Persians call the "science of names." Long after Joshua was supposed to have stopped the sun and the moon through the medium of magic, Australian medicine men were believed to be able, by the magic use of the name of their deity, to stop the sun, cause thunder, raise mountains, and create lakes and other wonders of nature, which the ignorant thought could be accomplished only by the omnipotent power of a God. [*32]
Religious leaders were supposed to have been able to talk to God solely because they could call him by his name. [*33]
This taboo of mentioning the name of a deity did not prevail only among the Hebrews; it was present in the religions of nearly all primitive peoples. [**34] The name of Brahma is as sacred in India as is the supposed name of the Bible Deity to the Hebrews. It is rarely mentioned, and only on the most solemn occasions. [*35]
The ancient Vedic god Rudra ("the Howler") was the maleficent and destructive power of nature, in some respects like the jealous and vindictive Hebrew God. He could cause storms, conflagrations, pestilences, disease and all manner of evil. He was never referred to by his real name, but was always called "Siva" ("the Gracious One"), in an effort to flatter him and thereby escape his wrath. [*36] Perhaps this same reason prompted the Children of Israel to refer to their tyrant in the sky by such endearing expressions as "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want," "The Lord is gracious, almighty," etc.
The following Hebrew hymn, which sings the praises of the Bible Deity, undoubtedly has a motivation of flattery to placate his vindictive nature as revealed in these Commandments:
"Lord eternal, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness unto thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin ... forgive Thou us our iniquities and also our sins, and take us for thine inheritance." [**37]
Some tribes of Indians consider it a profanation to mention the name of their highest divinity. Australian natives, when initiating their youth in the ritual of their religion, very often, through fear, omit pronouncing the name of their deity. The Marutse and allied tribes along the Zambesi shrink from mentioning the name of their chief god, Nyambe.
Cicero mentions the fact that among certain Egyptians it was criminal to mention the name of an Egyptian god, the son of Nilus. On two occasions Herodotus refused to mention the name of the god Osiris. The divine name of Indra was a secret, and the real name of the god Agni was unknown. The gods of Brahmanism have mystic names which nobody dares to speak.
Valerius Soranus is said to have been put to death for divulging the name of the Roman deity. [*38]
The great name of Allah is a secret known only to the prophets because it is believed that whosoever calls on him by his "great name" will obtain all his desires. Merely mentioning the name gives one the power "to raise the dead, kill the living, and to perform any miracle he pleases." [*39]
The real names of Amon and of Atumn "the mysterious" are unknown. The formidable names borne in classical antiquity by Zeus, Athene and Dionysus have never been found out; these names were guarded as great secrets for centuries, and were passed on only from high priest to high priest. They were never recorded and were thus lost to posterity. [*40] It is still authoritatively stated that we do not know the real name of Rome. [*41]
The secret names of the classical gods were very often so carefully preserved in depositories that even today we do not know the real personal names of most of the great figures of past religions; it is only the apparent names that we know. [*42]
A good illustration is the story of how the subtle Isis wrested from Ra, the great Egyptian god of the sun, his secret name:
Isis, so runs the tale, was a mortal woman mighty in words, and she was weary of the world of men, and yearned after the world of gods. And she meditated in her heart, saying, "Cannot I by virtue of the great name of Ra make myself a goddess and reign like him in heaven and earth?" For Ra had many names, but the great name which gave him power over gods and men was known to none but himself. Now the god was by this time grown old; he slobbered at the mouth and his spittle fell upon the ground. So Isis gathered up the spittle and the earth with it, and kneaded thereof a serpent, and laid it in the path where the great god passed every day to his double kingdom after his heart's desire. And when he came forth according to his wont, attended by all his company of gods, the sacred serpent stung him, and the god opened his mouth and cried, and his cry went up to heaven. And the company of gods cried, "What aileth thee?" and the gods shouted, "Lo and behold!" But he could not answer; his jaws rattled, his limbs shook, the poison ran through his flesh as the Nile floweth over the land. When the great god had stilled his heart, he cried to his followers, "Come to me, O my children, offspring of my body. I am a prince, the son of a prince, the divine son of a god. My father devised my name; my father and my mother gave me my name, and it remained hidden in my body since my birth, that no magician might have magic power over me. I went out to behold that which I have made, I walked in the two lands I have created, and lo! something stung me. What it was I know not. Was it fire? Was it water? My heart is on fire, my flesh trembleth, all my limbs do quake. Bring me the children of the gods with healing words and understanding lips, whose power reacheth to heaven." Then came to him the children of the gods, and they were very sorrowful. And Isis came with her craft, whose mouth is full with the breath of life, whose spell chaseth pain away, whose word maketh the dead to live. She said "What is it, divine Father? What is it?" The holy god opened his mouth, he spake and said, "I went upon my way, I walked after my heart's desire in the two regions which I have made to behold that which I have created, and lo! a serpent that I saw not stung me. Is it fire? Is it water? I am colder than water, I am hotter than fire, all my limbs sweat. I tremble, mine eye is not steadfast, I behold not the sky, the moisture bedeweth my face as in summer time." Then spake Isis, "Tell me thy name, divine Father, for the man shall live who is called by his name." Then answered Ra, "I created the heavens and the earth, I ordered the mountains, I made the great and wide sea, I stretched out the two horizons like a curtain. I am he who openeth his eyes and it is light, and who shutteth them and it is dark. At his command the Nile riseth, but the gods know not his name. I am Khepera in the morning, I am Ra at noon, I am Tum at eve." But the poison was not taken away from him; it pierced deeper, and the great god could no longer walk. Then said Isis to him, "That was not thy name that thou spakest unto me. Oh, tell it me, that the poison may depart; for he shall live whose name is named." Now the poison burned like fire, it was hotter than the flame of fire. The god said, "I consent that Isis shall search into me, and that my name shall pass from my breast into hers." Then the god hid himself from the gods, and his place in the ship of eternity was empty. Thus was the name of the great god taken from him, and Isis, the witch, spake, "Flow away, poison, depart from Ra. It is I, even I, who overcome the poison and cast it to the earth; for the name of the great god hath been taken away from him. Let Ra live and let the poison die." Thus spake great Isis, the queen of the gods who knows Ra and his true name. [*43]
According to the Avesta, the revelation of the greatest of the names of Ahura Mazda is besought by Zarathustra that he may conquer, and not be conquered by, all demons and men, all wizards and witches.
In late Hinduism we find the belief among Krsnaites, Ramaites and Savities, that "the mere repetition of their god's name is a means of salvation, so that sinner and heretic, if he die at last with Krishna's name upon his lips, will be saved"! [**44]
The sacred and secret names of gods were entrusted only to the high priests because it was necessary that the names be evoked in the proper manner to produce the magical results supposedly inherent in them. Since it was believed that a god's name was as fragile as life, it had to be pronounced with the same awe as the thing it represented. Unless the mysterious and magical formula was faithfully and properly performed in every detail of cadence, tonality, rhythm, and accent of each of the chanted syllables, there would be no results. Thus a thousand unsuccessful attempts were explained by the fact that the uninitiated did not possess the proper combination of the formula. The "successful" results were always shrouded in the mystery of the ritual. [*45]
Not only were the names of gods taboo, but the names of kings and other sacred persons were not to be used lightly and without due reverence.
The name of the king of Dahomey is always kept secret, lest knowledge of it should enable some evil-minded person to do him some mischief. In Burma it was accounted a most serious impiety to mention the name of the reigning sovereign. [*46] In Eastern Asia and Polynesia the names of kings and chiefs are held sacred; in Siam a substitute name must be used in speaking of the king. In Polynesia the prohibition to mention the chief's name has been deeply impressed on the natives. [*47] The name of the Japanese Mikado is so sacred that it is seldom mentioned and indeed is not known to a great portion of the public. A few years ago, when a Japanese mayor discovered that he had given his son the name which the Emperor bore, he resigned and, in propitiation of the breach of this taboo, killed himself. [*48]
Religious articles associated with a deity were likewise held in awe. Anything upon which the name of God is written is considered sacred. That is why the Torah may be handled only by a rabbi. The Bible is sacred. It must not be used except in a reverent manner, as it is considered "God's Word." Children of orthodox parents are forced to pick it up and kiss it if it falls to the floor. It is sometimes kissed in a court of law before giving testimony.
Because of the association with the name of God, religious buildings, such as temples and churches, are regarded as sacred. Many bow when passing them, and Catholics remove or tip their hats when passing a church of their faith.
Images of saints are considered sacred, and many a person has lost his life during a fire while attempting to recover "sacred" articles from the edifice in which they were kept. That these things were sacred and were capable of performing miracles there appeared to be no doubt, but that they could not save themselves from being burned in an ordinary fire where common, ordinary articles are saved is not subject to explanation.
The garments of high priests are "holy," and devotees consider it a rare privilege even to touch them. A ring worn by a high dignitary of the Catholic Church is considered "sacred." Persons who make slighting remarks about holy religious things are guilty of sacrilege and should expect no mercy from a wrathful God. [*49] In fact, at one time disease and misfortune were believed to be sent as punishment for lack of reverence for the name of God.
The Magical Use of God's Name
The Biblical testimony in support of the superstitious belief in the magical power of the supposed name of the Hebrew Deity is voluminous. One significant statement is found in Numbers, Chapter 6, verse 27:
27. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
As Judaism was founded on a belief in animism and sympathetic magic, this accounts for the mystical interpretation of the Bible and the assumption that certain names possessed mysterious occult powers. The one who knew the secret "combination" of the letters could do all manner of wonderful things -- gain supremacy over the invisible forces of evil, regulate the elements, or gain for himself divine favor. This belief is responsible for soothsayers, priests and sorcerers, who, because of their pretended knowledge of the secret combinations of divine names, have claimed heavenly contact through the mysterious medium of names and numbers, and the ability to connect heavenly forces with human events.
Certain portions of the Bible are incomprehensible without knowledge of the origin of primitive superstitions, such as animism and sympathetic magic. Religionists, ignorant of these origins, have therefore run riot in attempting to give "allegorical" interpretations to some of these meaningless phrases. They have also created forms of supplication which are an inevitable outgrowth of superstition: prayers, observing certain days of the week, abstaining from certain foods, fasting, mixing and non-mixing foods, genuflections, signs and ceremonies, forms of dress, mystic jugglery with numbers and letters, sprinkling water, doing penance, wearing charms to bring good luck, amulets to ward off evil influences, [**50] and literally thousands of silly deeds and incomprehensible actions that "passeth understanding" -- all for the purpose of transcending earthly affairs and becoming "one with God." This belief accounts for the intercession of priests to gain the favors of God, to be lucky in love, to secure a job, to cure disease, to bring sunshine for outings, and even to be successful in baking a loaf of bread.
It was also claimed that the priests knew how to combine the letters which formed the secret name of God by which heaven and earth were created, [*51] and could perform miracles in the name of the Hebrew God. The hand of the magician would, with this knowledge, possess the same power as that exercised by the Deity. [*52]
Through the magic power of the letters of the secret name of the God of Israel, it is claimed that Babylonian rabbis "created a calf by magic." [*53] They also believed that the name of God "creates and destroys worlds," [*54] and that by the proper combinations and permutations of the name of God, applied at the right time and in the right place, man could easily make himself the master of creation." [*55]
Jewish physicians were believed to have possession of this magic name and to use it effectively in the treatment of disease. [*56]
A vast literature on the magic use of this name of the Hebrew God was founded, and all forms of superstition took on a profound meaning; the irresponsible mutterings of those suffering from visions and hallucinations were interpreted as having divine significance. [*57]
If miracles were produced in the early days of Judaism by invoking the name of God, then why would it not be equally effective again? Influenced by this delusive belief, the medieval Hebrews sought the magic name of God, with which to repeat the wonders of the past so that manna from heaven would fall again.
How the imagination was fanned into believing the most outlandish tales of miraculous achievement can be gathered from the following incidents still to be found in the semi-sacred books of the orthodox Hebrews: "Raba created a man and sent him to R. Zeira, who conversed with him, but he could not answer, so he exclaimed, 'You are created by magic; return to your dust!'" And here is another: "Rabbis Hanina and Oshaya used to sit every Friday night and occupy themselves with the Book of Creation and create a three-year-old calf, which they ate." This miracle was accomplished by the simple process of combining "the letters of the Name by which the universe was created; this is not to be considered forbidden magic, for the works of God were brought into being through His Holy Name." [*58]
During the Middle Ages, when the cabalistic Hebrews were trying to discover the secret of how to perform the miracles attributed to Moses, it is recorded that "Elijah of Chelm created a golem from clay by means of the Sefer Yezirah. He inscribed the name of God upon its forehead, thus giving it life but withholding the power of speech. When the creature attained giant size and strength, the Rabbi, appalled by its destructive potentialities, erased the life-giving name from its forehead and it crumbled into dust." [*59]
The Jewish Encyclopedia records these significant references to the use of the name of God:
"The divine names of God, the Haggadah [sacred Hebrew book] says, were used to perform miracles by those who knew their combinations. King David, on making excavations for the Temple, and finding that the deep was moving upward, asked for permission to stop its rising, which threatened to destroy the world, by inscribing the name of God on a potsherd and throwing it into the deep. His minister, Ahithophel, who was well versed in law, permitted it." [*60]
It was also believed that the presence of the Torah scroll, containing the name of the Bible God, in the room of a prospective mother would facilitate the birth of the child, [*61] because of the belief in the sympathetic connection between the Deity and his name. Placing the Book of Leviticus under the head of a child when it was first put in the cradle was supposed to protect the infant from evil. [*62]
The word found at the beginning of a page of the Bible when it was opened at random, or the word touched by the thumb at the opening, was frequently used as an oracle for magical results. [*63] When a person was seriously ill, the Pentateuch -- the Five Books of Moses -- was opened and the name which first met the eye was added to the patient's name in the belief that this would avert death.
There was a proscription against even writing the name of God:
"The sacredness of the divine name must be recognized by the professional scribe who writes the Scriptures, or the chapters for the phylacteries and the mezuzah. Before transcribing any of the divine names, he prepares mentally to sanctify them. Once he begins a name, he does not stop until it is finished, and he must not be interrupted while writing it, even to greet a king. If an error is made in writing it, it may not be erased, but a line must be drawn round it to show that it is canceled, and the whole page must be put in a genizah and a new page begun." [*64]
In ordinary documents the mention of the name of God was forbidden. [*65] Not only was the secret name of the Hebrew Deity supposed to be able to produce results, but it was also believed that extraordinary power for the subjection of nature lay in the mystic use of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It was also believed that the allegorical and symbolical interpretation of the Bible could produce results not attained by human efforts alone. [*66]
The names of angels were also used for magical purposes. He who knew the names of certain angels and the spheres of their influence could ward off evil [*67] and control the powers of nature. [*68]
It is stated that at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, after the mighty hero, Abikaben Gafteri, had fallen, Haneel, the uncle of Jeremiah, conjured up angels who struck terror to the hearts of the Chaldeans, thus putting them to flight. But God, having decreed the fall of the city, had changed the names of the angels. Haneel summoned up the prince of the world by using the Ineffable Name, and he lifted Jerusalem into the air, but God cast it down again. [*69]
The names of Biblical characters have also been used to produce magical results. For instance, the name of Daniel is used for protection against wild beasts, the name of Moses against fire, Joseph against pollution, against the evil eye and, I presume, against seduction. The names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as of their wives, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, are to be used in a lying-in room. [*70]
The secret ways to use these names were many and various. Some were pronounced only in whispers, others over water upon which the sun had never shone, some while plucking vegetables, over salt, palm leaves and wine; some at certain times of the day; some were recited only once and some several times in succession; at times backwards and at times forwards; sometimes in combinations and sometimes in permutations; sometimes abbreviated and sometimes with one letter left off at a time. [*71] Some were written at various places and some on particular objects.
If there survives today a remnant of this belief in sympathetic magic and the hidden power of names, what must have been its influence in early superstitious days! We still name children after those who were strong, or successful, or intellectual, in the belief that the child will inherit the qualities possessed by its namesake. Biblical names are given children for the same reason. [**72]
Even prayer books are replete with references such as "Our Father, our King, do it (have compassion) for the sake of them that went through fire and water for the sanctification of Thy Name"; [*73] "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy Commandments and commanded us to love Thy glorious and awful Name."
As superstition is the weed of the brain, it grows profusely, once started. That accounts for the multitudinous necromantic acts performed for talismanic purposes. Bible passages are extensively used by the superstitious. The following are some examples:
To become invisible, read Genesis 1:1. To confuse a person's mind, and as a protection against pollution, read only the last letter of each word.
To lighten childbirth, read Genesis 21:1. To stop children from crying, read Genesis 25:14.
To avoid danger while traveling, read Genesis 32:31. For protection from a vicious dog, read Exodus 11:7. However, for greater security it is advised that you also carry a strong stick; if the verse should not prove efficacious, the stick will come in handy.
To be successful in a lawsuit, reading Exodus 15:16 has been highly recommended. [*74] However, today most people think it safer to get a lawyer.
Mothers today should welcome the revival of Bibliomancy as it would save them a lot of trouble and worry. Reading Deuteronomy 33:4 would provide them with the means of getting their children to school without trouble or mishap.
People with faulty memories (and this should be particularly directed to those who forget their obligations) are assured that reading Isaiah 26:1 will strengthen their ability to remember.
In the realms of sickness, there are also verses which are supposed to be highly beneficial. To prevent a miscarriage, read Psalms 1; against diseases of the eye, Chapter 6. [**75]
For protection against evil spirits, read Chapter 11; against being caught in a lie, Chapter 16; against being robbed, Chapter 18. The insurance companies should insist that all policyholders read this chapter of their Bible while the policy is in force.
To interpret the real meaning of dreams, Chapter 23 furnishes the key.
For women whose children die young, and as a protection against epidemics, Chapter 33 is highly recommended. This is particularly appropriate in time of war. To escape drunkenness, Chapter 27 will help, [*76] but experience has proved that abstaining from intoxicating liquors is a more reliable method.
To avoid losing one's job, Chapter 12 should be read.
For the man who has become tired of his wife, Chapter 46 gives the solution.
If you don't want to be baptized, Chapter 73 will protect you.
To gain new friends, read Chapter 3; against sudden death, Chapter 116; to protect oneself from slander, 117.
And here is an all-inclusive one: to sharpen the intellect, for disease of the eye, when one is in deep perplexity, against sin, wholesome for the spleen and kidneys, against temptation, to win favor, against weakness of the hands, on a journey, against catarrh, against weakness in the feet, against earache, against dizziness, and on taking children to school, read Chapter 119. For immunity against heart disease, lumbago and pain in the arm, read Chapters 139, 140, 141 and 142. Christian Scientists should become more familiar with Chapter 144, [*77] since they have decided that broken bones require medical attention and the human intellect has not quite attained the power to heal such fractures. There seems to be none for a pain in the neck, unless it be the insane practice of Bibliomancy in general.
If there is a belief in a personal God who created the world with a magic wand, then a belief in a magic formula to ward off the powers of evil which this God had to overcome in his act of creation follows as a necessary sequence. Under this delusion, it is small wonder that man's efforts were devoted to the pursuits of seeking the magic formula with which to appease and gain the approbation of such a God. If man experienced misfortune' he could account for it only by some disobedience to God's wishes. He therefore devoted his whole life to gaining the approbation of this deity whose moods were subject to human appeal and sacrifice. If evil was supposed to befall those who disobeyed God, and blessings were conferred upon those who kept his statutes and Commandments, the object of living was not devotion to mankind, but the adoration and appeasement of God. The magical use of his name to bring the desired results was the primary objective of those who sought to escape the duties of life.
The belief that man is the special creation of a God, and that the world was created for his benefit, is responsible for those fantastic views of life and the universe which have so plagued the human race. Man will never discover the causes of disease if he believes that they are sent by a God as punishment for sin. Man will not solve the problems of existence, or of his general welfare, until he abandons this false and delusive belief, looks upon himself as only an insignificant part of the universe, and understands his true relation to the other forms of life and existence.
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