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The Magician of the Israelites, notwithstanding the pilgrimages, wars, and miseries of that most unruly nation. He covertly laid down the principles of the doctrine in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but withheld them from Deuteronomy. Moses also initiated the Seventy Elders into these secrets, and they in turn transmitted them from hand to hand. Of all who formed the unbroken line of tradition, David and Solomon were the most deeply learned in the Kabbalah. No one, however, dared to write it down till Schimeon ben Jochai, who lived in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and after his death the Rabbi Eleazar, his son, and the Rabbi Abba, his secretary, collected his manuscripts and from them composed the celebrated treatise called Zohar.' 'And how much do you believe of this marvellous story?' asked Arthur Burdon. 'Not a word,' answered Dr Porhoet, with a smile. 'Criticism has shown that Zohar is of modern origin. With singular effrontery, it cites an author who is known to have lived during the eleventh century, mentions the Crusades, and records events which occurred in the year of Our Lord 1264. It was some time before 1291 that copies of Zohar began to be circulated by a Spanish Jew named Moses de Leon, who claimed to possess an autograph manuscript by the reputed author Schimeon ben Jochai. But when Moses de Leon was gathered to the bosom of his father Abraham, a wealthy Hebrew, Joseph de Avila, promised the scribe's widow, who had been left destitute, that his son should marry her daughter, to whom he would pay a handsome dowry, if she would give him the original manuscript from which these copies were made. But the widow (one can imagine with what gnashing of teeth) was obliged to confess that she had no such manuscript, for Moses de Leon had composed Zohar out of his own head, and written it with his own right hand.' Arthur got up to stretch his legs. He gave a laugh. 'I never know how much you really believe of all these things you tell us. You speak with such gravity that we are all taken in, and then it turns out that you've been laughing at us.' 'My dear friend, I never know myself how much I believe,' returned Dr Porhoet. 'I wonder if it is for the same reason that Mr Haddo puzzles us so much,' said Susie. 'Ah, there you have a case that is really interesting,' replied the doctor. 'I assure you that, though I know him fairly intimately, I have never been able to make up my mind whether he is an elaborate practical joker, or whether he is really convinced he has the wonderful powers to which he lays claim.' 'We certainly saw things last night that were not quite normal,' said Susie. 'Why had that serpent no effect on him though it was able to kill the rabbit instantaneously? And how are you going to explain the violent trembling of that horse, Mr. Burdon?' 'I can't explain it,' answered Arthur, irritably, 'but I'm not inclined to attribute to the supernatural everything that I can't immediately understand.' 'I don't know what there is about him that excites in me a sort of horror,' said Margaret. 'I've never taken such a sudden dislike to anyone.' She was too reticent to say all she felt, but she had been strangely affected last night by the recollection of Haddo's words and of his acts. She had awakened more than once from a nightmare in which he assumed fantastic and ghastly shapes. His mocking voice rang in her ears, and she seemed still to see that vast bulk and the savage, sensual face. It was like a spirit of evil in her path, and she was curiously alarmed. Only her reliance on Arthur's common sense prevented her from giving way to ridiculous terrors.

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The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham

The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham

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