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Plato, who, like moft of the ancient advocates for a future ftate, inferred the poft-existence of the foul from its pre-exiftence, abound with allufions to this doctrine. Indeed, it has been fuppofed by fome to have arifen naturally from the principles of the old atomical philofophy; and, accordingly, fuch of the Greek atomifts, who were not atheifts, ufually maintained the μετενσωμάτωσις of the foul as clofely conneded with its προTapist. This doctrine, however, was differently received, not only by the different fects of the Greek philofophers, but alfo by different individuals of the fame fect. Thus Timæus Locrus, and feveral other Pythagoreans, rejected the notion of the foul's tranfmigration into the bodies of beafts, refolving it into a mere allegorical defcription of the brutality of vice.
But the Hindoos admit the doctrine of the metempsychosis in its literal meaning and its largeft extent. They believe that the foul, which has been polluted by fin, or failed in its endeavours to attain the neceffary degree of perfection, is doomed to animate other bodies, till at length, by repeated regenerations, it has fhaken off every impurity, and is become fit to be re-united to the nature of Brahm, the universal spirit, from whom all fouls originally proceeded, and into whofe all-comprehending effence they will be at length abforbed again.
In the latter part of this lecture Kreefhna glances at the ceremonies prescribed in the Veds. He warns Arjoon against placing
*See Repub. lib. x. in fine. Phæd. p. 118. Edit. Cantab. 1683. Ενδενται δέ, ὥσπερ εικος, εις τα τοιαυτα ηθη όποια άτ' αν και μεμελετηκυίαι τις χωσιν ἐν τῷ βίῳ διον τας μεν γαςριμαργίας τε καὶ ύβρεις, και φιλοτησίας με με λετηκότας,και μη διευλαβημένες, εις τα των όνων γένη και των τούτων θηρίων είκος Evovoda, &c.--There is a ftriking fimilarity between the whole of this paffage of Plato and the following lines of Claudian, who defcribes Rhadamanthus him felf as affigning their refpective ftations to the fouls of the wicked according to the nature of their crimes:
Exæquat damnum meritis, et muta ferarum
+ Ήδη γαρ ποτ' εγώ γενομην κύρος τε κόρη τε,
Empedocles, quoted by Olympiodorus in his
any confidence in the obfervance of them-He affures him that they will entitle him only to an inferior and tranfient reward, and exhorts him rather to feek an asylum in wisdom.
In the portrait of his wife man the nil admirari feems to be the most prominent feature. A man is faid to be confirmed in wisdom, when he forfaketh every defire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and contented in himself. His mind is undisturbed in adverfity, he is happy and contented in profperity, and he is a ftranger to anxiety, fear, and anger. He is in all things without affection; and having received good or evil, neither rejoiceth at the one, nor is caft down by the other.' His wifdom is then faid to be moft firmly established, when, totus teres atque rotundus, like the tortoife, he can draw in all his members, and reftrain them from their wonted purposes.'
Lecture III. treats of Works.'-Kreefhna here feems to exhort Arjoon to the performance of works on political rather than moral motives; rather with a view to the influence of his example on the vulgar, than to any real merit or efficacy in the works themselves.
The man of low degree followeth the example of him who is above him, and doeth that which he doeth. I myself, Arjoon, have not, in the three regions of the univerfe, any thing which is neceffary for me to perform, nor any thing to obtain which is not obtained; and yet I live in the exercife of the moral duties. If I were not vigilantly to attend to thefe duties, all men would prefently follow my example. If I were not to perform the moral actions, this world would fail in their duty; I fhould be the caufe of fpurious births, and should drive the people from the right way. As the ignorant perform the duties of life from the hope of reward, fo the wife man, out of refpect to the opinions and prejudices of mankind, fhould perform the fame without motives of intereft. He should not create a divifion in the understandings of the ignorant, who are inclined to Outward works. The learned man, by industriously performing all the duties of life, fhould induce the vulgar to attend to them.'
Lecture IV. Of the forfaking of Works.'-In the beginning of this lecture, the idea which the Hindoos entertain of the feveral incarnations of the Deity, and of the various revelations which they believe him to have made of himself in different ages, is clearly and diftin&tly ftated. Kreefhna afferts the antiquity of the doctrine which he is now delivering to Arjoon, and fays, that in former times he had communicated it to Eekfhwakoo, and others, whom he mentions. Arjoon, ftaggered at the apparent impoffibility of this, afks- Seeing thy birth is pofterior to the life of Eekfhwakoo, how am I to understand that thou haft been formerly the teacher of this doctrine?' Kreefhna replies, ⚫ Both I and thou have paffed many births. Mine are known unto me; but thou knoweft not of thine. Although I am not in my nature fubject to birth or decay, and am the lord of all
created beings; yet, having command over my own nature, I I am made evident by my own power; and as often as there is a decline of virtue, and an infurrection of vice and injuftice in the world, I make myself evident; and thus I appear, from age to age, for the prefervation of the juft, the deftruction of the wicked, and the eftablishment of virtue.' He then proceeds to explain what is meant by the forfaking of works. He exhorts Arjoon to behold, as it were, inaction in action'-to let every undertaking be free from the idea of defire'-to be always contented and independent,' and although he may be engaged in a work, to do, as it were, nothing.' He then afferts the fuperiority of wisdom. Know,' fays he, that the worship of fpiritual wisdom is far better than the worship with offerings of things. In wisdom is to be found every work without exception. Seek then this wisdom with proftrations, with questions, and with attention, that thofe learned men who fee its principles may inftruct thee in its rules; which having learnt, thou shalt not again, O fon of Pandoo, fall into folly; by which thou fhalt behold all nature in the fpirit; that is, in me. Although thou wert the greatest of all offenders, thou fhalt be able to crofs the gulf of fin with the bark of wisdom. As the natural fire, O Arjoon, reduceth the wood to afhes, fo may the fire of wildom reduce all moral actions to ashes.'
Lecture V. treats Of forfaking the Fruits of Works.'- But as the fame fubject feems to be difcuffed more fully in the laft lecture, we shall defer our account of the doctrine to that place. Lecture VI. Of the Exercife of the Soul.'-Here, and indeed in almost every page of the Geeta, the great merit of total abftra&tion from fenfible objects, and the fupreme happiness of contemplation, is ftrongly infifted on. The following very curious defcriptions will convey to our readers fome idea of the means which the Hindoo devotees make use of to facilitate this feparation of the mind from the notices of the fenfes: The man who keepeth the outward accidents from entering his mind, and his eyes fixed in contemplation between his brows; who maketh the breath to pass through both his noftrils alike in expiration and inspiration; who is of fubdued faculties, mind, and underftanding, and hath fet his heart upon falvation; and who is free from lutt, fear, and anger, is for ever bleffed in this life; and, being convinced that I am the cherither of religious zeal, the lord of all worlds, and the friend of all nature, he fhall obtain me and be bleffed.' Again, The Yogee conftantly exerciseth the spirit in private. He is reclufe, of a fubdued mind and fpirit; free from hope, and free from perception. He planteth his own feat firmly on a fpot that is undefiled, neither too high nor too low, and fitteth upon the facred grafs which is called Koos, covered with a fkin and a cloth. There he, whofe bufi
nefs is the reftraining of his paffions, fhould fit, with his mind fixed on one object alone, in the exercise of his devotion for the purification of his foul, keeping his head, his neck, and body, teady without motion, his eyes fixed on the point of his nofe, looking at no other place around. The peaceful foul, releafed from fear, who would keep in the path of one who followeth God, fhould reftrain the mind, and, fixing it on me, depend on me alone. The Yogee of an humbled mind, who thus conftantly exercifeth his foul, obtaineth happiness incorporeal and fupreme in me.' Mr. Haftings, in his letter (page 8.), informs us that he was himself once a witnefs of a man employed in this fpecies of devotion at the principal temple of Banaris. His right hand and arm were enclosed in a loose sleeve or bag of red cloth, within which he paffed the beads of his rofary, one after another, through his fingers, repeating with the touch of each (as I was informed) one of the names of God, while his mind laboured to catch and dwell on the idea of the quality which appertained to it, and fhewed the violence of its exertion to attain this purpose by the convulfive movements of all his features, his eyes being at the fame time closed, doubtless to affift the abftraction.'
The great object of Plato's philofophy was to raise the mind to the contemplation of the divine nature. With this view he frequently recommends an abstraction from fenfible objects, not altogether unlike that which the Geeta prefcribes, though he is lefs ridiculous in the means by which he thinks this abstraction is to be attained. In the Phædon, Socrates is reprefented as fpeaking thus of the foul—λογιζεται δε γε πς τοτε καλλιςα όταν αυτην τέτων μηδεν παραλυπῃ, μητε ακοη, μηζε οψις, μητε αλγηδων, μητε τις ήδονη, αλλ' ότι μαλις καύλη καθ' αυτην γιγνηται, εωσα χαιζειν το σώμα, και καθ' όσον δύναται, μη κοινωνεσα αυτῷ, μηδ' απτομενη, ogεynTaι TE alos. Phæd. p. 86. Edit. Cantab. Again, p. 89. Ενώ αν ζώμεν, ὡς εοικεν, είγυτατως εσομεθα τα ειδεναι, εαν ότι μαλιςα μηδὲν ὁμιλωμεν τῷ σώματι, μηδε κοινωνωμεν (ότι μη πασα αναγκή) μηδε αναπιμπλωμεθα της τοτε φυσεως, αλλα καθαρεύωμεν απ' αυτό, έως αν ο Θεος αυλος απολυση ήμας.
The method which Plato recommends, in order to arrive at this degree of abstraction, is this. He is every where careful to diffinguish between fenfibles and intelligibles. The latter only he thinks worthy to be denominated real beings; the former he confiders merely as hadows of them. This pofition is elegantly illustrated in the beginning of the feventh book of the Republic, where Socrates compares those who mistake the objects of fenfe for real beings, to perfous bound neck and heels in a cave, in fuch a fituation as to fee nothing but fhadows. The great end of education, he fays, is to turn the intellectual eye to the perception of its proper objects, to raife it by a
gradual afcent through
through the various claffes of intelligibles, till at length it be enabled to contemplate the fupreme good. Of the various parts of learning, those which conduce moft to this end are arithmetic, geometry, aftronomy, and mufic. Even thefe, however, are to be confidered only as the handmaids to the first and highest philofophy.
And here we would obferve, by the way, that Plato has been often expofed to unmerited abuse for his notions on this fubject. He never thought that this contemplative humour fhould be indulged fo as to obftruct the duties of focial or civil life. In the firft Alcibiades the knowledge of God is confidered as the means of knowing ourselves; and in the Republic the practical use of the fame fublime theology is faid to confift in regulating our conduct by a perfect model. P... s.
[To be concluded in our next.]
ART. III. A New and General Biographical Dictionary; containing an hiftorical and critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the most eminent Perfons in every Nation, particularly the British and Irish; from the earliest Account of Time to the present Period. A new Edition, greatly enlarged and improved. 8vo. 12 Vols. 31. 12s. Boards. Payne, &c.
N the 28th volume of our Review, we gave an account of the first impreffion of this ufeful and judicious compilation, which we then thought was as well executed as the plan would admit. It now comes to our hands in a very improved ftate, containing upwards of 600 new lives, chiefly of fuch illuftrious men as have died fince the year 1761, when the first edition* of this work was published; or of fuch as had been overlooked and omitted by the former editors. From the nature of the performance it must be acknowledged, that a ftate of perfection cannot be expected, efpecially in the lives of perfons lately deceased. Want of proper information, the prejudices of friends or admirers, the calumnies of enemies, and the fuggeftions of envy, to which illuftrious characters are peculiarly liable, all contribute to augment the difficulty under which the biographer labours. Time overcomes moft of thefe impediments, except the first, which it evidently, in many cafes at least, increases; and thus the more diftant part of biography ftands in frequent need of emendations and corrections, for retrenching fuperfluities, fupplying deficiencies, and rectifying the miftakes which may unintentionally have been committed. Of this we have feveral proofs in the work before us. We may give an inftance in the life of Calvin. Thinking it a great object of the biographer's attention, to select fuch actions as are most characteristic of the genius and difpofi
* It first appeared in 11 Vols. the 12th was afterwards added.