Page images

means of escape, and declared, on examination, that the devil had released her.

We have seen how the natural gifts of divining were awakened amongst men, and were diffused through sympathy. We have seen this amongst the Indians; amongst the prophets of the school of Samuel, and the Israelites; amongst the Greek Corybantes; amongst the Scandinavian and German Druids; in the Taigheirm, and in the inspired dances of the Schamans, and amongst the witches of the middle ages.

Now comes another kind of visionary phenomena amongst the religious fanatics, of which the so-called Philadelphian Society, established by Pordage, displayed the most extraordinary specimens. All the members of the society had revelations and similar impressions of the senses, so that their visions, as it were, working from within outwardly, as by a contagion the inner senses affecting the outer ones, the wonder of all parties was excited, the believers attributing the whole to the power of spirits, and the unbelievers to the effect of a bewildered imagination, or to deceit, which we, instructed by magnetism, have learned to recognise as physiological realities, and to explain the causes of their productions.

If the demoniacally-prophetic was supposed in the preceding phenomena, under the guidance of the devil, to play a demoralising part amid the most frightful rackings of the body and the confusion of the soul, others came forward somewhat later to unite the idea of white magic with religious faith in the divine, and in its miraculous power. This white, or natural magic, consists not in the sorcerer's faith in demoniac conjuration, -"ars subtilis nullis ceremoniis et conjurationibus contaminata," but it rests, according to Paracelsus, on the knowledge of natural powers, on the miraculous force of the imagination through faith. Through faith, men may perform the incredible by means of the imagination, even to draw down the strength of the influences of the stars; and if the command be combined with faith, the magically-divine spirit in us has a superhuman sphere of action, which extends itself as wide as our thoughts, our imagination, and our faith."

[ocr errors]

To this white magic belongs the power of working

[ocr errors]


miracles, of perceiving and using the signatures of natural things, of foretelling the future, and of uniting the spirit fully with God through love, and thereby becoming an immediate partaker in the being and the work of God. So says Campanella (De sensu rerum, c. 1 and 2.) :—" Qui magiam naturalem probe exercit cum pietate et reverentia erga creatorem, meretur sæpe ad supernaturalem eligi, et cum superis participare: qui autem abutuntur in maleficiis et venenis, merentur a dæmone ludificari et ad perditionem trahi. Fides requiritur et cordis puritas non historica sed intrinseca, quæ cum deo unanimes nos faciat."

It is difficult to arrive, however, at this beautiful idea of magic in the highest degree, since there requires for it a genuine holiness; and where pious minds strive honestly after it, yet they very easily stray into the flowery field of Theosophy, and thence lose themselves in that fanatic darkness of spiritual adepts, in whom the free activity of the spirit cooperates less in exertion than pious. faith in passive submission, awaits immediate inspiration as the gift of divine grace without any merit of our own. We have here to take a passing glance at examples of this kind, taken from the biographies of spiritually allied theosophists of the seventeenth century, and especially of Pordage, Bromley, Antoinette Bourignon, Jane Lead, Poiret, Swedenborg, etc. In all of these, magic, in its best sense, plays the chief part; but one-sided theosophic subtleties, and a fanaticism of the imagination as to inward enlightenment, and divination and intercourse with spirits, have also their ample share.

Pordage was an English preacher of Cromwell's time; and being removed by the Protector from his living, he became an esteemed physician. In his principal work, "The True Divine Metaphysics," Pordage sets the power of the word with the inner vision and the right intention above everything. He who knows how to make himself master of the true word, and how to use it, and has the best intentions in using it, can produce magical effects; since through the inward vision men become aware of distant and future things. Pordage, with these peculiarities and visions and

intercourse with spirits, had once even a combat with a giant, who carried a tree which he had torn up, upon his shoulder, and a monstrous sword in his hand. Another time

there appeared a winged dragon, who took up half the room, and vomited fire upon him, so that he fell down in a swoon. He was accustomed to such apparitions, particularly in the night, and the spirits went in and out of his chamber; and according to his assurance, his wife often saw the spirits as well as himself. By that battle with the giant, Pordage does not mean an actual, but a spiritual or magical giant, as one spirit has power to operate upon another. For there is a real though inexplicable influence which one spirit can exert upon another; and the influence of spirits can extend itself to a distance, so that a man through imagination and a lively desire can effect good or evil.

Pordage, in 1651, established amongst friends of similar views the so-called Philadelphian Society, to which afterwards some twenty members belonged; amongst them, Jane Lead, Thomas Bramley, Edward Hoker, etc. This society increased to a hundred members, and they were called the Angelic Brethren. Soon after this establishment, all the members at once, in one of their meetings, fell into ecstasy, in which they first saw visions of the dark world in the most horrible forms, but immediately afterwards, for the refreshment of their spirits, they had others from the world of angels. These transports took place daily for nearly a whole month, and generally in the meetings by day, though also at night. The former, from the world of darkness, passed in great pomp before their eyes. Their carriages were drawn by beasts; such as dragons, bears, tigers, etc. The unhappy spirits also appeared in the human form, yet in various distortions; some with the ears of cats, others with claws, or with fiery eyes, great teeth, and mouths drawn all on one side. He saw spirits pass in regular hosts on clear days before his windows; others through the glass into the room. He saw these and other apparitions, as he expresses it, through the outward sight with the inward eye. "For when we closed our eyes, we saw just as well as when they were open. Thus we saw everything, both inward with the eyes of the mind, and outwardly with the eyes of the body."

And then he gives the true explanation: "The true original ground of this seeing was in the opening of the inward eye of the mind; and thus it proceeded farther, in a magical manner, from the inward through the outward organ, through the most intimate union of the internal and external sight."

The evil spirits, like the angels, are in all places, in the air and on the earth, and cannot be excluded. "We saw them in the open air, and we saw them pass through closed doors and windows, without breaking the panes, and by clear daylight. The spirits can change themselves according to pleasure into gigantic forms or into furious beasts; as bears, lions, tigers, and snakes. From this we learn that evil spirits as well as good can be excluded from no place, for we saw them, says he, with their pomp and state go by like the clouds in the air, and in a moment they had passed, through the windows into the room. Moreover, the organs of smell were affected; and thus the evil spirits kept up for three weeks, during which they appeared to them, a pernicious and abominable smell, which affected them greatly through the medium of the imagination." They also were persecuted with a detestable taste; for whether alone or in company with each other, they had an intolerable devilish taste of brimstone, soot, and salt, all mixed together, that would have occasioned them not only great disgust, but horror and sickness, had not the invisible hand of God supported them. They felt during this time exceedingly unwell, both in body and mind; and they were conscious of strange magical wounds, and stabs, and plagues, such as no one can describe except such as have been tried like Job, etc. The devils, says Pordage, finally drew all sorts of figures on the windows, and also on the tiles of the house, which they could not wash away; such as the two hemispheres of the globe, carriages full of men drawn by four horses, and which pictures appeared always to be in motion.

To these enthusiastic spirit-seers belonged particularly Thomas Bromley, Madame Antoinette Bourignon, and Jane Lead. Both ladies, through their intellectual accomplishments, and their numerous writings, have left an extended fame and a lasting interest; so that we must pay them some attention.

Antoinette Bourignon was born in Ryssel, in Flanders, in 1616, where she founded the above-mentioned ladies' school, and endeavoured to educate the children committed to her care, rather for heaven than earth; but which did not succeed. For the children preferred remaining on the earth, and therefore they were not able to follow the spiritual flight of their governess into heaven; they only reached, at the highest, the region of the air, and then fell, through the want of bodily nourishment, into the company of the sorcerers, who at that time haunted the world in all directions. Madame Bourignon was supported by the pious in these endeavours through spiritual exercises, but by the mockers she was declared to be a fool. She was finally obliged to quit the school, and after she had suffered severe trials from the kingdom of Satan, whom she had presented in many strange shapes in her writings, she rescued herself by flight. From her earliest years she had loved a quiet and retired life, exercised in pious practices; she had a decided drawing towards a conventual existence, which her parents did not permit her to indulge. As she could not attain to the object of her desires, she converted her chamber into a cell, where she had a beautiful crucifix, and passed the greater part of her nights on her knees in prayer. During such devotional exercises, she had often apparitions, which indicated her call to a solitary and unmarried life. As, however, during the life of her parents, she could not obtain her wish of retiring into the wilderness in the garb of an anchorite, after their death, through the means of one Saulieu, this girls' school was established for her. After he had set up a similar boys' school which met with little support, he made her an offer of marriage. The pious Bourignon rejected such a proposition with horror, and these witch-apparitions in her school were attributed to the disappointed Saulieu.

Bourignon then went to live at Ghent, in Belgium, and afterwards in Hamburg, where she continued her ascetic practices with others of like mind, maintaining her mantic and gnostic views; and by her numerous writings she gave rise to many theological controversies, in which she had very celebrated men as her supporters; amongst others, Johann Swammerdam, who in his latter years submitted all his writings to her inspection and judgment. She pub

« PreviousContinue »