chapter  3
Sabian Temple and Ismailism
Pages 51

I. The Spiritual Temple. The historian Mas’udi (tenth century A.D.) , in a chapter of his book The Plains of Gold in which he describes the religious edifices of the Sabians,1 reports that on the borders of China there is a Temple of immense height. The precinct wall of this Temple is pierced by seven gates, and it is capped with a seven-tiered dome. On the crown of this dome is set a kind of precious stone, vast in size and of a brilliance that illuminates everything within range. No one may come within ten cubits of it without falling dead; spears hurled towards the Temple turn back against the aggressor. Inside the Temple itself is a well with a heptagonal opening; anyone who leans over it is in danger of being overcome by a dizziness which drags him down into the abyss. Yet all around it runs an inscription proclaiming that the mouth of this well leads to the Treasury of books in which are preserved the sciences of Earth and Heaven, the chronology of times past and times future: “No one may enter here or draw on these treasures,” it is said, “save he who is our equal in knowledge, power and wisdom.” The Temple is built on a rock which rises out of the Earth like a high mountain. Anyone who beholds the Temple, the dome and the well is seized with a violent emotion in which impatience, sadness and an attraction that captivates the heart mingle with a fear lest something of this Temple may be destroyed or ruined.