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Balaam's Ass Post by :successcoach Category :Essays Author :William Cowper Brann Date :July 2011 Read :2045

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Balaam's Ass


"Force first made conquest, and that conquest, law;
Till Superstition taught the tyrant awe,
Then shared the tyranny, then lent it aid,
And gods of conquerors, slaves of subjects made.
She, from the rending earth and bursting skies,
Saw gods descend and fiends infernal rise;
Here fixed the dreadful, there the blest abodes;
Fear made her devils and weak hope her gods;
Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Whose attributes were rage, revenge and lust;
Such as the souls of cowards might conceive,
And, formed like tyrants, tyrants would believe.
Zeal then, not charity, became the guide;
And hell was built on spite, and heaven on pride."


Kind reader, have a care! For aught I know this article may be the rankest blasphemy, and reading it may wreck your immortal soul--granting of course, that you are in possession of such perishable property. I submitted it to several of my brother ministers and sought their opinion as to the propriety of publishing it; but while some assured me that it was calculated to purify the moral atmosphere somewhat and foster respect for true religion, others were equally certain that Satan had inspired it--that it was, in fact, a choice bit of immigration literature for the lower regions. Finding even the elders unable to decide what should be done with Balaam's Ass--whether it should be turned loose upon the land like another evangelist, or consigned to the flames as a hopeless heretic--I determined to give it the benefit of the doubt. The animal may break into the preserves of some unctuous hypocrites and trample a few choice flowers of sacerdotal folly; but I opine that no honest man of average intellect will find herein occasion for complaint. I would not wantonly wound the sensibilities of those earnest but ignorant souls who believe the very chapter headings of the Bible to have been inspired; who interpret literally every foolish fable preserved therein--"like flies in amber"; but the Car of Progress cannot roll forward without crushing an occasional pismire. We cannot bid it stand forever in the same old rut, like an abandoned road-cart or "Jeffersonian Democrat," because across its shining pathway lie the honest prejudices of zealous stupidity.

The Bible is a great gold-mine, in which inexhaustible store of yellow metal is mixed with much worthless rubbish that must be purged away by honest criticism before the book becomes really profitable even fit for general circulation. I would rather place in the hands of an innocent girl a copy of the Police Gazette or Sunday Sun than an unexpurgated Bible. It is a book I value much, yet keep under lock and key with "Don Juan" and the "Decameron." It contains both the grandest morality and most degrading obscenity ever conceived in the brain of mortal man. There are passages whose beauty and power might cause the heart of an angel to leap in ecstasy, others that would call a blush of shame to the brassy front of the foulest fiend that ever howled and shrieked through the sulphurous valleys of Hell.

The man who rejects the Bible altogether because it is honey-combed with barbarous traditions, rank with revolting stories and darkened by the shadow of a savage superstition, is cousin-german to him that casts aside a priceless pearl because it is coated with ocean slime. He that accepts it in its entirety--gulps it down like an anaconda absorbing an unwashed goat; who makes no attempt to separate the essential from the accidental--the utterance of inspiration from the garrulity of hopeless nescience; who forgets that it is half an epic poem filled with the gorgeous imagery of the Orient, may, like the ass which Balaam rode, open its mouth and speak; but he never saw the Angel of the Lord; he utters the words of emptiness and ignorance.

Had the Bible been taught intelligently and truthfully the entire world would have accepted it centuries ago. Its very worst enemies are those who insist upon its inerrancy--who strive by some esoteric alchemy of logic to transmute its every fragment of base metal into bars of yellow gold, the folly of the creature into the wisdom of the Creator. During the Dark Ages hide-bound orthodoxy prevailed and practically every man was a church communicant; it is paramount to-day only in those countries that have failed to keep pace with the Car of Progress. It is a sad commentary upon all religious faiths that they flourish best where ignorance prevails--that Atheism is rapidly becoming the recognized correlative of education. By presuming to know too much of God's great plan; by decrying intelligent criticism and attempting to seal the lips of living students with the dicta of dead scholastics; by standing ever ready to brand as blasphemers those who presume to question or dare to differ, the dogmatists are driving millions of God- fearing men into passive indifference or overt opposition.

Ignorance is not a crime per se; but it is the mother of Superstition and Intolerance, those twin demons that have time and again deluged the world with blood and tears; that for forty centuries have stood like ravenous wolves in the path of human progress; that with their empoisoned fangs have torn a thousand times the snowy breast of Liberty--that have done more to inspire Doubt and foster Infidelity than all the French philosophes that ever wielded pen. The logical, well-informed man who to-day becomes a church communicant does not so because of the doctrine promulgated by the average pulpiteer, but despite of it.

The long night of intellectual slavery has not altogether passed, but on the higher hills already flame the harbingers of Reason's glorious morn. Gone is the Inquisition with its sacred infamies--the Christian rack is broken and the thumb-screw rusted in twain. The persuasive wheel no longer whisks the non-conformist into full communion, the Iron Virgin has ceased to press the writhing heretic to her orthodox heart. The faggot has fallen from the hand of the saintly fanatic and the branding iron from the loving grasp of the benevolent bigot, while Superstition, that once did rule the world with autocratic sway, can only shriek her impotent curses forth and flourish her foolish boycott at Reason's growing flame.

If I can but enable sectarians to understand that all so- called sacred books are essentially the same--that Brahma and Baal, Jupiter and Jehovah are really identical; if I can but make them cognizant of the crime they commit in decrying honest criticism; if I can but convince them that the man who is

"Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks through nature up to nature's God,"

is not necessarily an active emissary of evil whom it is their duty to denounce; if I can but create a suspicion in the minds of the clergy that perhaps they know no more of the Omnipotent than do other men--are possibly mistaking bile for benevolence, gall for godliness and chronic laziness for "a call to preach"--I will feel that these few hours expended grooming Balaam's burro have not been cast away.

. . .

Our information concerning the Rev. Mr. Balaam and his burro is very limited. Although the latter was endowed with the gift of gab it appears to have spoken but once and then at the especial bidding of an angel, which fact leads us to suspect that the voluble jackasses now extant have deteriorated at both ends since the days of their distinguished ancestor--have parted with all their brain as well as with half their legs. Brother Balaam does not appear to have "syndicated" his sermons or made any special bid for notoriety. If he ever hired half-starved courtesans a la Parkhurst--to dance the can-can, then hastened into court to file complaint against the very bawds he had filled with booze and dandled naked on his knee; if he called the ladies of his congregation "old sows" after the manner of Sam Jones; if he got himself tried on a charge of heresy or became entangled with some half-wit sister whose religious fervor led her to mistake Levite for the Lord, no record of the shameful circumstance has been preserved. He appears to have attended pretty strictly to the prophet business, and we may presume, from such stray bits of his biography as have come down to us, that he prospered.

The Israelites, who had gotten out of Egypt between two days with considerable of the portable property of other people concealed about their persons, had gone into the Bill Dalton business under the direct guidance--as they claimed--of their Deity, and were for some time eminently successful. Wholesale murder and robbery became their only industry, arson and oppression their recognized amusement. They had swiped up several cities--"leaving not a soul alive"--and were now grinding the snickersnee for Moab and Midian. The people of the petty nations of Palestine--whom God's anointed received an imperative command to "utterly destroy"--had builded them happy homes and accumulated considerable property by patient industry. They appear to have been peacefully disposed and devout worshipers of those deities from whom the better attributes of Jehovah were subsequently borrowed. The Israelites had not struck a lick of honest labor for forty years. They had drifted about like Cosey's "Commonwealers" and developed into the most fiendish mob of God-fearing guerrillas and marauding cut-throats of which history makes mention. Compared with Joshua's murderous Jews, the Huns who followed Attila were avatars of mercy and the Sioux of Sitting Bull were Good Samaritans. A careful comparison of the crimes committed by the Kurds in Armenia with those perpetrated by "God's chosen people" in Palestine will prove that the followers of Allah are but amateurs in the art of outrage. Doubtless any other people, brutalized by centuries of bondage, then turned loose without king or country, with only ignorant prophets for guides and avaricious priests for law-givers, would have become equally cruel--would have adopted a divinity devoid of mercy and a stranger to justice. The god of a people is, and must of necessity ever be a reflection of themselves, an idealization of their own virtues and vices--a magic mirror in which, Narcissuslike, man worships his own image.

The Jews are one of the grandest people that ever dwelt upon the earth. A more intellectual and progressive race is unknown to human history; but, like all others, it had its age of savagery and its epoch of barbarism before it reached the golden era of civilization. I am not criticizing the Jews for their treatment of the Canaanites during that century when crass ignorance made them credulous and bondage rendered them brutal; but to assume that the excesses of semi-savages were Heaven-inspired were a damning libel of the Deity. I rather enjoy being lied about by malicious lollipops; but did I sit secure in some celestial citadel, holding the thunderbolts of Heaven within my hand, it were hardly safe to assert that I instigated such unparalleled atrocities as were perpetrated by the emancipated Israelites in Palestine. I would certainly be tempted to take a potshot at an occasional preacher who persisted in defaming me with his foolish dogmatism.

Balak, the king of Moab and Midian, saw that he was not strong enough to withstand the sacred marauders, and well knew that surrender meant a wholesale massacre--that those who had dared to defend their homes would be placed under harrows of iron--that the silvery head of the aged grandsire would sink beneath a sword wielded in the name of God; that unborn babes would be ripped from the wombs of Moabite women and the maidens of Midian coerced into concubinage by their heaven-led captors. In this dire extremity Balak bethought him of Brother Balaam, who was not "a prophet of God," as popularly supposed, but a priest of Baal, the deity devoutly worshiped in Moab and Midian. It were ridiculous to suppose that the king, princes and elders of Moab and Midian would appeal for aid to the God of their enemies instead of to their own divinity, for in those days the principal business of a deity was to wage war in behalf of his worshipers. Balaam was a Midianite, and Balak sent messengers to him "with the reward of divination in their hand," and begged that he would kindly come over and knock the Israelites off the Christmas tree with one of his smooth-bore, muzzle-loading maledictions; "for," said he, with a pious fervor that proves he was addressing a priest of his own faith, "I wot that he whom thou blesseth is blessed, and whom thou curseth is cursed." He evidently believed that Balaam carried the celestial thunderbolts concealed about his person--that when he turned them loose those on whom they alighted frizzled up like a fat angleworm on a sea-coal fire. The good man said he would see what could be done to help Balak out of the hole.

"And God came unto Balaam and said,
'What men are these with thee?' "

As Balaam was evidently expecting the visit we may conclude that the caller was Baal, as Jehovah was not at that time on visiting terms with the Gentile priests--was busily engaged pulling down their altars and putting them to the sword. Balaam gratified the very natural curiosity of his celestial visitor, and the latter, after learning all the particulars, cautioned his diviner or priest not to make any bad breaks. Balaam sent the ambassadors back with word that Baal was a trifle shy of curses at that particular time. Balak evidently understood the situation, for he sent other agents with larger offerings. Balaam still insisted that he had received no permission to wipe up the Plain of Moab with the ex-brick builders, but saddled his ass and went along, promising to do the best he could for his bleeding country. He evidently desired to size up the situation and be quite sure that none of his curses would come home to roost. Doubtless he also desired to see if Balak was bidding all he could afford for celestial aid, for we have no reason to believe that Brother Balaam was in the prophet business for his health or peddling curses for recreation. While en route his companions probably informed him that the Jews were as frequent as jugs in a Prohibition precinct--that they had slaughtered the people of Ai, driven Og into the earth, overcome Ammon and were making the rest of the Canaanitish nations hard to catch, for the good man was seized with a sudden desire to take the back track. His burro balked and Balaam told his fellow travelers that an angel was interfering with his transportation facilities. Perhaps the princes of Moab made ribald remarks anent the celestial obstruction--even hinted that Balaam had best get a Maud S. move on him or he might contract a vigorous case of unavailing regret. Then the burro began to blab. Like many of the old pagan priests, Balaam was doubtless an adept in the art of ventriloquism. That may have convinced the ambassadors and bulled the price of curses; for then, as now, it was no uncommon thing for the utterance of an ass to be mistaken for that of an oracle. Or some Doubting Thomas may have twisted the burro's tail. For some reason not set forth by the sacred chronicler, the angel withdrew his objections and the prophet proceeded on his way, but still protesting that no permit had been accorded him to put a kibosh on Joshua's free-booters.

Balaam was entirely too smart to pray for rain when the wind was in the wrong quarter--altogether too smooth to launch his anathemas at an army he knew could take Moab by the back-hair and rub her nose in the sawdust. He counted the campfires of Israel and concluded that Balak's promises of high honors were worth no more than a camp- meeting certificate of conversion--that he would soon be hoofing it over the hills with his coat-tails full of arrows; so, after working his patrons for all the spare cash in sight, he made a sneak, leaving his sovereign to wage war without the aid of supernatural weapons. Like many of his sacerdotal successors, Balaam took precious good care to get on the winning side.

. . .

Ever since the days of Brother Balaam there has been considerable trading of curses for cold cash. The industry has been patiently built up from humble beginnings to a magnificent business. From an itinerant curse peddler, trotting about on a spavined burro and resorting to the methods of the mountebank to create a market for his merchandise, it has become a vast commercial concern with costly establishments in every country. The first curses, as might have been expected, were very crude affairs--little more than hoodoos, intended to promote the material welfare of the purchaser at the expense of other people. A king of ye olden times bought a curse and turned it loose upon his enemies--"played the god an engine on his foe"--much as a modern prince might a gatling-gun; but it seems to have slowly dawned upon the royal ignorami that the Lord is usually on the side of the heaviest battalions--a fact which Napoleon emphasized. The practice of fencing in a nation with a few wild-eyed prophets, or sending a single soldier forth with a hair-trigger hoodoo and the jawbone of a defunct jackass to drive great armies into the earth, gradually fell into disuse--curses and blessings became a drug in the market.

About this time the Jewish priesthood began to take kindly to the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. This theological thesis--promulgated before the age of Abraham--had influenced to some extent the religious thought of the entire eastern hemisphere. That the Jews were among the last to admit the immortality of the soul was doubtless due to the fact that, because of their long enslavement, they did not emerge from semi-savagery so soon as did the other divisions of the great semitic family. Furthermore, for a long period after their emancipation the Jews seem to have received the rewards of their peculiar virtues here on earth and were little inclined to defer their happiness to the hereafter--were amply able to punish their enemies and had no occasion to delegate that pleasant duty to a Superior Power. Finally, however, the fortunes of war began to go against them. They were no longer able to make on earth a heaven for themselves and a hell for other people. Instead of despoiling others they discovered an occasional hiatus in their own smoke-house. Instead of burning the cities of their inoffensive neighbors their own began to blaze. The priests and prophets insisted that these evils befell them because they had neglected their Deity; but the more devout they became--the more fat kids, fine meal and first fruits they referred to the Levite larder as "offerings to the Lord"--the more deplorable became their condition. The people began to drift to the more reasonable religion of their neighbors and even the wisest of their kings could not be held to the faith of their fathers. The Jewish priesthood gradually adopted the old Parsi doctrine of Heaven and Hell--a doctrine unrecognized by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and having no place in the theology of Moses.

The Jews eventually discovered that robbery was wrong and assassination a crime--that the practice of ripping open pregnant women and putting prisoners of war under harrows of iron was displeasing to the Lord. It was a forcible illustration of the ancient axiom that it makes a great difference whose ox is gored. Instead of founding a mighty nation as predicted by their prophets, the Jews were conquered, scattered, enslaved.

Palestine was filled with foreigners; had become a religious Babel, a theological chaos. The time was ripe for a religious revolution such as had been inaugurated in India six centuries before. It was accomplished and, as might have been expected, the result was a curious composition; a religious olla-podrida in which the profound wisdom of Zoroaster and the childish superstition of western barbarians, grand morality and monumental absurdity elbow each other like specters in a delirium--in which is heard both "the still small voice" of Omnipotent God and the megalophanous bray of Balaam's Ass.

Jehovah, the national God of the Jews, supplanted Jove and Baal, Ashtaroth and Oromasdes, and with their thrones took many of their attributes. The doctrine of future rewards and punishments became the cornerstone of the new theology, while further concessions were made to ethnic creeds in various stages of decay by the adoption of the Trinity, Incarnation and Resurrection. The Jewish prophets were accepted by the composite cult--which Christ may have originated, but certainly did not develop--but their every utterance was given a new interpretation of which the Hebrew hierarchy had never dreamed. The great kingdom which they had predicted was to be spiritual instead of temporal; the Jerusalem predestined to become the capitol of a powerful prince, to whom all nations should acknowledge allegiance--and pay tribute--was not the leprosy-eaten old town among the Judean hills, but a city not made with hands, existing eternal in the heavens. Christianity does not contain a single original idea. It borrowed liberally on every hand, but chiefly of Parseeism in which faith, as taught by Zoroaster--Aristotle says six thousand years before Plato--may be found its most important features. It owes absolutely nothing to Judaism but the name of its God and an idle string of misinterpreted prophecies--is, from first to last, essentially a "Gentile" faith. There never was a religion instituted upon the earth that the priesthood failed to transform into arrant folly, to debase until it finally fell into disrepute. Such was the fate of that established by Zoroaster, and upon the ruins of the grandest theology this world has known, Siddartha Gautama erected the Buddhist credo, which is really a revolt to first principles--a search for happiness here on earth, the attainment of Nirvana. So, too, the priesthood has corrupted the teachings of Christ until the logical mind revolts from the jumble of self-evident absurdities, rejects Revelations as a nursery tale and seeks by the dim light of science to find the cause of all Existence.

The new cult was not regarded kindly by the old priesthoods, and the methods adopted for its suppression were almost as rigorous as those it in turn employed some centuries later for the discouragement of other "blasphemers" and "heretics"; hence it is not surprising that the old Hebrew doctrine that whom the Lord loves he makes mighty, gives wealth in plenty and concubines galore, power over his enemies and privilege to despoil his neighbors, should have been early transformed into "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." The doctrine of temporal rewards and punishments revived somewhat as Christianity became powerful, but has remained a subordinate feature. As not a sparrow falls to the earth without a special permit from the Almighty, it follows, as a natural sequence, that every brutal crime is gracefully permitted--if not ordained--by that dear Lord whose protection we daily pray, and whose apostles we support. If we inquire why this is so we are cautioned not to commit blasphemy--some worthy brother of Balaam's Ass bids us beware the Angel of the Lord.

. . .

The claim of the ancient priesthoods to support was based on the presumption that they promoted the national welfare of the people by keeping the national deity in good humor. Whenever he contracted a case of the sulks the smell of fresh blood would usually bring him around all right. Sometimes the butchery of a few innocent birds and beasts would do the business; but it not infrequently became necessary to commit a number of homicides to get him actually gay. When even the sweet incense of blazing cities and roasting babes failed to restore his hilarity the prophets sounded the alarm much as the weather bureau gives warning of approaching cyclones and other atmospheric disturbances. In case the dire predictions failed to materialize the Lord had listened to their protestations that he was not doing the proper thing and "repented him"--the Immutable had changed his mind! The prophets were supposed to make a man prosperous as a Tammany politician by blessing, or poor as a Houston Post editorial by laying a curse upon him. As civilization advanced the people able to pay "the rewards of divination" became too intelligent to be taken in by the transparent tricks of Brother Balaam, hence the new priesthood devoted itself chiefly to the spiritual welfare of the people--made a specialty of the hereafter business. For obvious reasons, it is the safer enterprise.

Man was now told to believe thus-and-so and he would be blessed eternally, but if he believed not he would be cursed everlastingly. The rewards promised by the early priesthoods had, by centuries of evolution, developed from good crops and fat cattle, fruitful vines and successful villainy, into mansions in Heaven; the punishments from a protracted drought or descent of the Assyrians, a bad case of buck ague or boils into a Hell of fire where the souls of aged unbelievers and unbaptized babes forever burn. This was the old argumentum ad hominem in a new Mother Hubbard; but the masses were still ignorant, and those who could not be bribed with the fruits of Heaven were bluffed with the fires of Hell. The old priesthoods were crushed and kings became the sworn defenders of the new faith, even propagated it with the sword--dispensed saving grace with gallows' ropes and with the bludgeon drove heaven- inspired precepts into the heads of unbelievers. Wisdom could not withstand such logic--the philosopher yielded to the unanswerable argument of the Inquisition. As no one could disprove the comforting doctrine of eternal damnation, and there is a strong vein of superstition in even the best of men, the ignorant populace cowered in terror most pitiful at the feet of a presumptuous priesthood. And to this good day men who have managed in some mysterious manner to dodge the madhouse, believe that priests or preachers are the special deputies of the Deity, that a criticism of the clergy is an insult to the Almighty--that if you dare dissent from the foolish opinions of some wooden-headed dominus anent the Divine Plan you might as well "curse God and die."

Once this old ethnic cult in a new dress became well established--and the source of considerable revenue to the latter day Levites--its most glaring absurdities were able to withstand for a time even the invention of the printing press and the general dissemination of knowledge; for "that monster custom, of habits devil," is very potent in shaping the minds of men and retarding human progress. Thus we find, in this so-called enlightened age, millions of men defending the rights of certain scorbutic families of indifferent minds and muddy morals, to sway the sovereign's scepter. Mental colossi--men who tower up like Titans in the world of intellect--are proud to acknowledge themselves the "dutiful subjects" of some brainless fop or beery old female who chanced to be born in a royal bed while their betters were ushered in as the brats of beggars. So, too, we find men possessing clear judicial minds defending with all the fervor of fifteenth century fanatics, not the Christian faith per se, but some special interpretation thereof; not the philosophy of religion, but the inconsequential theorems of some sacerdotal "reformer" who has added to the world's discord by founding a new "faith." These various religious divisions have become little more than rival commercial establishments, each peddling its own peculiar brand of saving grace--warranted the only genuine--and dealing damnation round on all dissenters.

Dogmatism begat Doubt, and men began to study the Bible, not to search out its wisdom and its truth, but its folly and its falsehood. They represent the recoil from one extreme to the other--from blind belief to unreasoning skepticism, from intellectual slavery to liberty degenerated into license. Instead of judging the Bible by God they judge God by the Bible, and finding by this ridiculous formula that he is little better than a brutal maniac, they reject him altogether and try to account for the creature without the Creator, to explain an effect without an efficient cause. If we could but muzzle the dogmatists Infidelity would quickly die.

. . .

The essentials of the Christian religion do not depend upon the inerrancy of the Scriptures. They do not depend upon direct Revelation or the Miracle, the Incarnation or the Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. In fact, these very "Evidences" adduced in behalf of the "True Faith," produce all the Doubt with which it is called to contend. Let us grant that Moses was not called to Sinai's flaming crest to receive laws promulgated centuries before Joseph was carried a captive into Egypt; that the Bible is but the history of a barbarous people--a compendium of their poetry, religion and philosophy; that the Incarnation and Resurrection are but myths borrowed from decaying ethnic cults, and what have we lost? Simply indefensible non-essentials--the tawdry garment with which Ignorance has bedecked her poor idea of the Infinite. What matters it whether we call our Creator Jehovah or Jupiter, Brahma or Buddha? Who knoweth the name by which the Seraphim address him? Why should we care whether Christ came into the world with or without the intervention of an earthly father? Are we not all sons of the Most High God--"bright sparkles of the Infinite?" Suppose that the story of the Incarnation (older than Jerusalem itself) be literally true--that the Almighty was the immediate father of Mary's child: Is not the birth of each and all of us as much a mystery, as great a "miracle," as though we sprang full-grown from the brow of Olympian Jove? Is it necessary that the Creator should violate his own laws to convince us that he does exist? Is it more wonderful that the sun should stand still upon Gibeon and the moon in the Valley of Ajalon than that the great world should spin forever, bringing the night and the morning, the seed-time and the harvest? Is not a "miracle"--an interruption of nature's harmony--rather calculated to make a man of logical mind suspect that he is the sport of chance than believe himself the especial care of an Omniscient Power that "Ordereth all things well?" When this great globe hangs motionless in space and the rotting dead arise in their cerements; when great multitudes are fed with a few small fishes and virgins are found with child, then, and not till then, will I relinquish faith in an intelligent Architect and acknowledge lawless Force the only Deity.

Man is but a microbe lost in immensity. He peers about him and, by the uncertain light of his small intelligence, reads here a word, there a line in the great Book of Nature, and putting together these scattered fragments, makes a "Faith" which he defends with fanatical fervor. Dare to call in question its most inconsequential thesis and you are branded as an heretic; deny it in toto and you are denounced as an enemy of the Almighty! The curses of Brother Balaam no longer kill the body, but they are expected to play sad havoc with the soul! When the priest of Baal was en route to Moab's capital for cursing purposes an angel tried to withhold him, and even his burro rebuked him, but neither angels nor asses are exempt from the law of evolution. Now when a priest or preacher lets slip a curse at those who presume to question the supernal wisdom of his creed, the angels are supposed to flap their wings until Heaven is filled with flying feathers, while every blatant jackass who takes his spiritual fodder at that particular rick unbraids his ears and brays approvingly.

(The end)
William Cowper Brann's essay: Balaam's Ass

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