Magic and Sorcery Practised by Christian Clergy

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Where, in the records of European Magic, can we find cleverer enchanters than in the mysterious solitudes of the cloister? Albert Magnus, the famous Bishop and conjurer of Ratisbon, was never surpassed in his art. Roger Bacon was a monk, and Thomas Aquinas one of the most learned pupils of Albertus. Trithemius, Abbott of the Spanheim Benedictines, was the teacher, friend, and confidant of Cornelius Agrippa;

and while the confederations of the Theosophists were scattered broadcast about Germany, where they first originated, assisting one another, and struggling for years for the acquirement of esoteric knowledge, any person who knew how to become the favored pupil of certain monks, might very soon be proficient in all the important branches of occult learning.

This is all in history and cannot be easily denied. Magic, in all its aspects, was widely and nearly openly practiced by the clergy till the Reformation. And even he who was once called the "Father of the Reformation," the famous John Reuchlin,* author of the Mirific Word and friend of Pico di Mirandola, the teacher and instructor of Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, was a kabalist and occultist.

The ancient Sortilegium, or divination by means of Sortes or lots — an art and practice now decried by the clergy as an abomination, designated by Stat. 10 Jac. as felony, + and by Stat. 12 Carolus II excepted out of the general pardons, on the ground of being sorcery — was widely practiced by the clergy and monks. Nay, it was sanctioned by St. Augustine himself, who does not "disapprove of this method of learning futurity, provided it be not used for worldly purposes." More than

* Vide the title-page on the English translation of Mayerhoff's "Reuchlin und Seine Zeit," Berlin, 1830. "The Life and Times of John Reuchlin, or Capnion, the Father of the German Reformation," by F. Barham, London, 1843.

f Lord Coke, 3 "Institutes," fol. 44.

that, he confesses having practiced it himself.*

Aye; but the clergy called it Sortes Sanctorum, when it was they who practiced it; while the Sortes Praenestinx, succeeded by the Sortes Homericx and Sortes Virgilianx, were abominable heathenism, the worship of the Devil, when used by any one else.

Gregory de Tours informs us that when the clergy resorted to the Sortes their custom was to lay the Bible on the altar, and to pray the Lord that He would discover His will, and disclose to them futurity in one of the verses of the book. Gilbert de Nogent writes that in his days (about the twelfth century) the custom was, at the consecration of bishops, to consult the Sortes Sanctorum, to thereby learn the success and fate of the episcopate. On the other hand, we are told that the Sortes Sanctorum were condemned by the Council of Agda, in 506. In this case again we are left to inquire, in which instance has the infallibility of the Church failed? Was it when she prohibited that which was practiced by her greatest saint and patron, Augustine, or in the twelfth century, when it was openly and with the sanction of the same Church practiced by the clergy for the benefit of the bishop's elections? Or, must we still believe that in both of these contradictory cases the Vatican was inspired by the direct "spirit of God"?

If any doubt that Gregory of Tours approved of a practice that prevails to this day, more or less, even among strict Protestants, let them read this: "Lendastus, Earl of Tours, who

* Vide "The Life of St. Gregory of Tours."

was for ruining me with Queen Fredegonde, coming to Tours, big with evil designs against me, I withdrew to my oratory under a deep concern, where I took the Psalms, . . . My heart revived within me when I cast my eyes on this of the seventy-seventh Psalm: 'He caused them to go on with confidence, whilst the sea swallowed up their enemies.' Accordingly, the count spoke not a word to my prejudice; and leaving Tours that very day, the boat in which he was, sunk in a storm, but his skill in swimming saved him."

The sainted bishop simply confesses here to having practiced a bit of sorcery. Every mesmerizer knows the power of will during an intense desire bent on any particular subject. Whether in consequence of "co-incidents" or otherwise, the opened verse suggested to his mind revenge by drowning. Passing the remainder of the day in "deep concern," and possessed by this all-absorbing thought, the saint — it may be unconsciously — exercises his will on the subject; and thus while imagining in the accident the hand of God, he simply becomes a sorcerer exercising his magnetic will which reacts on the person feared; and the count barely escapes with his life. Were the accident decreed by God, the culprit would have been drowned; for a simple bath could not have altered his malevolent resolution against St. Gregory had he been very intent on it.

Furthermore, we find anathemas fulminated against this lottery of fate, at the council of Varres, which forbids "all ecclesiastics, under pain of excommunication, to perform that kind of divination, or to pry into futurity, by looking into any book, or writing, whatsoever." The same prohibition is pronounced at the councils of Agda in 506, of Orleans, in 511, of Auxerre in 595, and finally at the council of Aenham in 1110; the latter condemning "sorcerers, witches, diviners, such as occasioned death by magical operations, and who practiced fortune-telling by the holy-book lots"; and the complaint of the joint clergy against de Garlande, their bishop at Orleans, and addressed to Pope Alexander III., concludes in this manner: "Let your apostolical hands put on strength to strip naked the iniquity of this man, that the curse prognosticated on the day of his consecration may overtake him; for the gospels being opened on the altar according to custom, the first words were: and the young man, leaving his linen cloth, fled from them naked."*

Why then roast the lay-magicians and consulters of books, and canonize the ecclesiastics? Simply because the medieval as well as the modern phenomena, manifested through laymen, whether produced through occult knowledge or happening independently, upset the claims of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches to divine miracles. In the face of reiterated and unimpeachable evidence it became impossible for the former to maintain successfully the assertion that seemingly miraculous manifestations by the "good angels" and God's direct intervention could be produced exclusively by her chosen ministers and holy saints. Neither could the Protestant well maintain on the same

* Translated from the original document in the Archives of Orleans, France; also see "Sortes and Sortilegium"; "Life of Peter de Blois."

ground that miracles had ended with the apostolic ages. For, whether of the same nature or not, the modern phenomena claimed close kinship with the biblical ones. The magnetists and healers of our century came into direct and open competition with the apostles. The Zouave Jacob, of France, had outrivalled the prophet Elijah in recalling to life persons who were seemingly dead; and Alexis, the somnambulist, mentioned by Mr. Wallace in his work,+ was, by his lucidity, putting to shame apostles, prophets, and the Sibyls of old. Since the burning of the last witch, the great Revolution of France, so elaborately prepared by the league of the secret societies and their clever emissaries, had blown over Europe and awakened terror in the bosom of the clergy. It had, like a destroying hurricane, swept away in its course those best allies of the Church, the Roman Catholic aristocracy. A sure foundation was now laid for the right of individual opinion. The world was freed from ecclesiastical tyranny by opening an unobstructed path to Napoleon the Great, who had given the deathblow to the Inquisition. This great slaughter-house of the Christian Church — wherein she butchered, in the name of the Lamb, all the sheep arbitrarily declared scurvy — was in ruins, and she found herself left to her own responsibility and resources.

So long as the phenomena had appeared only sporadically, she had always felt herself powerful enough to repress the consequences. Superstition and belief in the Devil were as strong as ever, and Science had not yet dared to publicly measure her forces with those of supernatural Religion. Meanwhile the enemy had slowly but surely gained ground. All at once it broke out with an unexpected violence. "Miracles" began to appear in full daylight, and passed from their mystic seclusion into the domain of natural law, where the profane hand of Science was ready to strip off their sacerdotal mask. Still, for a time, the Church held her position, and with the powerful help of superstitious fear checked the progress of the intruding force. But, when in succession appeared mesmerists and somnambulists, reproducing the physical and mental phenomenon of ecstasy, hitherto believed to be the special gift of saints; when the passion for the turning tables had reached in France and elsewhere its climax of fury; when the psychography — alleged spiritual — from a simple curiosity had developed itself and settled into an unabated interest, and finally ebbed into religious mysticism; when the echoes aroused by the first raps of Rochester, crossing the oceans, spread until they were re-percussed from nearly every corner of the world — then, and only then, the Latin Church was fully awakened to a sense of danger. Wonder after wonder was reported to have occurred in the spiritual circles and the lecture-rooms of the mesmerists; the sick were healed, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear. J. R. Newton in America, and Du Potet in France, were healing the multitude without the slightest claim to divine intervention. The great discovery of Mesmer, which reveals to the earnest inquirer the mechanism of nature, mastered, as if by magical power, organic and inorganic bodies.

But this was not the worst. A more direful calamity for the Church occurred in the evocation from the upper and nether worlds of a multitude of "spirits," whose private bearing and conversation gave the direct lie to the most cherished and profitable dogmas of the Church. These "spirits" claimed to be the identical entities, in a disembodied state, of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, friends and acquaintances of the persons viewing the weird phenomena. The Devil seemed to have no objective existence, and this struck at the very foundation upon which the chair of St. Peter rested.* Not a

* There were two chairs of the titular apostle at Rome. The clergy, frightened at the uninterrupted evidence furnished by scientific research, at last decided to confront the enemy, and we find the "Chronique des Arts" giving the cleverest, and at the same time most Jesuitical, explanation of the fact. According to their story, "The increase in the number of the faithful decided Peter upon making Rome henceforth the centre of his action. The cemetery of ostrianum was too distant and would not suffice for the reunions of the Christians. The motive which had induced the Apostle to confer on Linus and Cletus successively the episcopal character, in order to render them capable of sharing the solicitudes of a church whose extent was to be without limits, led naturally to a multiplication of the places of meeting. The particular residence of Peter was therefore fixed at Viminal; and there was established that mysterious Chair, the symbol of power and truth. The august seat which was venerated at the Ostrian Catacombs was not, however, removed. Peter still visited this cradle of the Roman Church, and often, without doubt, exercised his holy functions there. A second Chair, expressing the same mystery as the first, was set up at Cornelia, and it is this which has come down to us through the ages."

Now, so far from it being possible that there ever were two genuine chairs of this kind, the majority of critics show that Peter never was at Rome at all; the reasons are many and unanswerable. Perhaps we had best begin by pointing to the works of Justin Martyr. This great champion of Christianity, writing in the early part of the second century in Rome, where he fixed his abode, eager to get hold of the least proof in favor of the truth for which he suffered, seems perfectly unconscious of St. Peter's existence!!

Neither does any other writer of any consequence mention him in connection with the Church of Rome, earlier than the days of Iren^us, when the latter set himself to invent a new religion, drawn from the depths of his imagination. We refer the reader anxious to learn more to the able work of Mr. George Reber, entitled "The Christ of Paul." The arguments of this author are conclusive. The above article in the "Chronique des Arts," speaks of the increase of the faithful to such an extent that Ostrianum could not contain the number of Christians. Now, if Peter was at Rome at all — runs Mr. Reber's argument — it must have been between the years A.D. 64 and 69; for at 64 he was at Babylon, from whence he wrote epistles and letters to Rome, and at some time between 64 and 68 (the reign of Nero) he either died a martyr or in his bed, for Iren^us makes him deliver the Church of Rome, together with Paul (! ?) (whom he persecuted and quarrelled with all his life), into the hands of Linus, who became bishop in 69 (see Reber's "Christ of Paul," p. 122). We will treat of it more fully in chapter iii.

Now, we ask, in the name of common sense, how could the faithful of Peter's Church increase at such a rate, when Nero trapped and killed them like so many mice during his reign? History shows the few Christians fleeing from Rome, wherever they could, to avoid the persecution of the emperor, and the "Chronique des Arts" makes them increase and multiply! "Christ," the article goes on to say, "willed that this visible sign of the doctrinal authority of his vicar should also have its portion of immortality; one can follow it from age to age in the documents of the Roman Church." Tertullian formally attests its existence in his book "De Prascriptionibus." Eager to learn everything concerning so interesting a subject, we would like to be shown when did Christ Will anything of the kind? However: "Ornaments of ivory have been fitted to the front and back of the chair, but only on those parts repaired with acacia-wood. Those which cover the panel in front are divided into three superimposed rows, each containing six plaques of ivory, on which are engraved various subjects, among others the 'Labors of Hercules.' Several of the plaques were wrongly placed, and seemed to have been affixed to the chair at a time when the remains of antiquity were employed as ornaments, without much regard to fitness." This is the point. The article was written simply as a clever answer to several facts published during the present century. Bower, in his "History of the Popes" (vol. ii., p. 7), narrates that in the year 1662, while cleaning one of the chairs, "the 'Twelve Labors of Hercules' unluckily appeared engraved upon it," after which the chair was removed and another substituted. But in 1795, when Bonaparte's troops occupied Rome, the chair was again examined. This time there was found the Mahometan confession of faith, in Arabic letters: "There is no Deity but Allah, and Mahomet is his Apostle." (See appendix to "Ancient Symbol-Worship," by H. M. Westropp and C. Staniland Wake.) In the appendix Prof. Alexander Wilder very justly remarks as follows: "We presume that the Apostle of the Circumcision, as Paul, his great rival, styles him, was never at the imperial City, nor had a successor there, not even in the ghetto. The 'Chair of Peter,' therefore, is sacred rather than apostolical. its sanctity proceeded, however, from the esoteric religion of the former times of Rome. The hierophant of the Mysteries probably occupied it on the day of initiations, when exhibiting to the candidates the Petroma (stone tablet containing the last revelation made by the hierophant to the neophyte for initiation)."

spirit except the mocking mannikins of Planchette would confess to the most distant relationship with the Satanic majesty, or accredit him with the governorship of a single inch of territory. The clergy felt their prestige growing weaker every day, as they saw the people impatiently shaking off, in the broad daylight of truth, the dark veils with which they had been blindfolded for so many centuries. Then finally, fortune, which previously had been on their side in the long-waged conflict between theology and science, deserted to their adversary. The help of the latter to the study of the occult side of nature was truly precious and timely, and science has unwittingly widened the once narrow path of the phenomena into a broad highway. Had not this conflict culminated at the nick of time, we might have seen reproduced on a miniature scale the disgraceful scenes of the episodes of Salem witchcraft and the Nuns of Loudun. As it was, the clergy were muzzled.

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