HotFreeBooks.com
The Phantom World - or, The philosophy of spirits, apparitions, &c, &c.
by Augustin Calmet
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Count d'Alais having returned to Marseilles, and being lodged in the same apartment, the same spectre appeared to him again. Neure wrote to Gassendi that they had observed that this spectre penetrated into the chamber by the wainscot; which obliged Gassendi to write to the count to examine the thing more attentively; and notwithstanding this discovery, he dare not yet decide upon it. He contents himself with encouraging the count, and telling him that if this apparition is from God, he will not allow him to remain long in expectation, and will soon make known his will to him; and also, if this vision does not come from him, he will not permit it to continue, and will soon discover that it proceeds from a natural cause. Nothing more is said of this spectre any where.

Three years afterwards, the Countess d'Alais avowed ingenuously to the count that she herself had caused this farce to be played by one of her women, because she did not like to reside at Marseilles; that her woman was under the bed, and that she from time to time caused a phosphoric light to appear. The Count d'Alais related this himself to M. Puger of Lyons, who told it, about thirty-five years ago, to M. Falconet, a medical doctor of the Royal Academy of Belle-Lettres, from whom I learnt it. Gassendi, when consulted seriously by the count, answered like a man who had no doubt of the truth of this apparition; so true it is that the greater number of these extraordinary facts require to be very carefully examined before any opinion can be passed upon them.

Footnotes:

[308] Vie de Gassendi, tom. i. p. 258.

[309] Alais is a town in Lower Languedoc, the lords of which bear the title of prince, since this town has passed into the House of Angouleme and De Conty.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

OF SPECTRES WHICH HAUNT HOUSES.

There are several kinds of spectres or ghosts which haunt certain houses, make noises, appear there, and disturb those who live in them: some are sprites, or elves, which divert themselves by troubling the quiet of those who dwell there; others are spectres or ghosts of the dead, who molest the living until they have received sepulture: some of them, as it is said, make the place their purgatory; others show themselves or make themselves heard, because they have been put to death in that place, and ask that their death may be avenged, or that their bodies may be buried. So many stories are related concerning those things that now they are not cared for, and nobody will believe any of them. In fact, when these pretended apparitions are thoroughly examined into, it is easy to discover their falsehood and illusion.

Now, it is a tenant who wishes to decry the house in which he resides, to hinder others from coming who would like to take his place; then a band of coiners have taken possession of a dwelling, whose interest it is to keep their secret from being found out; or a farmer who desires to retain his farm, and wishes to prevent others from coming to offer more for it; in this place it will be cats or owls, or even rats, which by making a noise frighten the master and domestics, as it happened some years ago at Mosheim, where large rats amused themselves in the night by moving and setting in motion the machines with which the women bruise hemp and flax. An honest man who related it to me, desiring to behold the thing nearer, mounted up to the garret armed with two pistols, with his servant armed in the same manner. After a moment of silence, they saw the rats begin their game; they let fire upon them, killed two, and dispersed the rest. The circumstance was reported in the country and served as an excellent joke.

I am about to relate some of these spectral apparitions upon which the reader will pronounce judgment for himself. Pliny[310] the younger says that there was a very handsome mansion at Athens which was forsaken on account of a spectre which haunted it. The philosopher Athenodorus, having arrived in the city, and seeing a board which informed the public that this house was to be sold at a very low price, bought it and went to sleep there with his people. As he was busy reading and writing during the night, he heard on a sudden a great noise, as if of chains being dragged along, and perceived at the same time something like a frightful old man loaded with iron chains, who drew near to him. Athenodorus continuing to write, the spectre made him a sign to follow him; the philosopher in his turn made signs to him to wait, and continued to write; at last he took his light and followed the spectre, who conducted him into the court of the house, then sank into the ground and disappeared.

Athenodorus, without being frightened, tore up some of the grass to mark the spot, and on leaving it, went to rest in his room. The next day he informed the magistrates of what had happened; they came to the house and searched the spot he designated, and there found the bones of a human body loaded with chains. They caused him to be properly buried, and the dwelling house remained quiet.

Lucian[311] relates a very similar story. There was, says he, a house at Corinth which had belonged to one Eubatides, in the quarter named Cranaues: a man named Arignotes undertook to pass the night there, without troubling himself about a spectre which was said to haunt it. He furnished himself with certain magic books of the Egyptians to conjure the spectre. Having gone into the house at night with a light, he began to read quietly in the court. The spectre appeared in a little while, taking sometimes the shape of a dog, then that of a bull, and then that of a lion. Arignotes very composedly began to pronounce certain magical invocations, which he read in his books, and by their power forced the spectre into a corner of the court, where he sank into the earth and disappeared.

The next day Arignotes sent for Eubatides, the master of the house, and having had the ground dug up where the phantom had disappeared, they found a skeleton, which they had properly interred, and from that time nothing more was seen or heard.

It is Lucian, that is to say, the man in the world the least credulous concerning things of this kind, who makes Arignotes relate this event. In the same passage he says that Democritus, who believed in neither angels, nor demons, nor spirits, having shut himself up in a tomb without the city of Athens, where he was writing and studying, a party of young men, who wanted to frighten him, covered themselves with black garments, as the dead are represented, and having taken hideous disguises, came in the night, shrieking and jumping around the place where he was; he let them do what they liked, and without at all disturbing himself, coolly told them to have done with their jesting.

I know not if the historian who wrote the life of St. Germain l'Auxerrois[312] had in his eye the stories we have just related, and if he did not wish to ornament the life of the saint by a recital very much like them. The saint traveling one day through his diocese, was obliged to pass the night with his clerks in a house forsaken long before on account of the spirits which haunted it. The clerk who read to him during the night saw on a sudden a spectre, which alarmed him at first; but having awakened the holy bishop, the latter commanded the spectre in the name of Jesus Christ to declare to him who he was, and what he wanted. The phantom told him that he and his companion had been guilty of several crimes; that having died and been interred in that house, they disturbed those who lodged there until the burial rites should have been accorded them. St. Germain commanded him to point out where their bodies were buried, and the spectre led him thither. The next day he assembled the people in the neighborhood; they sought amongst the ruins of the building where the brambles had been disturbed, and they found the bones of two men thrown in a heap together, and also loaded with chains; they were buried, prayers were said for them, and they returned no more.

If these men were wretches dead in crime and impenitence, all this can be attributed only to the artifice of the devil, to show the living that the reprobate take pains to procure rest for their bodies by getting them interred, and to their souls by getting them prayed for. But if these two men were Christians who had expiated their crimes by repentance, and who died in communion with the church, God might permit them to appear, to ask for clerical sepulture and those prayers which the church is accustomed to say for the repose of defunct persons who die while yet some slight fault remains to be expiated.

Here is a fact of the same kind as those which precede, but which is attended by circumstances which may render it more credible. It is related by Antonio Torquemada, in his work entitled Flores Curiosas, printed at Salamanca in 1570. He says that a little before his own time, a young man named Vasquez de Ayola, being gone to Bologna with two of his companions to study the law there, and not having found such a lodging in the town as they wished to have, lodged themselves in a large and handsome house, which was abandoned by everybody, because it was haunted by a spectre which frightened away all those who wished to live in it; they laughed at such discourse, and took up their abode there.

At the end of a month, as Ayola was sitting up alone in his chamber, and his companions sleeping quietly in their beds, he heard at a distance a noise as of several chains dragged along upon the ground, and the noise advanced towards him by the great staircase; he recommended himself to God, made the sign of the cross, took a shield and sword, and having his taper in his hand, he saw the door opened by a terrific spectre that was nothing but bones, but loaded with chains. Ayola conjured him, and asked him what he wished for; the phantom signed to him to follow, and he did so; but as he went down the stairs, his light blew out; he went back to light it, and then followed the spirit, which led him along a court where there was a well. Ayola feared that he might throw him into it, and stopped short. The spectre beckoned to him to continue to follow him; they entered the garden, where the phantom disappeared. Ayola tore up some handfuls of grass upon the spot, and returning to the house, related to his companions what had happened. In the morning he gave notice of this circumstance to the Principals of Bologna.

They came to reconnoitre the spot, and had it dug up; they found there a fleshless body, but loaded with chains. They inquired who it could be, but nothing certain could be discovered, and the bones were interred with suitable obsequies, and from that time the house was never disquieted by such visits. Torquemada asserts that in his time there were still living at Bologna and in Spain some who had been witnesses of the fact; and that on his return to his own country, Ayola was invested with a high office, and that his son, before this narration was written, was President in a good city of the kingdom (of Spain).

Plautus, still more ancient than either Lucian or Pliny, composed a comedy entitled "Mostellaria," or "Monstellaria," a name derived from "Monstrum," or "Monstellum," from a monster, a spectre, which was said to appear in a certain house, and which on that account had been deserted. We agree that the foundation of this comedy is only a fable, but we may deduce from it the antiquity of this idea among the Greeks and Romans.

The poet[313] makes this pretended spirit say that, having been assassinated about sixty years before by a perfidious comrade who had taken his money, he had been secretly interred in that house; that the god of Hades would not receive him on the other side of Acheron, as he had died prematurely; for which reason he was obliged to remain in that house of which he had taken possession.

"Haec mihi dedita habitatio; Nam me Acherontem recipere noluit, Quia praemature vita careo."

The pagans, who had the simplicity to believe that the Lamiae and evil spirits disquieted those who dwelt in certain houses and certain rooms, and who slept in certain beds, conjured them by magic verses, and pretended to drive them away by fumigations composed of sulphur and other stinking drugs, and certain herbs mixed with sea water. Ovid, speaking of Medea, that celebrated magician, says[314]—

"Terque senem flamma, ter aqua, ter sulphure lustrat."

And elsewhere he adds eggs:—

"Adveniat quae lustret anus lectumque locumque, Deferat et tremula sulphur et ova manu."

In addition to this they adduce the instance of the archangel Raphael,[315] who drove away the devil Asmodeus from the chamber of Sarah by the smell of the liver of a fish which he burnt upon the fire. But the instance of Raphael ought not to be placed along with the superstitious ceremonies of magicians, which were laughed at by the pagans themselves; if they had any power, it could only be by the operation of the demon with the permission of God; whilst what is told of the archangel Raphael is certainly the work of a good spirit, sent by God to cure Sarah the daughter of Raguel, who was as much distinguished by her piety as the magicians are degraded by their malice and superstition.

Footnotes:

[310] Plin. junior, Epist. ad Suram. lib. vii. cap. 27.

[311] In Philo pseud. p. 840.

[312] Bolland, 31 Jul. p. 211.

[313] Plaut. Mostell. act. ii. v. 67.

[314] Vide Joan. Vier. de Curat. Malific. c. 215.

[315] Tob. viii.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

OTHER INSTANCES OF SPECTRES WHICH HAUNT CERTAIN HOUSES.

Father Pierre Thyree,[316] a Jesuit, relates an infinite number of anecdotes of houses haunted by ghosts, spirits, and demons; for instance, that of a tribune, named Hesperius, whose house was infested by a demon who tormented the domestics and animals, and who was driven away, says St. Augustin,[317] by a good priest of Hippo, who offered therein the divine sacrifice of the body of our Lord.

St. Germain,[318] Bishop of Capua, taking a bath in one particular quarter of the town, found there Paschaus, a deacon of the Roman Church, who had been dead some time, and who began to wait upon him, telling him that he underwent his purgatory in that place for having favored the party of Laurentius the anti-pope, against Pope Symachus.

St. Gregory of Nicea, in the life of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea, says that a deacon of this holy bishop, having gone into a bath where no one dared go after a certain hour in the evening, because all those who had entered there had been put to death, beheld spectres of all kinds, which threatened him in a thousand ways, but he got rid of them by crossing himself and invoking the name of Jesus.

Alexander ab Alexandro,[319] a learned Neapolitan lawyer of the fifteenth century, says that all the world knows that there are a number of houses at Rome so much out of repute on account of the ghosts which appear in them every night that nobody dares to inhabit them. Nicholas Tuba, his friend, a man well known for his probity and veracity, who came once with some of his comrades to try if all that was said of those houses was true, would pass the night in one of them with Alexander. As they were together, wide awake, and with plenty of light, they beheld a horrible spectre, which frightened them so much by its terrific voice and the great noise which it made, that they hardly knew what they did, nor what they said; "and by degrees, as we approached," says he, "with the light, the phantom retreated; at last, after having thrown all the house into confusion, it disappeared entirely."

I might also relate here the spectre noticed by Father Sinson the Jesuit, which he saw, and to which he spoke at Pont-a-Mousson, in the cloister belonging to those fathers; but I shall content myself with the instance which is reported in the Causes Celebres,[320] and which may serve to undeceive those who too lightly give credit to stories of this kind.

At the Chateau d' Arsillier, in Picardy, on certain days of the year, towards November, they saw flames and a horrible smoke proceeding thence. Cries and frightful howlings were heard. The bailiff, or farmer of the chateau, had got accustomed to this uproar, because he himself caused it. All the village talked of it, and everybody told his own story thereupon. The gentleman to whom the chateau belonged, mistrusting some contrivance, came there near All-saints' day with two gentlemen his friends, resolved to pursue the spirit, and fire upon it with a brace of good pistols. A few days after they arrived, they heard a great noise above the room where the owner of the chateau slept; his two friends went up thither, holding a pistol in one hand and a candle in the other; and a sort of black phantom with horns and a tail presented itself, and began to gambol about before them.

One of them fired off his pistol; the spectre, instead of falling, turns and skips before him: the gentleman tries to seize it, but the spirit escapes by the back staircase; the gentleman follows it, but loses sight of it, and after several turnings, the spectre throws itself into a granary, and disappears at the moment its pursuer reckoned on seizing and stopping it. A light was brought, and it was remarked that where the spectre had disappeared there was a trapdoor, which had been bolted after it entered; they forced open the trap, and found the pretended spirit. He owned all his artifices, and that what had rendered him proof against the pistol shot was buffalo's hide tightly fitted to his body.

Cardinal de Retz,[321] in his Memoirs, relates very agreeably the alarm which seized himself and those with him on meeting a company of black Augustine friars, who came to bathe in the river by night, and whom they took for a troop of quite another description.

A physician, in a dissertation which he has given on spirits or ghosts, says that a maid servant in the Rue St. Victor, who had gone down into the cellar, came back very much frightened, saying she had seen a spectre standing upright between two barrels. Some persons who were bolder went down, and saw the same thing. It was a dead body, which had fallen from a cart coming from the Hotel-Dieu. It had slid down by the cellar window (or grating), and had remained standing between two casks. All these collective facts, instead of confirming one another, and establishing the reality of those ghosts which appear in certain houses, and keep away those who would willingly dwell in them, are only calculated, on the contrary, to render such stories in general very doubtful; for on what account should those people who have been buried and turned to dust for a long time find themselves able to walk about with their chains? How do they drag them? How do they speak? What do they want? Is it sepulture? Are they not interred? If they are heathens and reprobates, they have nothing to do with prayers. If they are good people, who died in a state of grace, they may require prayers to take them out of purgatory; but can that be said of the spectres spoken of by Pliny and Lucian? It is the devil, who sports with the simplicity of men? Is it not ascribing to him most excessive power, by making him the author of all these apparitions, which we conceive he cannot cause without the permission of God? And we can still less imagine that God will concur in the deceptions and illusions of the demon. There is then reason to believe that all the apparitions of this kind, and all these stories, are false, and must be absolutely rejected, as more fit to keep up the superstition and idle credulity of the people than to edify and instruct them.

Footnotes:

[316] Thyraei Demoniaci cum locis infestis.

[317] S. Aug. de Civ. lib. xxii. 8.

[318] S. Greg. Mag. Dial. cap. 39.

[319] Alexander ab Alexandro, lib. v. 23.

[320] Causes Celebres, tom. xi. p. 374.

[321] Mem. de Cardinal de Retz, tom. i. pp. 43, 44



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

PRODIGIOUS EFFECTS OF IMAGINATION IN THOSE MEN OR WOMEN WHO BELIEVE THEY HOLD INTERCOURSE WITH THE DEMON.

As soon as we admit it as a principle that angels and demons are purely spiritual substances, we must consider, not only as chimerical but also as impossible, all personal intercourse between a demon and a man, or a woman, and consequently regard as the effect of a depraved or deranged imagination all that is related of demons, whether incubi or succubi, and of the ephialtes of which such strange tales are told.

The author of the Book of Enoch, which is cited by the fathers, and regarded as canonical Scripture by some ancient writers, has taken occasion, from these words of Moses,[322] "The children of God, seeing the daughters of men, who were of extraordinary beauty, took them for wives, and begat the giants of them," of setting forth that the angels, smitten with love for the daughters of men, wedded them, and had by them children, which are those giants so famous in antiquity.[323] Some of the ancient fathers have thought that this irregular love of the angels was the cause of their fall, and that till then they had remained in the just and due subordination which they owed to their Creator.

It appears from Josephus that the Jews of his day seriously believed[324] that the angels were subject to these weaknesses like men. St. Justin Martyr[325] thought that the demons were the fruit of this commerce of the angels with the daughters of men.

But these ideas are now almost entirely given up, especially since the belief in the spirituality of angels and demons has been adopted. Commentators and the fathers have generally explained the passage in Genesis which we have quoted as relating to the children of Seth, to whom the Scripture gives the name of children of God, to distinguish them from the sons of Cain, who were the fathers of those here called the daughters of men. The race of Seth having then formed alliances with the race of Cain, by means of those marriages before alluded to, there proceeded from these unions powerful, violent, and impious men, who drew down upon the earth the terrible effects of God's wrath, which burst forth at the universal deluge.

Thus, then, these marriages between the children of God and the daughters of men have no relation to the question we are here treating; what we have to examine is—if the demon can have personal commerce with man or woman, and if what is said on that subject can be connected with the apparitions of evil spirits amongst mankind, which is the principal object of this dissertation.

I will give some instances of those persons who have believed that they held such intercourse with the demon. Torquemada relates, in a detailed manner, what happened in his time, and to his knowledge, in the town of Cagliari, in Sardinia, to a young lady, who suffered herself to be corrupted by the demon; and having been arrested by the Inquisition, she suffered the penalty of the flames, in the mad hope that her pretended lover would come and deliver her.

In the same place he speaks of a young girl who was sought in marriage by a gentleman of good family; when the devil assumed the form of this young man, associated with the young lady for several months, made her promises of marriage, and took advantage of her. She was only undeceived when the young lord who sought her in marriage informed her that he was absent from town, and more than fifty leagues off, the day that the promise in question had been given, and that he never had the slightest knowledge of it. The young girl, thus disabused, retired into a convent, and did penance for her double crime.

We read in the life of St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux,[326] that a woman of Nantes, in Brittany, saw, or thought she saw the demon every night, even when lying by her husband. She remained six years in this state; at the end of that period, having her disorderly life in horror, she confessed herself to a priest, and by his advice began to perform several acts of piety, as much to obtain pardon for her crime as to deliver herself from her abominable lover. But when the husband of this woman was informed of the circumstance, he left her, and would never see her again.

This unhappy woman was informed by the devil himself that St. Bernard would soon come to Nantes, but she must mind not to speak to him, for this abbot could by no means assist her; and if she did speak to him, it would be a great misfortune to her; and that from being her lover, he who warned her of it would become her most ardent persecutor.

The saint reassured this woman, and desired her to make the sign of the cross on herself on going to bed, and to place next her in the bed the staff which he gave her. "If the demon comes," said he, "let him do what he can." The demon came; but, without daring to approach the bed, he threatened the woman greatly, and told her that after the departure of St. Bernard he would come again to torment her.

On the following Sunday, St. Bernard repaired to the Cathedral church, with the Bishop of Nantes and the Bishop of Chartres, and having caused lighted tapers to be given to all the people, who had assembled in a great crowd, the saint, after having publicly related the abominable action of the demon, exorcised and anathematized the evil spirit, and forbade him, by the authority of Jesus Christ, ever again to approach that woman, or any other. Everybody extinguished their tapers, and the power of the demon was annihilated.

This example and the two preceding ones, related in so circumstantial a manner, might make us believe that there is some reality in what is said of demons incubi and succubi; but if we deeply examine the facts, we shall find that an imagination strongly possessed, and violent prejudice, may produce all that we have just repeated.

St. Bernard begins by curing the woman's mind, by giving her a stick, which she was to place by her side in the bed. This staff sufficed for the first impression; but to dispose her for a complete cure, he exorcises the demon, and then anathematizes him, with all the eclat he possibly could: the bishops are assembled in the cathedral, the people repair thither in crowds; the circumstance is recounted in pompous terms; the evil spirit is threatened; the tapers are extinguished—all of them striking ceremonies: the woman is moved by them, and her imagination is restored to a healthy tone.

Jerome Cardan[327] relates two singular examples of the power of imagination in this way; he had them from Francis Pico de Mirandola. "I know," says the latter, "a priest, seventy-five years of age, who lived with a pretended woman, whom he called Hermeline, with whom he slept, conversed, and conducted in the streets as if she had been his wife. He alone saw her, or thought he saw her, so that he was looked upon as a man who had lost his senses. This priest was named Benedict Beina. He had been arrested by the Inquisition, and punished for his crimes; for he owned that in the sacrifice of the mass he did not pronounce the sacramental words, that he had given the consecrated wafer to women to make use of in sorcery, and that he had sucked the blood of children. He avowed all this while undergoing the question.

Another, named Pineto, held converse with a demon, whom he kept as his wife, and with whom he had intercourse for more than forty years. This man was still living in the time of Pico de Mirandola.

Devotion and spirituality, when too contracted and carried to excess, have also their derangements of imagination. Persons so affected often believe they see, hear, and feel, what passes only in their brain, and which takes all its reality from their prejudices and self-love. This is less mistrusted, because the object of it is holy and pious; but error and excess, even in matters of devotion, are subject to very great inconveniences, and it is very important to undeceive all those who give way to this kind of mental derangement.

For instance, we have seen persons eminent for their devotion, who believed they saw the Holy Virgin, St. Joseph, the Saviour, and their guardian angel, who spoke to them, conversed with them, touched the wounds of the Lord, and tasted the blood which flowed from his side and his wounds. Others thought they were in company with the Holy Virgin and the Infant Jesus, who spoke to them and conversed with them; in idea, however, and without reality.

In order to cure the two ecclesiastics of whom we have spoken, gentler and perhaps more efficacious means might have been made use of than those employed by the tribunal of the Inquisition. Every day hypochondriacs, or maniacs, with fevered imaginations, diseased brains, or with the viscera too much heated, are cured by simple and natural remedies, either by cooling the blood, and creating a diversion in the humors thereof, or by striking the imagination through some new device, or by giving so much exercise of body and mind to those who are afflicted with such maladies of the brain that they may have something else to do or to think of, than to nourish such fancies, and strengthen them by reflections daily recurring, and having always the same end and object.

Footnotes:

[322] Gen. vi. 1, 2.

[323] Athenagorus and Clem. Alex. lib. iii. & v. Strom. & lib. ii. Pedagog.

[324] Joseph. Antiq. lib. i. c. 4.

[325] Justin. Apolog. utroque.

[326] Vita St. Bernard, tom. i. lib. 20.

[327] Cardan, de Variet. lib. xv. c. lxxx. p. 290.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

RETURN AND APPARITIONS OF SOULS AFTER THE DEATH OF THE BODY, PROVED FROM SCRIPTURE.

The dogma of the immortality of the soul, and of its existence after its separation from the body which it once animated, being taken for indubitable, and Jesus Christ having invincibly established it against the Sadducees, the return of souls and their apparition to the living, by the command or permission of God, can no longer appear so incredible, nor even so difficult.

It was a known and received truth among the Jews in the time of our Saviour; he assumed it as certain, and never pronounced a word which could give any one reason to think that he disapproved of, or condemned it; he only warned us that in common apparitions spirits have neither flesh nor bones, as he had himself after his resurrection. If St. Thomas doubted of the reality of the resurrection of his Master, and the truth of his appearance, it was because he was aware that those who suppose they see apparitions of spirits are subject to illusion; and that one strongly prepossessed will often believe he beholds what he does not see, and hear that which he hears not; and even had Jesus Christ appeared to his apostles, that would not prove that he was resuscitated, since a spirit can appear, while its body is in the tomb and even corrupted or reduced to dust and ashes.

The apostles doubted not of the possibility of the apparition of spirits: when they saw the Saviour coming towards them, walking upon the waves of the Lake of Gennesareth,[328] they at first believed that it was a phantom.

After St. Peter had left the prison by the aid of an angel, and came and knocked at the door of the house where the brethren were assembled, the servant whom they sent to open it, hearing Peter's voice, thought it was his spirit, or an angel[329] who had assumed his form and voice. The wicked rich man, being in the flames of hell, begged of Abraham to send Lazarus to earth, to warn his brothers[330] not to expose themselves to the danger of falling like him in the extreme of misery: he believed, without doubt, that souls could return to earth, make themselves visible, and speak to the living.

In the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Moses, who had been dead for ages, appeared on Mount Tabor with Elias, conversing with Jesus Christ then transfigured.[331] After the resurrection of the Saviour, several persons, who had long been dead, arose from their graves, went into Jerusalem and appeared unto many.[332]

In the Old Testament, King Saul addresses himself to the witch of Endor, to beg of her to evoke for him the soul of Samuel;[333] that prophet appeared and spoke to Saul. I know that considerable difficulties and objections have been formed as to this evocation and this apparition of Samuel. But whether he appeared or not—whether the Pythoness did really evoke him, or only deluded Saul with a false appearance—I deduce from it that Saul and those with him were persuaded that the spirits of the dead could appear to the living, and reveal to them things unknown to men.

St. Augustine, in reply to Simplicius, who had proposed to him his difficulties respecting the truth of this apparition, says at first,[334] that it is no more difficult to understand that the demon could evoke Samuel by the help of a witch than it is to comprehend how that Satan could speak to God, and tempt the holy man Job, and ask permission to tempt the apostles; or that he could transport Jesus Christ himself to the highest pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem.

We may believe also that God, by a particular dispensation of his will, may have permitted the demon to evoke Samuel, and make him appear before Saul, to announce to him what was to happen to him, not by virtue of magic, not by the power of the demon alone, but solely because God willed it, and ordained it thus to be.

He adds that it may be advanced that it is not Samuel who appears to Saul, but a phantom, formed by the illusive power of the demon, and by the force of magic; and that the Scripture, in giving the name of Samuel to this phantom, has made use of ordinary language, which gives the name of things themselves to that which is but their image or representation in painting or in sculpture.

If it should be asked how this phantom could discover the future, and predict to Saul his approaching death, we may likewise ask how the demon could know Jesus Christ for God alone, while the Jews knew him not, and the girl possessed with a spirit of divination, spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles,[335] could bear witness to the apostles, and undertake to become their advocate in rendering good testimony to their mission.

Lastly, St. Augustine concludes by saying that he does not think himself sufficiently enlightened to decide whether the demon can, or cannot, by means of magical enchantments, evoke a soul after the death of the body, so that it may appear and become visible in a corporeal form, which may be recognized, and capable of speaking and revealing the hidden future. And if this potency be not accorded to magic and the demon, we must conclude that all which is related of this apparition of Samuel to Saul is an illusion and a false apparition made by the demon to deceive men.

In the books of the Maccabees,[336] the High-Priest Onias, who had been dead several years before that time, appeared to Judas Maccabaeus, in the attitude of a man whose hands were outspread, and who was praying for the people of the Lord: at the same time the Prophet Jeremiah, long since dead, appeared to the same Maccabaeus; and Onias said to him, "Behold that holy man, who is the protector and friend of his brethren; it is he who prays continually for the Lord's people, and for the holy city of Jerusalem." So saying, he put into the hands of Judas a golden sword, saying to him, "Receive this sword as a gift from heaven, by means of which you shall destroy the enemies of my people Israel."

In the same second book of the Maccabees,[337] it is related that in the thickest of the battle fought by Timotheus, general of the armies of Syria, against Judas Maccabaeus, they saw five men as if descended from heaven, mounted on horses with golden bridles, who were at the head of the army of the Jews, two of them on each side of Judas Maccabaeus, the chief captain of the army of the Lord; they shielded him with their arms, and launched against the enemy such fiery darts and thunderbolts that they were blinded and mortally afraid and terrified.

These five armed horsemen, these combatants for Israel, are apparently no other than Mattathias, the father of Judas Maccabaeus,[338] and four of his sons, who were already dead; there yet remained of his seven sons but Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan, and Simon. We may also understand it as five angels, who were sent by God to the assistance of the Maccabees. In whatever way we regard it, these are not doubtful apparitions, both on account of the certainty of the book in which they are related, and the testimony of a whole army by which they were seen.

Whence I conclude, that the Hebrews had no doubt that the spirits of the dead could return to earth, that they did return in fact, and that they discovered to the living things beyond our natural knowledge. Moses expressly forbids the Israelites to consult the dead.[339] But these apparitions did not show themselves in solid and material bodies; the Saviour assures us of it when he says, "Spirits have neither flesh nor bones." It was often only an aerial figure which struck the senses and the imagination, like the images which we see in sleep, or that we firmly believe we hear and see. The inhabitants of Sodom were struck with a species of blindness,[340] which prevented them from seeing the door of Lot's house, into which the angels had entered. The soldiers who sought for Elisha were in the same way blinded in some sort,[341] although they spoke to him they were seeking for, who led them into Samaria without their perceiving him. The two disciples who went on Easter-day to Emmaus, in company with Jesus Christ their Master, did not recognize him till the breaking of the bread.[342]

Thus, the apparitions of spirits to mankind are not always in a corporeal form, palpable and real; but God, who ordains or permits them, often causes the persons to whom these apparitions appear, to behold, in a dream or otherwise, those spirits which speak to, warn, or threaten them; who makes them see things as if present, which in reality are not before their eyes, but only in their imagination; which does not prove these visions and warnings not to be sent from God, who, by himself, or by the ministration of his angels, or by souls disengaged from the body, inspired the minds of men with what he judges proper for them to know, whether in a dream, or by external signs, or by words, or else by certain impressions made on their senses, or in their imagination, in the absence of every external object.

If the apparitions of the souls of the dead were things in nature and of their own choice, there would be few persons who would not come back to visit the things or the persons which have been dear to them during this life. St. Augustine says it of his mother, St. Monica,[343] who had so tender and constant an affection for him, and who, while she lived, followed him and sought him by sea and land. The bad rich man would not have failed, either, to come in person to his brethren and relations to inform them of the wretched condition in which he found himself in hell. It is a pure favor of the mercy or the power of God, and which he grants to very few persons, to make their appearance after death; for which reason we should be very much on our guard against all that is said, and all that we find written on the subject in books.

Footnotes:

[328] Matt. vi. 16. Mark vi. 43.

[329] Acts xii. 13, 14.

[330] Luke xxi. 14, 15.

[331] Luke ix. 32.

[332] Matt. xxvii. 34.

[333] 1 Sam. xxviii. 7, ad finem.

[334] Augustin de Diversis Quaest. ad Simplicium, Quaest. cxi.

[335] Acts xxvi. 17.

[336] Macc. x. 29.

[337] 2 Macc. x. 29.

[338] 1 Macc. xi. 1.

[339] Deut. xviii. 11.

[340] Gen. xix. 11.

[341] 2 Kings vi. 19.

[342] Luke xxvi. 16.

[343] Aug. de Cura gerenda pro Mortuis, c. xiii.



CHAPTER XL.

APPARITIONS OF SPIRITS PROVED FROM HISTORY.

St. Augustine[344] acknowledges that the dead have often appeared to the living, have revealed to them the spot where their body remained unburied, and have shown them that where they wished to be interred. He says, moreover, that a noise was often heard in churches where the dead were inhumed, and that dead persons have been seen often to enter the houses wherein they dwelt before their decease.

We read that in the Council of Elvira,[345] which was held about the year 300, it was forbidden to light tapers in the cemeteries, that the souls of the saints might not be disturbed. The night after the death of Julian the Apostate, St. Basil[346] had a vision in which he fancied he saw the martyr, St. Mercurius, who received an order from God to go and kill Julian. A little time afterwards the same saint Mercurius returned and cried out, "Lord, Julian is pierced and wounded to death, as thou commandedst me." In the morning St. Basil announced this news to the people.

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who suffered martyrdom in 107,[347] appeared to his disciples, embracing them, and standing near them; and as they persevered in praying with still greater fervor, they saw him crowned with glory, as if in perspiration, coming from a great combat, environed with light.

After the death of St. Ambrose, which happened on Easter Eve, the same night in which they baptized neophytes, several newly baptized children saw the holy bishop,[348] and pointed him out to their parents, who could not see him because their eyes were not purified—at least says St. Paulinus, a disciple of the saint, and who wrote his life.

He adds that on the day of his death the saint appeared to several holy persons dwelling in the East, praying with them and giving them the imposition of hands; they wrote to Milan, and it was found, on comparing the dates, that this occurred on the very day he died. These letters were still preserved in the time of Paulinus, who wrote all these things. This holy bishop was also seen several times after his death praying in the Ambrosian church at Milan, which he promised during his life that he would often visit. During the siege of Milan, St. Ambrose appeared to a man of that same city, and promised that the next day succor would arrive, which happened accordingly. A blind man having learnt in a vision that the bodies of the holy martyrs Sicineus and Alexander would come by sea to Milan, and that Bishop Ambrose was going to meet them, he prayed the same bishop to restore him to sight, in a dream. Ambrose replied; "Go to Milan; come and meet my brethren; they will arrive on such a day, and they will restore you to sight." The blind man went to Milan, where he had never been before, touched the shrine of the holy martyrs, and recovered his eyesight. He himself related the circumstance to Paulinus.

The lives of the saints are full of apparitions of deceased persons; and if they were collected, large volumes might be filled. St. Ambrose, of whom we have just spoken, discovered after a miraculous fashion the bodies of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius,[349] and those of St. Nazairius and St. Celsus.

Evodius, Bishop of Upsal in Africa,[350] a great friend of St. Augustine, was well persuaded of the reality of apparitions of the dead, from his own experience, and he relates several instances of such things which happened in his own time; as that of a good widow to whom a deacon appeared who had been dead for four years. He was accompanied by several of the servants of God, of both sexes, who were preparing a palace of extraordinary beauty. This widow asked him for whom they were making these preparations; he replied that it was for the youth who died the preceding day. At the same time, a venerable old man, who was in the same palace, commanded two young men, arrayed in white, to take the deceased young man out of his grave and conduct him to this place. As soon as he had left the grave, fresh roses and rose-beds sprang up; and the young man appeared to a monk, and told him that God had received him into the number of his elect, and had sent him to fetch his father, who in fact died four days after of slow fever.

Evodius asks himself diverse questions on this recital: If the soul on quitting its (mortal) body does not retain a certain subtile body, with which it appears, and by means of which it is transported from one spot to another? If the angels even have not a certain kind of body?—for if they are incorporeal, how can they be counted? And if Samuel appeared to Saul, how could it take place if Samuel had no members? He adds, "I remember well that Profuturus, Privatus and Servitus, whom I had known in the monastery here, appeared to me, and talked with me after their decease; and what they told me, happened. Was it their soul which appeared to me, or was it some other spirit which assumed their form?" He concludes from this that the soul is not absolutely bodiless, since God alone is incorporeal.[351]

St. Augustine, who was consulted on this matter by Evodius, does not think that the soul, after the death of the body, is clothed with any material substantial form; but he confesses that it is very difficult to explain how an infinite number of things are done, which pass in our minds, as well in our sleep as when we are awake, in which we seem to see, feel, and discourse, and do things which it would appear could be done only by the body, although it is certain that nothing bodily occurs. And how can we explain things so unknown, and so far beyond anything that we experience every day, since we cannot explain even what daily experience shows us.[352] Evodius adds that several persons after their decease have been going and coming in their houses as before, both day and night; and that in churches where the dead were buried, they often heard a noise in the night as of persons praying aloud.

St. Augustine, to whom Evodius writes all this, acknowledges that there is a great distinction to be made between true and false visions, and that he could wish he had some sure means of discerning them correctly. The same saint relates on this occasion a remarkable story, which has much connection with the matter we are treating upon. A physician named Gennadius, a great friend of St. Augustine's, and well known at Carthage for his great talent and his kindness to the poor, doubted whether there was another life. One day he saw, in a dream, a young man who said to him, "Follow me;" he followed him in spirit, and found himself in a city, where, on his right hand, he heard most admirable melody; he did not remember what he heard on his left.

Another time he saw the same young man, who said to him, "Do you know me?" "Very well," answered he. "And whence comes it that you know me?" He related to him what he had showed him in the city whither he had led him. The young man added, "Was it in a dream, or awake, that you saw all that?" "In a dream?" he replied. The young man then asked, "Where is your body now?" "In my bed," said he. "Do you know that now you see nothing with the eyes of your body?" "I know it," answered he. "Well, then, with what eyes do you behold me?" As he hesitated, and knew not what to reply, the young man said to him, "In the same way that you see and hear me now that your eyes are shut, and your senses asleep; thus after death you will live, you will see, you will hear, but with eyes of the spirit; so doubt not that there is another life after the present one."

The great St. Anthony, one day when he was wide awake, saw the soul of the hermit St. Ammon being carried into heaven in the midst of choirs of angels. Now, St. Ammon died that same day, at five days' journey from thence, in the desert of Nitria. The same St. Anthony saw also the soul of St. Paul Hermitus ascending to heaven surrounded by choirs of angels and prophets. St. Benedict beheld the spirit of St. Germain, Bishop of Capua, at the moment of his decease, who was carried into heaven by angels. The same saint saw the soul of his sister, St. Scholastica, rising to heaven in the form of a dove. We might multiply such instances without end. They are true apparitions of souls separated from their bodies.

St. Sulpicius Severus, being at some distance from the city of Tours, and ignorant of what was passing there, fell one morning into a light slumber; as he slept he beheld St. Martin, who appeared to him in a white garment, his countenance shining, his eyes sparkling, his hair of a purple color; it was, nevertheless, very easy to recognise him by his air and his face. St. Martin showed himself to him with a smiling countenance, and holding in his hand the book which St. Sulpicius Severus had composed upon his life. Sulpicius threw himself at his feet, embraced his knees, and implored his benediction, which the saint bestowed upon him. All this passed in a vision; and as St. Martin rose into the air, Sulpicius Severus saw still in the spirit the priest Clarus, a disciple of the saint, who went the same way and rose towards heaven. At that moment Sulpicius awoke, and a lad who served him, on entering, told him that two monks who were just arrived from Tours, had brought word that St. Martin was dead.

The Baron de Coussey, an old and respectable magistrate, has related to me more than once that, being at more than sixty leagues from the town where his mother died the night she breathed her last, he was awakened by the barking of a dog which laid at the foot of his bed; and at the same moment he perceived the head of his mother environed by a great light, who, entering by the window into his chamber, spoke to him distinctly, and announced to him various things concerning the state of his affairs.

St. Chrysostom, in his exile,[353] and the night preceding his death, saw the martyr St. Basilicus, who said to him—"Courage, brother John; to-morrow we shall be together." The same thing was foretold to a priest who lived in the same place. St. Basilicus said to him, "Prepare a place for my brother John; for, behold, he is coming."

The discovery of the body of St. Stephen, the first martyr, is very celebrated in the Church; this occurred in the year 415. St. Gamaliel, who had been the master of St. Paul before his conversion, appeared to a priest named Lucius, who slept in the baptistery of the Church at Jerusalem to guard the sacred vases, and told him that his own body and that of St. Stephen the proto-martyr were interred at Caphargamala, in the suburb named Dilagabis; that the body of his son named Abibas, and that of Nicodemus, reposed in the same spot. Lucius had the same vision three times following, with an interval of a few days between. John, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was then at the Council of Dioscopolis, repaired to the spot, made the discovery and translation of the relics, which were transported to Jerusalem, and a great number of miracles were performed there.

Licinius, being in his tent,[354] thinking of the battle he was to fight on the morrow, saw an angel, who dictated to him a form of prayer which he made his soldiers learn by heart, and by means of which he gained the victory over the Emperor Maximian.

Mascezel, general of the Roman troops which Stilicho sent into Africa against Gildas, prepared himself for this war, in imitation of Theodosius the Great, by prayer and the intervention of the servants of God. He took with him in his vessel some monks, whose only occupation during the voyage was to pray, fast, and sing psalms. Gildas had an army of seventy thousand men; Mascezel had but five thousand, and did not think he could without rashness attempt to compete with an enemy so powerful and so far superior in the number of his forces. As he was pondering uneasily on these things, St. Ambrose, who died the year before, appeared to him by night, holding a staff in his hand, and struck the ground three times, crying, "Here, here, here!" Mascezel understood that the saint promised him the victory in that same spot three days after. In fact, the third day he marched upon the enemy, offering peace to the first whom he met; but an ensign having replied to him very arrogantly, he gave him a severe blow with his sword upon his arm, which made his standard swerve; those who were afar off thought that he was yielding, and that he lowered his standard in sign of submission, and they hastened to do the same. Paulinus, who wrote the life of St. Ambrose, assures us that he had these particulars from the lips of Mascezel himself; and Orosius heard them from those who had been eye-witnesses of the fact.

The persecutors having inflicted martyrdom on seven Christian virgins,[355] one of them appeared the following night to St. Theodosius of Ancyra, and revealed to him the spot where herself and her companions had been thrown into the lake, each one with a stone tied around her neck. As Theodosius and his people were occupied in searching for their bodies, a voice from heaven warned Theodosius to be on his guard against the traitor, meaning to indicate Polycronius, who betrayed Theodosius, and was the occasion of his being arrested and martyred.

St. Potamienna,[356] a Christian virgin who suffered martyrdom at Alexandria, appeared after her death to several persons, and was the cause of their conversion to Christianity. She appeared in particular to a soldier named Basilidus, who, as he was conducting her to the place of execution, had protected her from the insults of the populace. This soldier, encouraged by Potamienna, who in a vision placed a garland upon his head, was baptized, and received the crown of martyrdom.

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neocaesarea in Pontus, being greatly occupied with certain theological difficulties, raised by heretics concerning the mysteries of religion, and having passed great part of the night in studying those matters, saw a venerable old man enter his room, having by his side a lady of august and divine form; he comprehended that these were the Holy Virgin and St. John the Evangelist. The Virgin exhorted St. John to instruct the bishop, and dissipate his embarrassment, by explaining clearly to him the mystery of the Trinity and the Divinity of the Verb or Word. He did so, and St. Gregory wrote it down instantly. It is the doctrine which he left to his church, and which they have to this very day.

Footnotes:

[344] Aug. de Cura gerend. pro Mortuis, c. x.

[345] Concil. Eliber, auno circiter 300.

[346] Amplilo. vita S. Basil. and Chronic. Alex. p. 692.

[347] Acta sincera Mart. pp. 11, 22. Edit. 1713.

[348] Paulin. vit. S. Ambros. n. 47, 48.

[349] Ambros. Epist. 22, p. 874; vid. notes, ibid.

[350] Evod. Upsal. apud Aug. Epist. clviii. Idem, Aug. Epist. clix.

[351] "Animan igitur omni corpore carere omnino non posse, illud, ut puto, ostendit quia Deus solus omni corpore semper caret."

[352] "Quid se praecipitat de rarissimis aut inexpertis quasi definitam ferre sententiam, cum quotidiana et continua non solvat?"

[353] Palladius, Dialog, de Vita Chrysost. c. xi.

[354] Lactant. de Mort. Persec. c. 46.

[355] Acta sincera Martyr. passion. S. Theodos. M. pp. 343, 344.

[356] Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 8.



CHAPTER XLI.

MORE INSTANCES OF APPARITIONS.

Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, relates that a good priest named Stephen, having received the confession of a lord named Guy, who was mortally wounded in a combat, this lord appeared to him completely armed some time after his death, and begged of him to tell his brother Anselm to restore an ox which he Guy had taken from a peasant, whom he named, and repair the damage which he had done to a village which did not belong to him, and which he had taxed with undue charges; that he had forgotten to declare these two sins in his last confession, and that he was cruelly tormented for it. "And as assurance of the truth of what I tell you," added he, "when you return home, you will find that you have been robbed of the money you intended for your expenses in going to St. Jacques." The cure, on his return to his house, found his money gone, but could not acquit himself of his commission, because Anselm was absent. A few days after, Guy appeared to him again, and reproached him for having neglected to perform what he had asked of him. The cure excused himself on account of the absence of Anselm; and at length went to him and told him what he was charged to do. Anselm answered him harshly that he was not obliged to do penance for his brother's sins.

The dead man appeared a third time, and implored the cure to assist him in this extremity; he did so, and restored the value of the ox; but as the rest exceeded his power, he gave alms, and recommended Guy to the worthy people of his acquaintance; and he appeared no more.

Richer, a monk of Senones,[357] speaks of a spirit which returned in his time, in the town of Epinal, about the year 1212, in the house of a burgess named Hugh de la Cour, and who, from Christmas to Midsummer, did a variety of things in that same house, in sight of everybody. They could hear him speak, they could see all he did, but nobody could see him. He said he belonged to Clexenteine, a village seven leagues from Epinal; and what is also remarkable is that, during the six months he was heard about the house, he did no harm to any one. One day, Hugh having ordered his domestic to saddle his horse, and the valet being busy about something else, deferred doing it, when the spirit did his work, to the great astonishment of all the household. Another time, when Hugh was absent, the spirit asked Stephen, the son-in-law of Hugh, for a penny, to make an offering of it to St. Goeric, the patron saint of Epinal. Stephen presented him with an old denier of Provence; but the spirit refused it, saying he would have a good denier of Thoulouse. Stephen placed on the threshold of the door a Thoulousian denier, which disappeared immediately; and the following night, a noise, as of a man who was walking therein, was heard in the church of St. Goeric.

Another time, Hugh having bought some fish to make his family a repast, the spirit transported the fish to the garden which was behind the house, put half of it on a tile (scandula), and the rest in a mortar, where it was found again. Another time, Hugh desiring to be bled, told his daughter to get ready some bandages. Immediately the spirit went into another room, and fetched a new shirt, which he tore up into several bandages, presented them to the master of the house, and told him to choose the best. Another day, the servant having spread out some linen in the garden to dry, the spirit carried it all up stairs, and folded them more neatly than the cleverest laundress could have done.

A man named Guy de la Torre,[358] who died at Verona in 1306, at the end of eight days spoke to his wife and the neighbors of both sexes, to the prior of the Dominicians, and to the professor of theology, who asked him several questions in theology, to which he replied very pertinently. He declared that he was in purgatory for certain unexpatiated sins. They asked him how he possibly could speak, not having the organs of the voice; he replied that souls separated from the body have the faculty of forming for themselves instruments of the air capable of pronouncing words; he added that the fire of hell acted upon spirits, not by its natural virtue, but by the power of God, of which that fire is the instrument.

Here follows another remarkable instance of an apparition, related by M. d'Aubigne. "I affirm upon the word of the king[359] the second prodigy, as being one of the three stories which he reiterated to us, his hair standing on end at the time, as we could perceive. This one is, that the queen having gone to bed at an earlier hour than usual, and there being present at her coucher, amongst other persons of note, the king of Navarre,[360] the Archbishop of Lyons, the Ladies de Retz, de Lignerolles, and de Sauve, two of whom have since confirmed this conversation. As she was hastening to bid them good night, she threw herself with a start upon her bolster, put her hands before her face, and crying out violently, she called to her assistance those who were present, wishing to show them, at the foot of the bed, the Cardinal (de Lorraine), who extended his hand towards her; she cried out several times, 'M. the Cardinal, I have nothing to do with you.' The King of Navarre at the same time sent out one of his gentlemen, who brought back word that he had expired at that same moment."

I take from Sully's Memoirs,[361] which have just been reprinted in better order than they were before, another singular fact, which may be related with these. We still endeavor to find out what can be the nature of that illusion, seen so often and by the eyes of so many persons in the Forest of Fontainebleau; it was a phantom surrounded by a pack of hounds, whose cries were heard, while they might be seen at a distance, but all disappeared if any one approached.

The note of M. d'Ecluse, editor of these Memoirs, enters into longer details. He observes that M. de Perefixe makes mention of this phantom; and he makes him say, with a hoarse voice, one of these three sentences: Do you expect me? or, Do you hear me? or, Amend yourself. "And they believe," says he, "that these were sports of sorcerers, or of the malignant spirit." The Journal of Henry IV., and the Septenary Chronicle, speak of them also, and even assert that this phenomenon alarmed Henry IV. and his courtiers very much. And Peter Matthew says something of it in his History of France, tom. ii. p. 68. Bongars speaks of it as others do,[362] and asserts that it was a hunter who had been killed in this forest in the time of Francis I. But now we hear no more of this spectre, though there is still a road in this forest which retains the name of the Grand Veneur, in memory, it is said, of this visionary scene.

A Chronicle of Metz,[363] under the date of the year 1330, relates the apparition of a spirit at Lagni sur Marne, six leagues from Paris. It was a good lady, who after her death spoke to more than twenty people—her father, sister, daughter, and son-in-law, and to her other friends—asking them to have said for her particular masses, as being more efficacious than the common mass. As they feared it might be an evil spirit, they read to it the beginning of the Gospel of St. John; and they made it say the Pater, credo, and confiteor. She said she had beside her two angels, one bad and one good; and that the good angel revealed to her what she ought to say. They asked her if they should go and fetch the Holy Sacrament from the altar. She replied it was with them, for her father, who was present, and several others among them, had received it on Christmas day, which was the Tuesday before.

Father Taillepied, a Cordelier, and professor of theology at Rouen,[364] who composed a book expressly on the subject of apparitions, which was printed at Rouen in 1600, says that one of his fraternity with whom he was acquainted, named Brother Gabriel, appeared to several monks of the convent at Nice, and begged of them to satisfy the demand of a shopkeeper at Marseilles, of whom he had taken a coat he had not paid for. On being asked why he made so much noise, he replied that it was not himself, but a bad spirit who wished to appear instead of him, and prevent him from declaring the cause of his torment.

I have been told by two canons of St. Diez, in our neighborhood, that three months after the death of M. Henri, canon of St. Diez, of their brotherhood, the canon to whom the house devolved, going with one of his brethren, at two o'clock in the afternoon, to look at the said house, and see what alterations it might suit him to make in it, they went into the kitchen, and both of them saw in the next room, which was large and very light, a tall ecclesiastic of the same height and figure as the defunct canon, who, turning towards them, looked them in the face for two minutes, then crossed the said room, and went up a little dark staircase which led to the garret.

These two gentlemen, being much frightened, left the house instantly, and related the adventure to some of the brotherhood, who were of opinion that they ought to return and see if there was not some one hidden in the house; they went, they sought, they looked everywhere, without finding any one.

We read in the History of the Bishops of Mans,[365] that in the time of Bishop Hugh, who lived in 1135, they heard, in the house of Provost Nicholas, a spirit who alarmed the neighbors and those who lived in the house, by uproar and frightful noises, as if he had thrown enormous stones against the walls, with a force which shook the roof, walls, and ceilings; he transported the dishes and the plates from one place to another, without their seeing the hand which moved them. This genius lighted a candle, though very far from the fire. Sometimes, when the meat was placed on the table, he would scatter bran, ashes, or soot, to prevent them from touching any of it. Amica, the wife of the Provost Nicholas, having prepared some thread to be made into cloth, the spirit twisted and raveled it in such a way that all who saw it could not sufficiently admire the manner in which it was done.

Priests were called in, who sprinkled holy water everywhere, and desired all those who were there to make the sign of the cross. Towards the first and second night, they heard as it were the voice of a young girl, who, with sighs that seemed drawn from the bottom of her heart, said, in a lamentable and sobbing voice, that her name was Garnier; and addressing itself to the provost, said, "Alas! whence do I come? from what distant country, through how many storms, dangers, through snow, cold, fire, and bad weather, have I arrived at this place! I have not received power to harm any one—but prepare yourselves with the sign of the cross against a band of evil spirits, who are here only to do you harm; have a mass of the Holy Ghost said for me, and a mass for those defunct; and you, my dear sister-in-law, give some clothes to the poor, for me."

They asked this spirit several questions on things past and to come, to which it replied very pertinently; it explained even the salvation and damnation of several persons; but it would not enter into any argument, nor yet into conference with learned men, who were sent by the Bishop of Mans; this last circumstance is very remarkable, and casts some suspicion on this apparition.

Footnotes:

[357] Richer Senon. in Chronic. m. (Hoc non exstat in impresso).

[358] Herman Contraet. Chronic. p. 1006.

[359] D'Aubigne, Hist. Univ. lib. ii. c. 12. Ap. 1574.

[360] Henry IV.

[361] Mem. de Sully, in 4to. tom. i. liv. x. p. 562, note 26. Or Edit. in 12mo. tom. iii. p. 321, note 26.

[362] Bongars, Epist. ad Camerarium.

[363] Chronic. Metens. Anno, 1330.

[364] Taillepied, Traite de l'Apparition des Esprits, c. xv. p. 173.

[365] Anecdote Mabill, p. 320. Edition in fol.



CHAPTER XLII.

ON THE APPARITIONS OF SPIRITS WHO IMPRINT THEIR HANDS ON CLOTHES OR ON WOOD.

Within a short time, a work composed by a Father Premontre, of the Abbey of Toussaints, in the Black Forest, has been communicated to me. His work is in manuscript, and entitled, "Umbra Humberti, hoc est historia memorabilis D. Humberti Birkii, mira post mortem apparitione, per A. G. N."

This Humbert Birck was a burgess of note, in the town of Oppenheim, and master of a country house called Berenbach; he died in the month of November, 1620, a few days before the feast of St. Martin. On the Saturday which followed his funeral, they began to hear certain noises in the house where he had lived with his first wife; for at the time of his death he had married again.

The master of this house, suspecting that it was his brother-in-law who haunted it, said to him, "If you are Humbert, my brother-in-law, strike three times against the wall." At the same time, they heard three strokes only, for ordinarily he struck several times. Sometimes, also, he was heard at the fountain where they went for water, and he frightened all the neighborhood; he did not always utter articulate sounds, but he would knock repeatedly, make a noise, or a groan, or a shrill whistle, or sounds as a person in lamentation; all this lasted for six months, and then it suddenly ceased. At the end of a year he made himself heard more loudly than ever. The master of the house, and his domestics, the boldest amongst them, at last asked him what he wished for, and in what they could help him? He replied, but in a hoarse, low tone, "Let the cure come here next Saturday with my children." The cure being indisposed, could not go thither on the appointed day; but he went on the Monday following, accompanied by a good many people.

Humbert received notice of this, and he answered in a very intelligible manner. They asked him if he required any masses to be said? He asked for three. Then they wished to know if alms should be given in his name? He said, "I wish them to give eight measures of corn to the poor, and that my widow may give something to all my children." He afterwards ordered that what had been badly distributed in his succession, which amounted to about twenty florins, should be set aside. They asked why he infested that house rather than another? He answered that he was forced to it by conjuration and maledictions. Had he received the sacraments of the Church? "I received them from the cure, your predecessor." He was made to say the Pater and the Ave; he recited them with difficulty, saying that he was prevented by an evil spirit, who would not let him tell the cure many other things.

The cure, who was named Premontre, of the abbey of Toussaints, came to the monastery on Tuesday the 12th of January, 1621, in order to take the opinion of the Superior on this singular affair; they let him have three monks to help him with their counsels. They all repaired to the house wherein Humbert continued his importunity; for nothing that he had requested had as yet been executed. A great number of those who lived near were assembled in the house. The master of it told Humbert to rap against the wall; he knocked very gently: then the master desired him to go and fetch a stone and knock louder; he deferred a little, as if he had been to pick up a stone, and gave a stronger blow upon the wall: the master whispered in his neighbor's ear as softly as he could that he should rap seven times, and directly he rapped seven times. He always showed great respect to the priests, and did not reply to them so boldly as to the laity; and when he was asked why—"It is," said he, "because they have with them the Holy Sacrament." However, they had it no otherwise than because they had said mass that day. The next day the three masses which he had required were said, and all was disposed for a pilgrimage, which he had specified in the last conversation they had with him; and they promised to give alms for him the first day possible. From that time Humbert haunted them no more.

The same monk, Premontre, relates that on the 9th of September, 1625, a man named John Steinlin died at a place called Altheim, in the diocese of Constance. Steinlin was a man in easy circumstances, and a common-councilman of his town. Some days after his death he appeared during the night to a tailor, named Simon Bauh, in the form of a man surrounded by a sombre flame, like that of lighted sulphur, going and coming in his own house, but without speaking. Bauh, who was disquieted by this sight, resolved to ask him what he could do to serve him. He found an opportunity to do so the 17th of November in the same year, 1625; for, as he was reposing at night near his stove, a little after eleven o'clock, he beheld this spectre environed by fire like sulphur, who came into his room, going and coming, shutting and opening the windows. The tailor asked him what he desired. He replied, in a hoarse, interrupted voice, that he could help very much, if he would; "but," added he, "do not promise me to do so, if you are not resolved to execute your promises." "I will execute them, if they are not beyond my power," replied he.

"I wish, then," replied the spirit, "that you would cause a mass to be said in the chapel of the Virgin at Rotembourg; I made a vow to that intent during my life, and I have not acquitted myself of it. Moreover, you must have two masses said at Altheim, the one of the Defunct and the other of the Virgin; and as I did not always pay my servants exactly, I wish that a quarter of corn should be distributed to the poor." Simon promised to satisfy him on all these points. The spectre held out his hand, as if to ensure his promise; but Simon, fearing that some harm might happen to himself, tendered him the board which come to hand, and the spectre having touched it, left the print of his hand with the four fingers and thumb, as if fire had been there, and had left a pretty deep impression. After that, he vanished with so much noise that it was heard three houses off.

I related in the first edition of this dissertation on the return of spirits, an adventure which happened at Fontenoy on the Moselle, where it was affirmed that a spirit had in the same manner made the impression of its hand on a handkerchief, and had left the impress of the hand and of the palm well marked. The handkerchief is in the hands of one Casmar, a constable living at Toul, who received it from his uncle, the cure of Fontenoy; but, on a careful investigation of the thing, it was found that a young blacksmith, who courted a young girl to whom the handkerchief belonged, had forged an iron hand to print it on the handkerchief, and persuade people of the reality of the apparition.

At St. Avold, a town of German Lorraine, in the house of the cure, named M. Royer de Monelos, there was something very similar which appears to have been performed by a servant girl, sixteen years of age, who heard and saw, as she said, a woman who made a great noise in the house; but she was the only person who saw and heard her, although others heard also the noise which was made in the house. They saw also the young servant, as it were, pushed, dragged, and struck by the spirit, but never saw it, nor yet heard his voice. This contrivance began on the night of the 31st of January, 1694, and finished about the end of February the same year. The cure conjured the spirit in German and French. He made no reply to the exorcisms in French but sighs; and as they terminated the German exorcism, saying, "Let every spirit praise the Lord," the girl said that the spirit had said, "And me also;" but she alone heard it.

Some monks of the abbey were requested to come also and exorcise the spirit. They came, and with them some burgesses of note of St. Avold; and neither before nor after the exorcisms did they see or hear anything, except that the servant girl seemed to be pushed violently, and the doors were roughly knocked at. By dint of exorcisms they forced the spirit, or rather the servant who alone heard and saw it, to declare that she was neither maid nor wife; that she was called Claire Margaret Henri; that a hundred and fifty years ago she had died at the age of twenty, after having lived servant at the cure of St. Avold's first of all for eight years, and that she had died at Guenviller of grief and regret for having killed her own child. At last, the servant maintaining that she was not a good spirit, she said to her, "Give me hold of your petticoat (or skirt)." She would do no such thing; at the same time the spirit said to her, "Look at your petticoat; my mark is upon it." She looked and saw upon her skirt the five fingers of the hand so distinctly that it did not appear possible for any living creature to have marked them better. This affair lasted about two months; and at this day, at St. Avold, as in all the country, they talk of the spirit of St. Avold as of a game played by that girl, in concert, doubtless, with some persons who wished to divert themselves by puzzling the good cure with his sisters, and all those who fell into the trap. They printed at Cusson's, at Nancy, in 1718, a relation of this event, which at first gained credence with a number of people, but who were quite undeceived in the end.

I shall add to this story that which is related by Philip Melancthon,[366] whose testimony in this matter ought not to be doubted. He says that his aunt having lost her husband when she was enceinte and near her time, she saw one day, towards evening, two persons come into her house; one of them wore the form of her deceased husband, the other that of a tall Franciscan. At first she was frightened, but her husband reassured her, and told her that he had important things to communicate to her; at the same time he begged the Franciscan to pass into the next room, whilst he imparted his wishes to his wife. Then he begged of her to have some masses said for the relief of his soul, and tried to persuade her to give her hand without fear; as she was unwilling to give it, he assured her she would feel no pain. She gave him her hand, and her hand felt no pain when she withdrew it, but was so blackened that it remained discolored all her life. After that, the husband called in the Franciscan; they went out, and disappeared. Melancthon believes that these were two spectres; he adds that he knows several similar instances related by persons worthy of credit.

If these two men were only spectres, having neither flesh nor bones, how could one of them imprint a black color on the hand of this widow? How could he who appeared to the tailor Bauh imprint his hand on the board which he presented to him? If they were evil genii, why did they ask for masses and order restitution? Does Satan destroy his own empire, and does he inspire the living with the idea of doing good actions and of fearing the pains which the sins of the wicked are punished by God?

But on looking at the affair in another light, may not the demon in this kind of apparitions, by which he asks for masses and prayers, intend to foment superstition, by making the living believe that masses and prayers made for them after their death would free them from the pains of hell, even if they died in habitual crime and impenitence? Several instances are cited of rascals who have appeared after their death, asking for prayers like the bad rich man, and to whom prayers and masses can be of no avail from the unhappy state in which they died. Thus, in all this, Satan seeks to establish his kingdom, and not to destroy it or diminish it.

We shall speak hereafter, in the Dissertation on Vampires, of apparitions of dead persons who have been seen, and acted like living ones in their own bodies.

The same Melancthon relates that a monk came one day and rapped loudly at the door of Luther's dwelling, asking to speak to him; he entered and said, "I entertained some popish errors upon which I shall be very glad to confer with you." "Speak," said Luther. He at first proposed to him several syllogisms, to which he easily replied; he then proposed others, that were more difficult. Luther, being annoyed, answered him hastily, "Go, you embarrass me; I have something else to do just now besides answering you." However, he rose and replied to his arguments. At the same time, having remarked that the pretended monk had hands like the claws of a bird, he said to him, "Art not thou he of whom it is said, in Genesis, 'He who shall be born of woman shall break the head of the serpent?'" The demon added, "But thou shalt engulf them all." At these words the confused demon retired angrily and with much fracas; he left the room infested with a very bad smell, which was perceptible for some days.

Luther, who assumes so much the esprit fort, and inveighs with so much warmth against private masses wherein they pray for the souls of the defunct,[367] maintains boldly that all the apparitions of spirits which we read in the lives of the saints, and who ask for masses for the repose of their souls, are only illusions of Satan, who appears to deceive the simple, and inspire them with useless confidence in the sacrifice of the mass. Whence he concludes that it is better at once to deny absolutely that there is any purgatory.

He, then, did not deny either apparitions or the operations of the devil; and he maintained that Ecolampadius died under the blows of the devil,[368] whose efforts he could not rebut; and, speaking of himself, he affirms that awaking once with a start in the middle of the night, the devil appeared, to argue against him, when he was seized with moral terror. The arguments of the demon were so pressing that they left him no repose of mind; the sound of his powerful voice, his overwhelming manner of disputing when the question and the reply were perceived at once, left him no breathing time. He says again that the devil can kill and strangle, and without doing all that, press a man so home by his arguments that it is enough to kill one; "as I," says he, "have experienced several times." After such avowals, what can we think of the doctrine of this chief of the innovators?

Footnotes:

[366] Philipp. Melancth. Theolog. c. i. Oper. fol. 326, 327.

[367] Martin Luther, de Abroganda Missa Privata, part. ii.

[368] Ibid. tom. vii. 226.



CHAPTER XLIII.

OPINIONS OF THE JEWS, GREEKS, AND LATINS CONCERNING THE DEAD WHO ARE LEFT UNBURIED.

The ancient Hebrews, as well as the greater number of other nations, were very careful in burying their dead. That appears from all history; we see in the Scripture how much attention the patriarchs paid in that respect to themselves and those belonging to them; we know what praises are bestowed on the holy man Tobit, whose principal devotion consisted in giving sepulture to the dead.

Josephus the historian[369] says that the Jews refused burial only to those who committed suicide. Moses commanded them[370] to give sepulture the same day and before sunset to any who were executed and hanged on a tree; "because," says he, "he who is hung upon the tree is accursed of God; you will take care not to pollute the land which the Lord your God has given you." That was practiced in regard to our Saviour, who was taken down from the cross the same day that he had been crucified, and a few hours after his death.

Homer,[371] speaking of the inhumanity of Achilles, who dragged the body of Hector after his car, says that he dishonored and outraged the earth by this barbarous conduct. The Rabbis write that the soul is not received into heaven until the gross body is interred, and entirely consumed. They believe, moreover, that after death the souls of the wicked are clothed with a kind of covering with which they accustom themselves to suffer the torments which are their due; and that the souls of the just are invested with a resplendent body and a luminous garment, with which they accustom themselves to the glory which awaits them.

Origen[372] acknowledges that Plato, in his Dialogue of the Soul, advances that the images and shades of the dead appeared sometimes near their tombs. Origen concludes from that, that those shades and those images must be produced by some cause; and that cause, according to him, can only be that the soul of the dead is invested with a subtile body like that of light, on which they are borne as in a car, where they appear to the living. Celsus maintained that the apparitions of Jesus Christ after his resurrection were only the effects of an imagination smitten and prepossessed, which formed to itself the object of its illusions according to its wishes. Origen refutes this solidly by the recital of the evangelists, of the appearance of our Saviour to Thomas, who would not believe it was truly our Saviour until he had seen and touched his wounds; it was not, then, purely the effect of his imagination.

The same Origen,[373] and Theophylact after him, assert that the Jews and pagans believe that the soul remained for some time near the body it had formerly animated; and that it is to destroy that futile opinion that Jesus Christ, when he would resuscitate Lazarus, cries with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth;" as if he would call from a distance the soul of this man who had been dead three days.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse