The Trait of Piety | Chapter Eighteen

THE TRAIT of PIETY does indeed require much explanation, for many customs and practices pass-among many for Saintliness, which are nothing but the shells of Saintliness, wanting in form, feature, and perfection. This is attributable to a lack of close observation and honest reasoning on the part of the practitioners of this artificial form of saintliness. Instead of exerting and wearying themselves to know the way of God with clear, rational knowledge, they proceed in saintliness on the basis of what upon first thought happens to strike them as being saintly, without submitting their ideas to an examination in depth and weighing them upon the scales of wisdom. It is because of them that Saintliness has become repulsive to most people, the intelligentsia among them. For the pseudo-saints give the impression that Saintliness lies in foolishness and runs counter to intelligence and logic; and they lead people to believe that Saintliness consists entirely in the reciting of many supplications, in lengthy confessions, in exaggerated wailings and bowings, and in esoteric flagellations (such as immersion in ice and snow, and the like) by which a person mortifies himself. They do not realize that even though some of these things are required for those engaged in repentance and some are appropriate for those who practice Separation, Saintliness is not founded upon them at all (although the very best of these practices may serve as complements to Saintliness).

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