Page images

all of whom exerted a command over the might of the gods, over the stars and the fates of men, and who were fully believed in by the people, and celebrated by the poets.

The propensity to search the nature of things to the very bottom is in no people so decided as in the German. The German seizes on the smallest as on the greatest thingsthe natural or the spiritual-with equal zeal, and pursues it with indefatigable industry. He follows the trace of appearances; and where not the smallest reward is to be expected, he still pursues the way which leads to discovery. With Christianity, descends to the German race also the echo and the character of the cultivation of the two historical directions of mind,—the elder Oriental idealism, and the later Greco-Roman realism, which we embrace in our conception of the world. These two fundamental views were now transferred especially to the region of German faith in sorcery. What a field for labour lay before them! to reconcile the opposing principles; to separate the heathen and the Christian elements; to comprehend the natural and the divine; to separate faith from mere knowledge; and, finally, to discriminate the phenomena of genuine magic from the spectres of the imagination.

The Christian religion is based on the principle of the unity of God. God is the one eternally moral Lord of the spirits, as the Creator of physical nature. The faith in sorcery must, therefore, assume a wholly new and different form, however similar the radical idea and the tendency might remain to the heathen. The idea of Satan as the principle of evil,-as one of the angels originally good, but now fallen from the allegiance of the Creator,-Christianity had received from Judaism. This being, endowed with freewill, this prince of darkness, persisting in his error and selfrule, and everywhere establishing evil, and who also in the oriental Parseeism was one of the two original principles, had, according to the Christian idea, lost his dominion after the appearance of Christ; since the Messiah was he who was, in fact, to crush the head of the subtle serpent. It is, therefore, the triumph of the Messiah that he destroyed the kingdom of the devil, overcame the powers of darkness, and entirely annihilated the influence of the Wicked One over the new-born spirit. "For this end is the Son of God

come into the world, that he may destroy the works of the devil” (I. John, iii. 8). The works of the flesh and of darkness are the sins and departures from the law, because they were done by the heathen and the children of darkness. "Who is a wise man and endowed with knowledge amongst you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom" (James, iii. 13). "So let us put off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these,-adultery," etc. (Galatians, v. 19). "And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled" (Colossians, i. 21). "Put off the old man and his works. By nature are we all incapable of good; by his natural strength can no man do good works, but they are the fruit of faith, and this is a gift of the Holy Ghost; and he who has not the faith is dead; but true faith becomes active through love" (Ephes. ii. 11), etc.

As the idea of Satan thus passed over into Christianity, the deeply-rooted belief in sorcery was possible, and hence was not thoroughly expelled, though Christ had trodden on the head of the serpent. For as the tenacity and, as it were, the indestructibility of the serpent ever returns again, and as the spirit of evil is immortal and maliciously disposed to all the arts of seduction; thus the faith in sorcery could not be driven out of religion even by the New Testament, though it was unfavourable to it. The conquered but not annihilated god of hell retained at least listeners. The attractions of sensual pleasures and of base deeds, juggling delusions, and injurious acts; inexplicable phenomena beyond the ordinary course of nature; mysterious diseases, plagues, etc., were attributed, if not to the devil, at least to the influence of demoniac spirits; and the devil himself came pre-eminently into the ascendancy again through the first ascetics and anchorites; and his kingdom so increased in the opinion of the Christian believers in the course of time, that, in the middle ages, strengthened by a chain of learned maxims and dogmatic sophistries, it was spread through both the high and the low ranks of society; and by the end of the fifteenth century witchcraft and the black art had attained an

elevation such as they never before possessed in history; and a terrible power was ascribed to the devil, while Christianity, with all the weapons of its extended armoury, and with fire and sword, took the field, and no longer felt itself in security, but seemed almost to wander surrounded by a regular demon host.

on the

Before we pass on to the especial observation of magic and of the philosophical views of it amongst the Germans, we must notice the changes in religious faith produced by Christianity, as these showed themselves in the early ages, shaped according to the operation of natural causes. The phenomena of ecstasy are those particularly which passed with the ideas of the new-Platonism divinatory nature of man over into the early Christian philosophy; and, besides, the pagan elements could not be so easily abandoned, that the reign of demonism should at once and entirely cease. The German YearBooks of Science and Art, by Ruge, 1842, contain a critical treatise on the influence of the heathen religion of nature on the early Christian theology, which has besides for us a considerable interest in respect to magic.

Amongst other things it is said,-In the Phrygian religion of nature there were ecstatics, so that some have supposed that we may attribute the origin of Montanism to these; but this is by no means necessary. Both forms of religion have an enthusiastic character, but the principles in the two are totally different: yes, that of Montanism was essentially rooted in Christianity, and the relationship was only in outward appearance, and in the modulating circumstances of place, nationality, &c. The ancient Phrygian religion expresses itself, as we have seen, in the ascetic and orgiestic manner amongst the people of Asia Minor: a wrestling and striving in the press of wild forces could not lift them out of sensuality and debauch; hence their lawless and dissipated festivals. On the other hand, they were by their strict religious doctrines directed to penance for the subjugation of their passions. In the fanatic proceedings of the Montanists we see, indeed, something of the same character, the same striving of the religious life after physical forms of representation; but no one need seek satisfaction in an attempted mastery over the dark powers

[blocks in formation]

of immediate nature through the ferment of the senses, and in dreams of the impending end of all things, and of the joys of the new Jerusalem, of whose gates the ascetics professed to be the keepers. The circumstances of fanaticism, the conceptions of it, were different to the Phrygian worship of Cybele; Montanism had overcome the worship of nature, although there was yet no violent opposition of heathenism and Christianity: for heathenism retired at all points, and the scene of action was modelled anew, as, for instance, those of the Orphic hymns, and the Delphic oracles. Heathenism especially expresses itself in the dual system of philosophy, which keeps asunder the contending forms of the phenomena of spirit, but whose dynamic interwoven powers, not anatomically separated, must be regarded as modest opponents. In Montanism there are Jewish and Christian elements, but no longer heathen ones, although the Oriental, Egyptian, and Greek influences are everywhere visible. The mixing, and the thence arising fermentation of the popular spirit, determine the characteristic visions, and the interpretation of others resembling them. The ecstasies of the Montanists, however highly pitched, were the lower magnetic somnambulic appearances, for they were entirely, like the pagan oracles, united with the unconsciousness of the subject; and the divination of their women, of whom they carried two about with them, was of a very dubious kind, as they prophesied the end of things; and Maximilla even asserted that no other prophetess would come after her.

The interpretation of the Apostolical writings, especially those of Paul, through their philosophical reasoning, bore with the fathers of the church the impression of the Platonic philosophy and of the new-Platonism. The ἑρμηνεία τοῦ ποιήτου τῆς διάνοιας of Plato (Ion), and the interpretation of the ecstatic speech of the Manticer, Timæus, remind us entirely of the tongue-orator in the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. The divination of Plotinus, Philostratus, &c., in the new-Platonism, who in sleep had intercourse with the divine, is of the same kind, so that the Greek influence is everywhere visible in the Christian theories, and, which is the most striking, in the Montanist doctrines. Between the pagan and Christian forms of phenomena the therapeutics of Plato, to a certain degree, place themselves.

In the first two centuries, in the Paulist period firstly, and in the Montanist period secondly, people continually referred to the internal gifts of prophecy as demonstrated in the ⚫ modes of revelation of which two parties were the prevailing ones,-those of Paulism and Patrism, or of the Judaic Christianity. The first supported themselves on the immediateness of their revelations and visions; the others sought their support in their immediate union with Christ. These views were not without their opponents. Already the Clementines declared the visionary circumstances and the Pauline ὐπταστιαι and ἀποκαλυψεις as demoniacal effects. According to them knowledge flows from the prophet outwards, and the immediate visions afforded to Peter (Matth. xvi. 16) are the types of all genuine announcements of the truth, which are, it is true, the result of supernatural influence, but that Peter only owed his to the Evepyɛir,—power of God. The demoniacal revelations are ἐνεργουμενοι.

The means of producing ecstasies were, for the rest, perfectly natural; as the smoke of sacrifice, and mysterious ceremonies and preparations, as previously in the oracles, by which in part the natural causes, as in the ascertainment of diseases, were discovered, as among the Clementines, for instance, fanatic phrensy; and in part they were described as the immediate operations of God, as in the Pauline vision of the Montanists.

During the decline of the Roman empire, visions increased amazingly, although men thereby acquired a greater terror of pagan idol-worship, because they believed that the idols were inhabited by demons. Thence arose that fearful and general doctrine of the devil, to which partly the belief that the heathen worked their magic effects by the help of the fiends, and to which the ascetics partly gave occasion, who, through their eremitic seclusion and their horror of pollution through the ordinary intercourse with society, maintained internal conflicts with temptations and tormenting devils. The gnostics generally saw in their transports spirits and souls; their visions personified themselves in living shapes, and stepped forth on the scene in correct colour and dress, as afterwards in the middle ages, and even at the latest period, has occurred again. Also at that time visions frequently appeared while people were awake,

« PreviousContinue »