Night IX. Of intercourse with good and evil spirits.
Eupeithes. It is a singular, but certain fact, that of the many recorded stories of apparitions which have occurred in later times, almost all are those of spirits that once tenanted a human body; hardly one of angels, whether good or bad.
 Sophron. And the reverse is what you might expect. For one account in Holy Scripture of the re-appearance of a human spirit (unless, indeed, that magnificent description of Eliphaz the Temanite, be referred to this head,) we have thirty or forty visitations of angels, both to the good, and also to the bad.
Theodora. It is that last consideration which renders the matter more difficult to explain; else it might be said that the weakness of present faith, and the abundance of present iniquity, were amply sufficient to account for the fact.
Eusebia. It cannot, however, be said, that the visible ministrations of angels have entirely ceased. We have that Derbyshire relation, in which a child was taken out of the stream, into which she had accidentally fallen, by (what she declared to be) a beautiful lady, clad in white. As no such person was discoverable, far or near, the parents not unnaturally concluded that an angel had been commissioned to save their little one from death.
Theodora. I, too, have heard a story of a similar nature. A widower, with his two children, was on a visit at the house of a friend. The children were playing about (for it was an old-fashioned place) in its rambling passages, their father being ignorant that one of them opened on a deep and uncovered well, when, according to their own account, they were met by the figure of their deceased mother, who made them return. If the apparition were indeed she whom it personated, it is a beautiful instance of the endurance of earthly love beyond the grave: if it were their guardian angel, permitted to assume that shape, it is hardly a less striking lesson of the heed we should take not to despise one of these little ones.
Sophron. I have been told, on good authority, the following tale. The little daughter of an eminent dignitary of the English Church was walking with her mother in the city where they resided. The child, in crossing a street, ran over by herself; when at the same moment a travelling carriage whirled round a sharp corner, and in an instant she was under the feet of the horses. Her mother, in an agony of terror, sprang forward to the place where she lay, expecting, (at the very least, to find her most seriously injured. The child sprang up gaily, and said,--"Oh, mamma, I am not at [171/172] all hurt, for something all in white kept the horses from treading upon me, and told me not to be afraid!"
Eupeithes. A lady gave me the account which I am going to read to you. It relates to a poor old woman, a neighbour of hers in the country. "She told me that her little grand-daughter, who lives with her, and whose mother died about a year before, had been overheard by her, talking to some one at night, and laughing. She questioned the child about it, and she told her that a woman in white came to her every night, and stayed some time, and smiled at her so. The child did not appear alarmed at the time, but in the day the shock of these nightly visitations affected her nervous system, and her grandmother became uneasy about her; but after a few nights the visits ceased, but were renewed again at the end of some weeks. The child slept with her father; and this man had, soon after his wife's death,' kept company' with a girl whom he seduced, and then left her; and the grandmother imagined that the child saw the spirit of her own mother returning to upbraid her guilty husband, and watch over her only child. The woman firmly believed all I have here narrated. She is a quiet stolid kind of person--not of an imaginative or enthusiastic cast of mind at all."
Eusebia. I know not well under what head of our subject to class the following. A lady, who resided at one of the suburban villages near London, took her little boy up to Town by railway--I think to a dentist. The child, in the train, seem quite entranced and enraptured; and said he was listening to the most beautiful music he had ever heard. When in London, he lost these sounds; but on returning, he again said that they were lovely beyond anything that he could have fancied. When they reached home, as he looked tired, his mother desired him to lie down. In half-an-hour she went to see if he were asleep: and so he was--but it was the sleep of death.
Sophron. Now I will tell you a story on a larger scale, so to speak, than any which we have yet heard. In the year 1694, one Captain Rogers was in command of a ship called the Society, then in the Virginia trade. She was out-ward bound, for a cargo of tobacco; and as it was paid for in specie, she was very lightly laden. Wind, seas, and [172/173] weather were favourable: day by day the good ship went bounding over the green waves of the Atlantic; and she was now but a few days' sail distant from the Capes. One day, as usual, the noon observation was taken: captain and mates compared their reckonings;--all agreed that they were about a hundred leagues from shore: wind fair, stud-sails set, crew in high spirits, sky perfectly clear. The captain and mates passed a social evening: and towards ten o'clock, the Society having now run by log about thirty leagues, the Captain turned into his hammock.
He slept soundly for some three hours: then woke, and heard the watch relieved. The second mate passing his cabin, he inquired, "What sort of night?"
"The finest night I ever knew," said the mate: "I heaved the log just now, and she is running near ten knots an hour." We shall be in to-morrow evening," said the Captain. "Good night." And he went to sleep again. Still the vessel flew on Eke a race-horse: there was no motion: steadily she cut the calm sea, and, except the rush at her prow, all was as still as death. The phosphoric lights danced gloriously behind; and the man at the wheel could hardly resist the sleepy contagion of time and place.
Suddenly something pulled the Captain, and said, "Get up, and turn out."
The Captain started up,--saw nothing,--thought it was a dream,--turned round and went to sleep again. Again he was pulled,--again he heard the words, "Get up, and turn out."
Still he thought that it was a dream, and again composed himself for sleep. Then he was pulled more strongly, and the voice came louder, "Get up, and turn out directly."
Amazed at the occurrence, he got up, dressed, and went on deck. The night was clear; the wind fair as ever; the second mate walking up and down; all things in the highest degree favourable.
"You, sir!" said the mate: "what's the matter?"
"I can't tell," said Captain Rogers: "but either somebody told me to get up and turn out, or I dreamt it, three times over, and I could lie still no longer."
"A dream, I suppose," said the mate. "All's well, as you see."
 "So it is," said the Captain. "How's her head?" or, as the phrase then went, "How does she cape?"
"Sou'-west by South," replied the mate: "the wind East and by North."
"Nothing can be better," answered the Captain: "I'll turn in again." And he was going to do so, when a voice, as if close at his ear, cried, "Heave the lead, heave the lead."
"When did you heave the lead?" he asked.
"About an hour ago."
"What water had you?"
"I wish you would heave again."
"There can be no occasion, sir," said the mate; "but if you like, it shall be done."
"No," said the Captain: "there can be no occasion certainly. Goodnight."
Again he heard the warning voice. "Heave the lead! heave the lead!"
"I can't tell what ails me," said he, turning back, "but I can't be easy; call some hands aft, and heave the lead."
The sailors were summoned; the line dashed into the sea.
"What water?" said the Captain.
"Eleven fathoms," was the answer.
"Impossible," cried the Captain. "Heave again. How now?"
"Seven fathoms, sir."
"Helm-a-lee!" shouted the Captain. "Call all hands!"
The ship obeyed the rudder. "Now, sir, heave the lead again." It came up at four and a half.
The Captain stood seaward till day-break: and then, a few leagues under her stern, the fair hills of Virginia towered through the morning mist. Had it not been for the Providential interpositions I have related, in half an hour from that time the vessel must have been ashore.
Eupeithes. A very remarkable tale: and certainly possessing the character of direct angelic interference. The absence of any apparition; the direct appeal to the Captain's feelings, without any, or with hardly any, mediate action on his senses, these things seem to point out the agent as a [174/175] soulless spirit; and of such, doubtless one of those angels who are ministers to the heirs of salvation.
Theodora. How beautiful an idea! the guardian spirit following the ship's course over the Atlantic, and interfering just when, and no sooner than, supernatural interference became absolutely essential!
Eupeithes. It is also rare to find instances in which evil spirits, known and confessed as such, have appeared. I pass by the instances of witchcraft, as better spoken of another time; but putting these, be they universally false, or with a mixture of truth, aside, there is hardly a case on record where any man professes to have seen or spoken with an evil spirit.
Sophron. The case most in point, perhaps, is that famous one at Hammel, in Saxony, where, on the 20th of June, 1484, a piper entered the town, playing a tune which seemed to exercise an irresistible fascination on all the children that heard it. One hundred and thirty, in spite of all efforts used to prevent them, followed the man, and were never afterwards heard of. Of indefinite apparitions of evil spirits there are traditions enough; and the old writers on demonology invented, as we have seen, a particular class of fiends, whom they called ambulones, whose business it was to mislead travellers on wide heaths and solitary places.
Eupeithes. With respect to the ambulones, let me read you the following extract from Lord Lindsay's travels:--"Milton, as has been well remarked by Warton, probably borrowed this idea from the popular narrative of Marco Polo, and speaking of the 'hungry desert,' as it is called, of the Mongols, he says, it is asserted as a well-known fact, that this desert is the abode of many evil spirits, which amuse travellers to their destruction with most extraordinary illusions. If, during the day-time, any persons remain behind in the road until the caravan has passed a hill, and is no longer in sight, they unexpectedly hear themselves called to by their names, and in a tone of voice to which they are accustomed. Supposing the call to proceed from their companions, they are led away by it from the direct road, and not knowing in what direction to advance, are left to perish. In the night time they are persuaded they hear the march [175/176] of a large cavalcade on one side or other of the road, and concluding the noise to be that of the footsteps of their party, they direct theirs to the quarter from whence it seems to proceed; but upon the breaking of day, find they have been misled, and drawn into a situation of danger. Sometimes, likewise, during the day, these spirits assume the appearance of their travelling companions, who address them by name, and endeavour to conduct them out of the proper road. It is said, also, that some persons, in their course across the desert, have seen what appeared to them to be a body of armed men advancing towards them, and apprehensive of being attacked and plundered, have taken to flight. Losing by this means the right path, and ignorant of the direction they should take to regain it, they have perished miserably of hunger. Marvellous, indeed, and almost passing belief, are the stories related of these spirits of the desert, which are said at times to fill the air with the sounds of all kinds of musical instruments, and also of drums, and the clash of arms; obliging the travellers to close their line of march, and to proceed in more compact order." [Book i. c. 35, p. 159, Marsden's edition.]
It will be seen from the following passage of Vincent Le Blanc, that a similar belief prevails in the Arabian desert; the Bedouins are always uneasy if the traveller loiters at a distance from his caravan.
"From thence" (the Dead Sea) "we took our way through the open desert, marching in rank and file. Upon our march we were from hand to hand advertised that some one of our company was missing, that strayed from the rest; it was the companion of an Arabian merchant, very sad for the loss of his friend: part of the caravan made a halt, and four Moors were sent in quest of him, and a reward of a hundred ducats was in hand paid them, but they brought back no tidings of him; and it is uncertain whether he was swallowed up in the sands, or whether he met his death by any other misfortune, as it often happens, by the relation of a merchant then in our company, who told us that two years I before, traversing the same journey, a comrade of his, going a little aside from the company, saw three men, who called him by his name, and one of them, to his thinking, favoured very much his companion; and as he was about to follow [176/177] them, his real companion calling him to come back to his company, he found himself deceived by the others, and thus was saved. And all travellers in these parts hold that in the deserts there are many such phantasms and goblins seen, that strive to seduce the travellers, and cause them to perish with hunger and despair." [World Surveyed, p. 11.]
"For one," says Lord Lindsay, "who, like the writer, has once felt, though but for a few moments, what it is to lose his way, and feel himself alone in the desert, it is not difficult to realize the feelings of the unfortunate merchant alluded to. Many of these superstitions have probably arisen from those optical phenomena common in the desert; others, doubtless, from the excited, and, as it were, spiritualized tone, the imagination naturally assumes in scenes presenting so little sympathy with the ordinary feelings of humanity. As an instance of this power of fancy, I may mention, that when crossing Wady Araba, in momentary expectation of encountering the Jellaheens, Mr. Ramsay, a man of remarkably strong sight, and by no means disposed to superstitious credulity, distinctly saw a party of horsemen moving among the sand-hills; and though we met none,, and afterwards learnt that the enemy had already passed up the valley, I do not believe he was ever able to divest himself of the impression,"
Sophron. It is curious to observe how, in the common fictions with respect to intercourse between man and his great enemy, the devil is constantly represented as one whom it is most easy to interest and to dupe. He rarely gets the best of a bargain: it is the man who overreaches the evil one. Some flaw is discovered in the engagement; some cunning method of eluding the most express and binding compacts; and the man exults in having outwitted Satan. Now I know not whether this arises from a good or a bad cause: it may arise from either. At first sight it seems a device of the evil one himself, content to be despised in this life, if thereby he may the more easily secure his prey in the next. And certain it is, that the light and trifling way of naming the devil in all European languages, and the familiar and absurd names which are bestowed on him, have done incalculable harm. This seems to lead to [177/178] the conclusion that the source of this contempt is bad. But then, again, when I consider that this feeling prevails most strongly in the most Catholic country under the sun, namely, Brittany, I see another possible origin for it. For in like manner as many heathens hated and abhorred the evil spirits whom they worshipped, and yet worshipped them, because they so greatly dreaded them, so the feeling of the Church with respect to her ghostly enemies would be precisely the contrary. She too would hate and abhor them, but it would be a hatred without the smallest particle of respect, or fear, or doubt of final victory; she would feel that she was conquering them every day, and would go on conquering to the end; and that feeling involves also the most bitter scorn and contempt. If only for that reason, no mediaeval poet could have written Paradise Lost. And in the same way mediaeval painters generally represent fiends as rather absurd and grotesque than frightful; something which would occasion laughter, were it not for the strong mixture of disgust.
Eupeithes. Perhaps there may be somewhat of truth in both statements, namely, that the feeling was at first and in itself good, but perverted by the evil one to evil.
Sophron. This naturally leads us to one of the most curious and difficult of speculations--the whole subject of witchcraft. And it is one, I suppose, on which more may he said for both sides of the question, than almost any other. I dare say Scepticus will tell us what arguments he should employ, were he arguing against a believer in the thing.
Scepticus. I should endeavour to show him that the belief in witchcraft is a kind of moral epidemic, prevailing; only at certain times, and in certain places. This argument cuts off all advantage from multiplied testimony. Just as in the great Plague at Milan, when public opinion ran that the public walls and the sides of houses were smeared with a poisonous ointment that produced the infection; no sensible man would permit a hundred or a hundred thousand instances of people who were supposed to be taken in the fact of thus anointing the walls, to have any more weight with him than one such alleged example; because the thing is clearly impossible! In like manner, if you believe in a moral epidemic, such as the wholesale butchery of witches involves, you are freer [178/179] from any necessity of answering or explaining individual cases in which witchcraft has been supposed to be exercised.
Sophron. It is an easy way of solving the difficulty; and doubtless such epidemics have raged. Of the same kind was the Tarantula dance in Italy; the mania for the discovery of plots in the time of King Charles II.; the Mississippi scheme in Prance, and the nearly contemporaneous South Sea bubble in England; the Tulip mania in Holland; and the speculation mania of 1825. You give us an advantage, however, by this view of the matter; because, there is no reason why there should not have been a mania of seeing ghosts, as well as for discovering witches, were both equally false. But we have never heard of anything at all similar to this.
Eupeithes. I allow that the belief in witchcraft has been most curiously circumscribed both in time and place; yet that does not deprive the believers in them (of whom I do not wish to profess myself one--I had rather that adhuc sub judice lis sit,) of their great argument: that, undoubtedly, such a power as witchcraft has heretofore been exercised, and therefore might be so again. The antecedent improbability that any such power should exist is very great,--I willingly allow it; at the same time, unless we deny inspiration, this antecedent improbability vanishes; and the question is reduced to this:--has witchcraft ever been practised in a Christian country?
Scepticus. I am willing to allow what you say with regard to the Levitical Law, that it certainly does recognize the existence of witches as such, and is not to be understood of mere jugglers, conjurors, mountebanks, and the like, which is the evasion of some. This, I own, I do not consider honest. But still there is very little resemblance between, that ancient and our modern sorcery.
Eupeithes. Why, there are some very singular resemblances. The most striking is the employment of the art by women, rather than by men, in both cases. And then the "familiar spirit" of old times is quite in accordance with the modern idea of witchcraft.
Scepticus. Do you mean, then, to say, that the localism of the belief is, in your eyes, no argument against it?
 Eupeithes. I do not; I think it is; but no sufficient argument. There is a localism, also, about many crimes: revenge and its attendant wickednesses are chiefly confined to southern countries; drunkenness to nations of the Teutonic race, and so forth. You will find, too, that the asserted prevalence of witchcraft occurs almost entirely in countries which are not Catholic. Scotland, Germany, and the colonies in North America, and Sweden, have furnished its most singular displays; and it chiefly prevailed in England during the Great Rebellion, and the years which succeeded it.
Sophron. True: whereas in other European nations, you would not find its belief in any degree so prevalent as in these. But Scepticus, I think, has a fair answer.
Scepticus. In this way: that the nations you have mentioned, Scotch, Germans, Swedes, and English colonies, are just those which are bound together by a peculiar kindred of blood and language. They embraced the Reformation with more or less avidity; whereas the other European people sooner or later rejected it. There is, no doubt, a nationalism of mind; and that may well have led to the belief, among one set of nations, and the disbelief among another, of the power ascribed to witchcraft. Perhaps, there may be a certain quantum of superstition essential to all people: those of the south took it out, so to speak, in a readiness of belief in miracles which their northern brethren never displayed; those of the north in the gloomier credit they attached to tales of witchcraft.
Eupeithes. You have set the case in the light in which I suppose many persons would view it. I do not object entirely to the statement, though I would rather put it thus:--If men will not believe in God's miracles, the necessity of believing something leads them to give credit to the devil's.
Sophron. And of course, where the Church has less power, the great enemy of the Church will have more. But all this cannot ever do away disbelief in the great mass of tales relating to sorcery. There is something so utterly revolting to common sense in the foolishness of the compact made between the evil one and his victims; something so entirely consonant with the low and groveling ideas which vulgar minds would form of such a compact; nothing grave, nothing solemn; the power wantonly given and foolishly [180/181] employed; above all (what we had occasion to notice before,) a system of things without reference to Divine Providence. And there, I think, the great difference lies between the sorcerers of old and of our own days. The former do not seem to have exercised their power for hurting others, but only for the discovery of secrets, or a revelation of the future. They neither "did good nor did evil;" they simply told, or discovered both. But in our modern tales, one neighbour takes a dislike to another, enters into a compact with the evil one to be revenged on his enemy, and, after all, takes the most miserable and silly revenge that it is possible to conceive.
Scepticus. The confession of such poor wretches is easy enough to explain. Often in their dotage; often wearied out with interrogatories, and sometimes with torture; kept on purpose without sleep; it is not wonderful that they would do anything, or confess anything, to be left at ease. Doubtless there were many poor creatures in the same state as the old beldame mentioned by Sir Walter Scott, who, on being led to the stake, said, "Eh, sirs! but this warm fire, and sae mony gude neighbours, and a' sae cheerfu', is the brawest sight I have seen this mony a lang day."
Eupeithes. It is marvelous how such a sensation could be excited by the discovery of a witches' Sabbath, in Sweden, in 1670. The thing itself, to any one that will read it, is perfectly incredible; but it is almost equally hard to believe that three or four hundred people, of whom the greater part were children, should profess to have been concerned in such an enterprise,--that twenty-three should have been executed without one protesting their innocence, on simply being ask to plead guilty or not guilty,--and that the accounts of Blockula, the place to which they affirmed that they used to resort, should tally so exactly. I think there must have been diabolical possession one way or the other; not physically, but morally.
Sophron. And the possibility of that, in many instances, I should be the last to deny. But in many more, an accusation of witchcraft was the easiest means of annoying, and sometimes of getting rid of an enemy. If it failed of being proved, the accused person had at all events been made an object of suspicion, and the accuser was looked on in the light of a public benefactor. If it succeeded, the prison or [181/182] the gallows were most effectual means of putting an obnoxious person out of the way.
Eupeithes. You will observe, that, in all Catholic traditions of the part which the evil one has taken in human affairs, there is, in connexion with that deep contempt which the Church encourages her sons to feel for him, a solemnity of conception not ill-befitting the occasion. The Church, too, believed, that spiritual malice might be defeated by physical agency. The sign of the cross, from the very earliest times, has been regarded as a sufficient protection against the powers of darkness. Holy oil, again, and holy water, and above all, bells, were believed to possess the same virtues. Almost the whole question of supernatural agency resolves itself into this, whether spiritual beings are capable of producing and suffering physical interference. Take the sign of the Cross. Many people, in these days, will allow its utility; but ask them what they mean, and you will find that they speak only of a moral use. The very act of making the sign will, they say, be the means of inducing holy thoughts; and these holy thoughts, so induced, will of course have the effect of enabling him, whose mind they fill, to resist temptation. This, no doubt, so far as it goes, is perfectly true. But it is utterly false to imagine that in this light only did the laity in the mediaeval Church view that sign. They looked on it as possessing per se virtue; made with whatever carelessness, made, indeed, any how, except in mockery.
Theodora. And even sometimes without that exception they believed in the virtue of a holy sign. Think of that remarkable story of the two players, one of whom baptized the other in mockery; and the person baptized instantly professed himself a Christian, and suffered for that belief.
Sophron. That is also a curious relation of S. Gregory, the Wonderworker, when, compelled by stress of weather, he had passed the night in a heathen temple. The priest, when the saint had gone on his way, could obtain no response from the oracle. He guessed at the reason, or was informed by the demon that haunted that unholy shrine. On this, he pursued S. Gregory; and, on overtaking him demanded with threats that the oracular power, the source of his lucre, should be restored to the temple. "To show [182/183] you," said Gregory, "how great is His power, the meanest of Whose servants is thus able to command your deities, I will do as you request; bring me, therefore, ink and a pen." Sitting down, he wrote on a small piece of paper, and desired the priest to lay it on the altar, and to await the result. The priest returned, and had the curiosity to look at the words which were to produce such an effect. They were simply these:--"Gregory to Satan: enter." He did as he was desired, and the oracle resumed its functions; but did not resume them for long; for the priest was so convinced of the weakness of the gods whom he served; that, says the legend, he thenceforth renounced them, and clave to the faith of CHRIST.
Scepticus. You, I see, are not disposed to regard oracles as mere impostures. For my part, I can see no reason to look at them in any other light.
Sophron. Nor do I deny that there was a great deal of imposture in them. All such answers as are capable of double meanings, doubtless were so. Such was the famous one,
"Aio te, Aeacida, Romanos vincere posse:"
Such also that to Croesus,
KroisoV Alun diabaV megalhn archn katalusei
"Croesus, when he hath passed the Halys, shall destroy a: mighty kingdom." But there are so many instances in which the event was remarkably prophesied, that I do not think we can set the fulfilment down to a mere coincidence. Such was the oracle given to Hannibal; such was that which foretold the actions of a Philip before the birth of Philip of Macedon; such was that given to Scipio, of the destruction of Carthage. And you are to remember, that in no instance is an egregious failure on the part of an oracle recorded. Neither can we be justified, I think, in rejecting all the accounts of Apollonius of Tyana. No story seems to have been more generally credited than the famous tale of his telling the hour of Domitian's death. Lecturing on Philosophy at Ephesus, he suddenly broke off, and exclaimed--"Courage! strike the tyrant! strike him!" And then, after a pause--"The tyrant is dead!" One need not [183/184] believe all the tales that Philostratus tells of his hero; but they could scarcely ever have been related, had there not been some foundation for them.
Eusebia. Do you not think that we might naturally conclude, that in opposition to the stupendous miracles of the early Church, Satan would enable his own worshippers to perform some supernatural signs? The case of the Egyptian magicians seems a case in point.
Sophron. One has a right to think so; and there are instances in which evil spirits seem to have been forced reluctantly to bear witness against themselves. Plutarch relates, as a well known fact, the following story:--A grammarian named Epitherses, wishing to leave Greece for Italy, went on board a ship bound to the latter country, and sailed with a prosperous wind. When the vessel, however, was opposite the Echinades, it fell a dead calm, and it was with great difficulty that they were able to reach Paxos. Here they rode at anchor, and, late at night, the crew were either asleep, or engaged in the necessary business of the vessel. Among the latter was Tamois, the Egyptian pilot. On a sudden, a voice was heard from the island, "Tamois! Tamois!" The pilot, either taken by surprise or terrified, made no answer. Again the voice was heard--"Tamois! Tamois!" "What have you to do with me?" he replied. The voice answered, "When you arrive at Phalacrum, announce as loud as you can speak, that great Pan is dead." And again all was silence. The pilot and the crew were alike terrified, and consulted what was to be done under the circumstances. At last, Tamois resolved that, when he neared the promontory in question, if the wind were fair, he would run past it; if otherwise, he would do his errand. They approached the headland; and when they were close to it, it again fell a perfect calm. Then Tamois, calling up his resolution, mounted the prow of the vessel, and called out in a loud voice, "Great Pan is dead." On this then arose from the continent the sounds of lamentation and wailing, as if an innumerable multitude were joining in it. A fair wind sprang up, and carried the vessel safely to Italy. Of course, the occurrence made a great noise in that country, and was related, in due course of time, to the Emperor Tiberius. He sent for Tamois, and heard the story at [184/185] length. Plutarch relates this story, in his book on the Cessation of Oracles, as connected with that circumstance. But Christian writers have imagined, and not without some likelihood, a far more solemn explanation of the event. The voyage of Epitherses took place in the nineteenth year of Tiberius, and it would appear likely, in the spring of that year. In the nineteenth year of Tiberius, and in the spring of that year, our Lobd was crucified. It has been supposed that on the evening of that very day, and in reference to that event, the message was given. For you must remember that Pan was not only a silvan deity, but among the Arcadians, and perhaps other tribes, a name for the great God of all things; as, indeed, the name signifies.
Eupeithes. It may be so indeed; but how wonderful an arrangement of things does such a belief presuppose! Certainly, the services of angels and men are ordained and constituted in a wonderful order, if the hypothesis be true.
Sophron. Whether the voice which gave the message proceeded from a good or bad spirit, may be a question of doubt; but there can be no doubt as to the nature of those beings by whom it was received with lamentation. But how wonderful a thing it is that spiritual beings should be in want of, or, at least, should be desirous of employing, human agency in this way!
Eupeithes. Unless one should say that it was done by the direction of Providence, as a testimony to the nature of the event then occurring; and yet it is difficult to imagine that, because, after all, the occurrence only stands on a guess, and requires testimony itself.
Scepticus. The story is all the more worthy of credit, I allow, from being related by a heathen; for we know the vast number of prophecies of the SAVIOUR, which Christian ingenuity forged under the name of Sibylline verses.
Eupeithes. All such predictions, in heathen countries, of our LORD, are not to be so sweepingly condemned. Every one knows that it was the expectation of the world, at the time of His birth, that a mighty Prince was about to arise out of the East. And I can never read the Pollio of Virgil, without believing, either that the poet meant more than a reference to Marcellus, or whomever else the ingenuity of commentators has discovered or imagined to have [185/186] been born in that year; or else, that he was actually, in an inferior sense, inspired, to speak that of which he did not understand the full meaning: and that of him it might be said, as it was of Caiaphas--"And this spake he not of himself." If Caiaphas might be inspired, assuredly Virgil might. And surely we can hardly believe otherwise, when one reads of the Virgin returning, of the golden age commencing, of the traces of former crime disappearing from the earth, of the serpent perishing, of earth, and sea, and heaven rejoicing; hyperboles too immense to have been tolerated in an emperor's son, while the father of the subject of that Eclogue, whoever he might be, had certainly not then attained to the imperial dignity.
Sophron. And in the same way, as we had occasion some nights ago to remark, there is no doubt that the symbol of the cross was venerated long before the coming of our LORD.
Scepticus. You will at least grant, that all the various kinds of divination so much in use among the ancients, by birds, by entrails, by rods, by sieves, by cocks, by water, by the hand, and in a thousand other ways, were sheer pieces of jugglery.
Sophron. Yes: though I believe that, now and then, the demons who prompted the worship of the ancients were permitted to encourage it, by speaking the truth even through these trivial and superstitious inquiries. Of these, the Sortes Homericae or Virgilianae, where, by opening Homer or Virgil at random, the line which first met the eye was taken as the answer, afforded some of the most remarkable instances. Not to mention the line of the Iliad, presented to Socrates--
"I should arrive
On the third day in Phthia's gleby land;"
from which he foretold that his execution would take place on the third day: the Emperor Hadrian, about to adopt L. Varus, and anxious to know his fate, opened on the line of Virgil,
"Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, nec ultra
 which was exactly fulfilled. So our Charles I. consulted the Virgilian lots in the Bodleian, in company with Lord Falkland. The former opened on,
"Jacet ingens litore truncus,
Avulsumque humeris caput, et sine nomine corpus."
The latter on,
"Heu miserande puer! si qua fata aspera rumpas,
Tu Marcellus eris."
Boissarde assures us that he knew a gentleman who was persecuted in every possible way by a nobleman, at the instigation of his wife. Unable to discover what secret enemy he had, he consulted the Virgilian lots, and read,
"Causa mali tanti conjux iterum hospita."
And, in reality, the above named nobleman and his wife had been compelled at that time, through the civil wars in France, to leave their own estate, and to retire to Basle. The early Christians continued the use of the same lot, only substituting the Bible for Homer and Virgil. But it was strenuously opposed by the Fathers, who called it an undoubted tempting of GOD. However, the practice continued to be sometimes employed till a much later period; as is evident from the example of S. Francis, who formed his institute on three sortes from the New Testament. It was a very favourite practice among the Puritans, and much in vogue among their preachers. I remember to have read of one, who was desirous of prognosticating success in some undertaking he contemplated, and opened on the verse, "Go, and the LORD be with thee." He went, in reliance on the text, and lost his life.
Eupeithes. The observation of days, natural and common enough among the heathen, descended with equal force to most Christian countries. The superstition which makes Friday an unlucky day is, I suppose, common to every nation. By none is it more strongly held than by sailors; and a curious and fruitless effort was made, some time ago, to break them of it. A ship, called Friday, had her keel laid on a Friday, was launched on a Friday, was commanded by a Captain Friday, and sailed on a Friday; and, finally, was never more heard of.
 Sophron. In the same way, in our eastern counties, Childermas day--that is, that day of the week on which the Holy Innocents fell the preceding year--was, and in some degree is, held unlucky.
Eupeithes. And there were many sayings as to the various festivals of the Church, some of which were, no doubt, true. Some had a great appearance of likelihood; and some, perhaps, a little savoured of superstition. There was a rhyme as to S. Paul's day:
"Clara dies Pauli bona tempora denotat anni;
Si fuerint venti, designant proelia genti;
Si fuerint nebulae, pereunt animalia quaeque;
Si nix, si pluvia est, prsedicunt tempora cara."
And another for the Purification:
'Si sol splendescat, Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum, quam fuit ante."
And this intense cold was held to last for forty days. On S. Vincent's day (Jan. 22), in vine districts, it was believed that a fine forenoon heralded an abundant vintage: and the monks of houses under the invocation of that saint were accordingly well treated on that day. A rainy Easter was held to predict an abundant corn harvest. The concurrence of Lady-day with Good Friday was considered unlucky: an old rhyme says,
"When our Lady falls in our LORD'S lap,
Then let England look for mishap."
S. Medardus's day, in May, and S. Urban's, the 24th of that month, were regarded, the first by vinedressers, the second by husbandmen, as presaging, by their fairness or foulness, a plentiful or scarce year. Thunders in March were held extremely unlucky. An old French proverb tells us, that,
"Jamais le villageois n'a matière de dire, Hélas!
S'il ne voit sa maison arse, ou s'il n'oit tonner en Mars."
And other presages from the sky are well known, such as that,
"Blessed is the bride that the sun shines on;
Blessed is the corpse that the rain rains on."
Sophron. This leads us to the subject of charms. It is [188/189] curious to see what a gradation there is in these: from prayers, not only harmless but beautiful, though superstitiously used, to the most absurd trash that ever entered the mind of man. For instance: to heal a wound, and prevent it from gangrening, it was ordered to say the two following verses five times a day, laying the hand meanwhile on the part affected:
"Vulneribus quinis me subtrahe Christe ruinis;
Vulnera quinque Dei sunt medicina mei."
This, for curing any wound: "Christus fuit natus, Christus fuit amissus, Christus fuit inventus." We had this in England, for stanching blood:
"Sanguis mane in te,
Sicut Christus fuit in se;
Sanguis mane in tua vena
Sicut Christus in sua poena:
Sanguis mane fixus,
Sicut Christus quando fuit crucifixus."
A French charm, for the same purpose, was the letting a straw fall on the ground several times, and saying,
"Herbe qui de Dieu est créée,
Montre la vertu que Dieu t'a donnée."
In England, to cure wounds, they said,
"Jesus CHRIST, of Maiden born,
Was pricked both with nail and thorn;
And it did neither boll nor swell,
And I trust in Him this never will."
A French charm, for a burn, was:
"Feu, Feu, perd ta chaleur,
Comme Judas sa couleur
Quand il trahit le Sauveur."
We had this:
"There came three Angels out of the East,
One brought fire, the other brought frost:
Out fire, in frost,
In the Name of the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST."
The Media vita in morte sumus was a celebrated charm in the Middle Ages against death in battle; and many councils have forbidden its use to soldiers. A strange [189/190] charm, against fevers, was the following, to be worn round the neck: Quand Dieu vit la Croix où son corps fut mis, sa chair trembla, son sang s'emeut: les Juifs lui ont dit, Je crois que Tu as peur, ou que les fievres Te tiennent: Je n'ai point peur, ni les fievres ne Me tiennent point. This was against cramp:
"Cramp, be thou faintless,
As our Lady was painless,
When she bare Jesus."
Then, we get to mere absurdities, such as the famous Abracadabra, so much vaunted in the Great Plague. Ananizapta was almost equally famous, and, I should think, as useful. This was applied by being thus written on a piece of paper:
"Ananizapta ferit mortem quae laedere quaerit,
Est mala mors capta dum dicitur Ananizapta:
Ananizapta Dei jam miserera mei."
One finds passages of Scripture serving as charms. For instance: to stop the bleeding of the nose, make the sign of the Cross over it, saying, Consummatum est. To cure tooth-ache, touch it, repeating the words, There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. To protect a horse from stumbling, touch his forefoot, and say, A bone of him shall not be broken.
Eupeithes. Of prophecies in modern times, there are not many that are very curious. The most remarkable is that well-known one,
"Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus."
That we know, from Lord Bacon, to have been in vogue before 1588, and therefore could not have been made for the Armada; and is yet more strikingly applicable to 1688. A similar prophecy--though I know not the exact words--connects the year '45 with misfortune; and 1645 and 1745 seemed to verify it. Another prophecy,
"When hempe is spun,
was ingeniously interpreted; but one can hardly look on it as more than a coincidence. Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, Elizabeth--whose initials made the word hempe--having [190/191] reigned, the name England was merged in Great Britain. Other prophecies seem to have been thrown out on the world, in the hope that some one would invent interpretations for them. Such is that (mentioned, as the two former, by Lord Bacon),
"There shall be seen on a day.
Between the Baugh and the May,
The Black Fleet of Norway.
Then England shall have houses of stone;
For after wars you shall have none."
That has also been expounded of the Armada, but with little plausibility. It is difficult to imagine that the Egyptian sorcerers of modern times are impostors. Lane, in his Modern Egyptians, seems to have put the matter out of doubt.
Eusebia. And there was that remarkable prophecy that Constantinople would remain four hundred years in the power of the Infidels, and would then again become the capital of a Christian State; in 1853 the four hundred years are complete, and the prediction certainly seems near its completion.
Eupeithes. Boissarde tells, on his own authority, a story of an event which occurred to some friend, whose name, from prudential reasons, he suppresses. He had married a young and beautiful bride, not without meeting with great difficulty from an obnoxious rival. Shortly after the wedding, the unsuccessful lover was slain in a duel by the husband; and for this crime he was obliged to leave the country. Extremely anxious to know how his wife employed her solitude, he heard, in the place of his exile, of a celebrated magician, and, half out of joke, applied to him. The philosopher assured him that he could fulfil his wish. A day was appointed; and the young nobleman brought several of his friends to be spectators of the event. A young girl was brought in by the magician (just in the same way as is the case with the Egyptian sorcerers), and desired to look in a glass. She described accurately, first the room in which the lady ordinarily sat, then the lady's person; and wound up the whole by adding that a young man was at her side, and apparently enjoying no Small part of her affection. The unfortunate husband [191/192] mounted his horse, and hardly stopped till he approached the city whence he had been banished. Not daring to enter it, he sent a message to his wife, desiring her to meet him at such a spot in a neighbouring forest; proposing first to upbraid her with her infidelity, and then to kill her. She came full of joy; and her husband's heart was softened by her agitation and tears of gladness. Taking her, however, by surprise, he demanded the name of the stranger who, at such an hour of such a day, was with her. She replied, without hesitation, that it was her brother-in-law. Fortunately the matter was susceptible of proof; and the nobleman, thoroughly satisfied, returned to his place of exile, cursing from his very heart the jugglery and delusion of fiends.
Sophron. There was a prophecy, current before the death of James I., which, was remarkably fulfilled.
"Sexte, verere Deos: vitae tibi terminus instat,
Cum semel in medio ardebit carbunculus igne."
The King was seized with an ague at Trinity College, Cambridge; thence he went to Theobald's, and while sitting there by the fire-side the carbuncle fell out of the ring he usually wore, into the fire. His illness ended, as every one knows, fatally.
Eusebia. The most remarkable, however, of the authenticated prophecies of modern times, is that celebrated prediction of M. de Cazotte. I will read it to you, as related by La Harpe, from Dr. Gregory's "Letters on Magnetism."
"It appears but as yesterday, yet, nevertheless, it was at the beginning of the year 1788. We were dining with one of our brethren at the Academy, a man of considerable wealth and genius. The company was numerous and diversified; Courtiers, Lawyers, Academicians, &c.; and, according to custom, there had been a magnificent dinner. At dessert the wines of Malvoisin and Constantia added to the gaiety of the guests that sort of licence which is sometimes forgetful of bon-ton. We had arrived in the world just at that time when anything was permitted that would raise a laugh. Chamfort had read to us some of his impious and libertine tales. Prom this arose a deluge of jests against [192/193] religion. One quoted a tirade from the Pucelle; another recalled the philosophic lines of Diderot,
"'Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre
Serrer le cou du dernier roi,'
for the sake of applauding them. A third rose, and, holding his glass in his hand, exclaimed, 'Yes, gentlemen, I am as sure that there is no God, as I am sure that Homer was a fool;' and, in truth, he was as sure of the one as of the other. The conversation became more serious; much admiration was expressed of the revolution which Voltaire had effected, and it was agreed that it was his first claim to the reputation which he enjoyed: he had given the prevailing tone to his age, and had been read in the ante-chamber as well as in the drawing-room. One of the guests told us, while bursting with laughter, that his hair-dresser while powdering his hair, had said to him, 'Do you observe, sir, that although I am but a poor miserable barber, I have no more religion than any other.' He concluded that the Revolution must soon be consummated; that it was indispensable that superstition and fanaticism should give place to Philosophy; and we began to calculate the probability of the period when this should be, and which of the present company should live to see the reign of reason. The oldest complained that they could scarcely flatter themselves with the hope; the young rejoiced that they might entertain this very probable expectation; and they congratulated the Academy especially for having prepared the great work, and for having been the great rallying point, the centre, and the prime mover of the liberty of thought.
"One only of the guests had not taken part in all the joyousness of this conversation. This was Cazotte, an amiable and original man, but unhappily infatuated with the reveries of the illuminati. He spoke, and with the most serious tone. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'be satisfied; you will all see this great and sublime revolution, which you so much admire. You know that I am a little inclined to prophecy: I repeat, you will see it.' He was answered by the common rejoinder, 'One need not be a conjuror to see that.' 'Be it so; but perhaps one must be a little more [193/194] than a conjuror, for what remains for me to tell you. Do you know what will be the consequence of this revolution,--what will be the consequence to all of you, and what will be the immediate result--the well-established effect--the thoroughly recognized consequence to all of you who are here present?' 'Ah!' said Condorcet, with his insolent and half-suppressed smile. 'Let us hear; a philosopher is not afraid to encounter a prophet.' 'You, Monsieur de Condorcet, you will yield up your last breath on the floor of a dungeon; you will die from poison, which you will have taken, in order to escape from execution,--from poison which the happiness of that time will oblige you to carry about your person.'
"At first astonishment was most marked, but it was soon recollected that the good Cazotte is liable to dreaming, though, apparently wide awake, and a hearty laugh is the consequence. 'Monsieur Cazotte, the relation you give is not so agreeable as your Diable Amoureux,' (a novel of Cazotte's.)
"'But what has put into your head this prison and this poison, and these executioners? What an all these have in common with philosophy and the reign of reason?' 'This is exactly what I say to you; it is in the name of philosophy--of humanity--of liberty; it is under the reign of reason, that it will happen to you thus to end your career; and it will indeed be the reign of reason; for then she will have her temples; and, indeed, at that time, there will be no other temples in France than the temples of reason.' 'By my truth,' said Chamfort, with a sarcastic smile, 'you will not be one of the priests of these temples.' 'I do not hope it; but you, Monsieur de Chamfort, you will be one, and most worthy to be so; you will open your veins with twenty-two cuts of a razor, and yet you will not die till some months afterwards.' They looked at each other, and laughed again. 'You, Monsieur Vicq d'Azir, you will not open your own veins, but you will cause yourself to be bled, six times in one day, during a paroxysm of the gout, in order to make more sure of your end, and you will die in the night. You, Monsieur de Nicolai, you will die upon the scaffold; you, M. Bailly, on the scaffold; you, Monsieur de Malesherbes, on the [194/195] scaffold.' 'Ah! God be thanked,' exclaimed Roueler, 'it seems that Monsieur has no eye, but for the Academy; of it he has just made a terrible execution, and I, thank heaven . . . . . ' ' You! you, also, will die upon the scaffold.' 'Oh, what an admirable guessed!' was uttered on all sides; 'he has sworn to exterminate us all!' 'No, it is not I who have sworn it.' 'But shall we then be conquered by the Turks or the Tartars? Yet again . . . . . ' 'Not at all; I have already told you, you will then be conquered only by philosophy, only by reason. They who will thus treat you will be all philosophers, will always have upon their lips the self-same phrases which you have been putting forth for the last hour, will repeat all your maxims, and will quote, as you have done, the verses of Diderot, and from La Pucelle.' They then whispered among themselves, 'You see that he is gone mad,' for he preserved all this time the most serious and solemn manner. 'Do you not see that he is joking? and you know that in the character of his jokes there is always much of the marvelous.' 'Yes,' replied Chamfort, 'but his marvellousness is not cheerful; it savours too much of the gibbet; and when will all this happen?' 'Six years will not have passed over before all that I have said to you shall be accomplished.'
"'Here are some astonishing miracles,' (and this time it was myself who spoke,) 'but you have not included me in your list.' 'But you will be there, as an equally extraordinary miracle; you will then be a Christian.'
"Vehement exclamations on all sides. 'Ah,' replied Chamfort, 'I am comforted; if we shall perish only when La Harpe shall be a Christian, we are immortal.'
"'As for that,' then observed Madame la Duchesse de Grammont, 'we women, we are happy to be counted for nothing in these revolutions; when I say for nothing, it is not that we do not always mix ourselves up with them a little; but it is a received maxim that they take no notice of us, and of our sex.' 'Your sex, ladies, will not protect you this time; and you had far better meddle with nothing, for you will be treated entirely as men, without any difference whatever.' 'But what then are you really telling us of, Monsieur Cazotte? you are preaching to us of the end of the world.' 'I know nothing on that subject; but what I [195/196] do know is, that you, Madame la Duchesse, will be conducted to the scaffold; you, and many other ladies with you, in the cart of the executioner, and with your hands tied behind your backs.' 'Ah! I hope that, in that case, I shall have a carriage hung in black.' 'No, Madame, higher ladies than yourself will go, like you, in the common car, with their hands tied behind them.' 'Higher ladies! what? the princesses of the blood?' 'Still more exalted personages.' Here a sensible emotion pervaded the whole company, and the countenance of the host was dark and lowering; they began to feel that the joke was becoming too serious. Madame de Grammont, in order to dissipate the cloud, took no notice of the reply, and contented herself with saying in a careless tone, 'You see that he will not leave me even a confessor.' 'No, Madame, you will not have one; neither you nor any one besides. The last victim to whom this favour will be afforded, will be ...." He stopped for a moment. 'Well! who then will be the happy mortal to whom this prerogative will be given?' ''Tis the only one which he will have then retained, and that will be the King of France.'
"The master of the house rose hastily and every one with him. He walked up to M. Cazotte and addressed him with a tone of deep emotion: 'My dear Monsieur Cazotte, this mournful joke has lasted long enough. You carry it too far--even so far as to derogate from the society in which you are, and from your character.' Cazotte answered not a word, and was preparing to leave, when Madame de Grammont, who always sought to dissipate serious thought, and to restore the lost gaiety of the party, approached him, saying, 'Monsieur the prophet, who have foretold us of our good fortune, you have told us nothing of your own I1 le remained silent for some time with downcast eyes. 'Madame, have you ever read the Siege of Jerusalem,' in Josephus?' 'Yes, who has not read that? But answer as if I had never read it.' 'Well, then, Madame, during the siege a man, for seven days in succession, went round the ramparts of the city, in sight of the besiegers and besieged, crying unceasingly, with an ominous and thundering voice, Woe to Jerusalem; and the seventh time he cried, Woe to Jerusalem, Woe to myself; and at that moment [196/197] an enormous stone, projected from one of the machines of the besieging army, struck him and destroyed him.' [La Harpe, Posthumous Memoirs. Paris, 1806. Vol. I. p. 63.]
"And after this reply, M. Cazotte made his bow and retired.
"When for the first time I read this astonishing prediction, I thought that it was only a fiction of La Harpe's, and that that celebrated critic wished to depict the astonishment which would have seized persons distinguished for their rank, their talents, and their fortune, if, several years before the Revolution, one could have brought before them the causes which were preparing, and the frightful consequences which would follow. The inquiries which I have since made, and the information I have gained, have induced me to change my opinion. M. le Comte A. de Montesquieu, having assured me that Madame de Genlis had repeatedly told him that she had often heard this prediction related by M. de La Harpe, I begged of him to have the goodness to solicit from that lady more ample details. This is her reply:--
"'I think I have somewhere placed among my souvenirs the anecdote of M. Cazotte; but I am not sure. I have heard it related a hundred times by M. de La Harpe, before the Revolution, and always in the same form as I have met with it in print, and as he himself has caused it to be printed. This is all that I can say, or certify, or authenticate by my signature.
"'COMTESSE DE GENLIS."
"I have also seen the son of M. Cazotte, who assured me that his father was gifted in a most remarkable manner with a faculty of prevision; of which he had numberless proofs: one of the most remarkable of which was, that on returning home on the day on which Ms daughter had succeeded in delivering him from the hands of the wretches who were conducting him to the scaffold, instead of partaking the joy of his surrounding family, he declared that in three days he should be again arrested, and that he should then undergo his fate: and in truth he perished on the 25th September, 1792, at the age of 72.
 "In reference to the above narrative, M. Cazotte jun. would not undertake to affirm that the relation of La Harpe was exact in all its expressions, but had not the smallest doubt as to the reality of the facts.
"I ought to add, that a friend of Vicq d'Azir, an inhabitant of Rennes, told me that that celebrated physician, having travelled into Brittany some years before the Revolution, had related to him, before his family, the prophecy of Cazotte, It seemed that, notwithstanding his scepticism, Vicq d'Azir was uneasy about the prediction.
"Letter on this subject addressed to M. Mialle by M. le Baron de La Mothe Langon:--
"'You inquire of me, my dear friend, what I know concerning the famous prediction of Cazotte mentioned by La Harpe. I have only on this subject to assure you upon my honour that I have heard Madame la Comtesse de Beauharnais many times assert that she was present at this very singular historical fact. She related it always in the same way, and with the accent of truth;--her evidence fully corroborated by that of La Harpe. She spoke this before all the persons of the society in which she moved,--many of whom still live, and could easily attest this assertion.
"'You may make what you please of this communication. Adieu, my good old friend. I remain, with immutable attachment, Yours,
"'Baron de La Mothe Langon.
'"Paris, Dec. 18,1833.'"
Sophron. And what are we to say or to deem of the wonderful pretensions of astrology? Are we to believe that, from the age of the Chaldeans downwards, it has been one science of imposition and guess work, never right, except by chance; or that it is based on rules, and that those rules have a certain aim, and are worthy of trust?
Eupeithes. There can be no doubt that the majority of professors of astrology have believed in their own science; and it seems recognized as one, though as a forbidden one, in the Levitical law. It has been made the means, it is clear, of innumerable impostures; but all this does not prove that, if it were given to men to fathom it, there is not [198/199] a real law of the future, from the position and influences of the stars. It is hardly possible that so general a belief in sidereal virtue, should have prevailed amongst all nations, if there were no foundation for such credence. Nay, do we not read in Holy Scripture itself, that "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera?" which clearly to me seems to mean either nothing, or that the influence of the planets was against him.
Theodora. It is hardly credible that there should be such a science, and yet that it should be a forbidden one.
Eupeithes, Why so? Surely not more incredible than that the tree of knowledge of good and evil should have stood in the midst of Paradise, and should yet have been forbidden to our first parents.
Sophron. There are rules for the science, which any how are learnt, and are observed. The rules may themselves be impostures or absurd, but yet may be followed out in good faith.
Eupeithes. I remember a professor of astrology visiting one of our universities, and being consulted by many persons who would have been most sorry to appear in the business. In particular, I recollect one instance, either of a curious verification of his rules, or of a most fortunate guess, for the information could have been acquired in no other way. A man took him the nativity of a deceased friend, and desired him to calculate it. On going again to the astrologer, "It is a very curious thing," said the latter, "that the person whose nativity you gave me, must, according to all the rules of science, be dead." His visitor, by way of trying him, persisted that it was not so. "I must then have made some mistake," replied the other, "and will work my calculations over again." He did so; and on receiving a second visit from the man of whom I speak, "It is a most remarkable circumstance," he said; "if your friend be not dead, I frankly confess that the laws of our science have for once failed." "At what time ought he, according to your computations, to have died?" inquired the visitor. The astrologer named a. day. "He did die at that very time," rejoined the other; "and you have given me the best possible proof of the reality of your art."
Sophron. I have heard that the modern professors of [199/200] the science do not, in reply to questions as to the extent of the inquirer's life, mark out any certain time for his death, but content themselves with telling him that at such a time he will be in imminent danger; if he escapes that, at such another time he will be so again; and so forward, till they pass the period to which, in the natural course of things, he can hope to live.
Eupeithes. We began with speaking of the beauty of the stars; and where we commenced, there, it seems we conclude. It is a wonderful inquiry in which we have been engaged; and one which, in this world, we can never hope to understand. But one cannot wonder, when pursuing such trains of thought, at the impatience of Cleombrotus to possess the world of immortality which Plato had opened to him.
Theodora. Nor is it less striking to remember the friends with whom we may have discussed such questions, but who are now in that place where they understand them fully. One often fancies how much they must desire to impart some of this knowledge to us whom they have left behind.
Sophron. The writers of the sixteenth century on apparitions, endeavoured to show that the spirits of the departed faithful have just as much liberty of motion, and of appearing to whom they please, that we in the flesh possess. I do not think it. I do not believe that, if they retain their earthly affection that animated them here, they could refrain from visiting those whom they have loved, and from whom they are now separated. It would rather seem that some strict law of the unknown state forbids such apparitions, unless especially permitted. Doubtless, well for us it is so.
Eupeithes. How it would alter the whole course of human existence, if such apparitions constantly took place! Whether they lost, or whether they still retained their terror, it would hardly be compatible with worldly business that they should be permitted.
Theodora. In all such stories, a superintending Providence seems most clearly manifest. These strange visitants tell just what they were commissioned to tell, and nothing more; they have a message to deliver, and they deliver it [200/201] of their own state, of the manner in which they were judged, of their employments, of their associates, they say nothing.
Sophron. To that conclusion of a superintending, and a most minutely superintending Providence, our whole discussion, I trust, has been calculated to lead us. The intercommunion of the world of spirits with our own must needs be a most elevating, and ought to be a most consoling, belief. To have those whom we have best loved locally near us, to believe that we are assisted by them in dangers, to remember that they are witnesses of our temptations, and rejoicers in our victory, is one of the most encouraging and inspiriting thoughts that a Christian man can possess. All the ideas, then, that have been raised in our minds, of holy thoughts suggested, unseen evils warded off, space or time annihilated, for the safety of one in peril; courage renovated, ways directed by the ministrations of spiritual beings: all these things ought to fill our hearts with gratitude, when we express our belief in the Communion of Saints.