The Phantom World - or, The philosophy of spirits, apparitions, &c, &c.
by Augustin Calmet
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Tertullian places the angels in the category of extension,[374] in which he places God himself, and maintains that the soul is corporeal. Origen believes also that the soul is material, and has a form;[375] an opinion which he may have taken from Plato. Arnobius, Lactantius, St. Hilary, several of the ancient fathers, and some theologians, have been of the same opinion; and Grotius is displeased with those who have absolutely spiritualized the angels, demons and souls separated from the body.

The Jews of our days[376] believe that after the body of a man is interred, his spirit goes and comes, and departs from the spot where it is destined to visit his body, and to know what passes around him; that it is wandering during a whole year after the death of the body, and that it was during that year of delay that the Pythoness of Endor evoked the soul of Samuel, after which time the evocation would have had no power over his spirit.

The pagans thought much in the same manner upon it. Lucan introduces Pompey, who consults a witch, and commands her to evoke the soul of a dead man to reveal to him what success he would meet with in his war against Caesar; the poet makes this woman say, "Shade, obey my spells, for I evoke not a soul from gloomy Tartarus, but one which hath gone down thither a little while since, and which is still at the gate of hell."[377]

The Egyptians[378] believed that when the spirit of an animal is separated from its body by violence, it does not go to a distance, but remains near it. It is the same with the soul of a man who has died a violent death; it remains near the body—nothing can make it go away; it is retained there by sympathy; several have been seen sighing near their bodies which were interred. The magicians abuse their power over such in their incantations; they force them to obey, when they are masters of the dead body, or even part of it. Frequent experience taught them that there is a secret virtue in the body, which draws towards it the spirit which has once inhabited it; wherefore those who wish to receive or become the receptacles of the spirits of such animals as know the future, eat the principle parts of them, as the hearts of crows, moles, or hawks. The spirit of these creatures enters into them at the moment they eat this food, and makes them give out oracles like divinities.

The Egyptians believed[379] that when the spirit of a beast is delivered from its body, it is rational and predicts the future, gives oracles, and is capable of all that the soul of man can do when disengaged from the body—for which reason they abstained from eating the flesh of animals, and worshiped the gods in the form of beasts.

At Rome and at Metz there were colleges of priests consecrated to the service of the manes,[380] lares, images, shades, spectres, Erebus, Avernus or hell, under the protection of the god Sylvanus; which demonstrates that the Latins and the Gauls recognized the return of souls and their apparition, and considered them as divinities to whom sacrifices should be offered to appease them and prevent them from doing harm. Nicander confirms the same thing, when he says that the Celts or the Gauls watched near the tombs of their great men to derive from them knowledge concerning the future.

The ancient northern nations were fully persuaded that the spectres which sometimes appear are no other than the souls of persons lately deceased, and in their country they knew no remedy so proper to put a stop to this kind of apparition as to cut off the head of the dead person, or to impale him, or pierce him through the body with a stake, or to burn it, as is now practiced at this day in Hungary and Moravia with regard to vampires.

The Greeks, who had derived their religion and theology from the Egyptians and Orientals, and the Latins, who took it from the Greeks, believed that the souls of the dead sometimes appeared to the living; that the necromancers evoked them, and thus obtained answers concerning the future, and instructions relating to the time present. Homer, the greatest theologian, and perhaps the most curious of the Grecian writers, relates several apparitions, both of gods and heroes, and of men after their death.

In the Odyssey,[381] Ulysses goes to consult the diviner Tyresias; and this sorcerer having prepared a grave full of blood to evoke the manes, Ulysses draws his sword, and prevents them from coming to drink this blood, for which they appear to thirst, and of which they would not permit them to taste before they had replied to what was asked of them; they (the Greeks and Latins) believed also that souls were not at rest, and that they wandered around the corpses, so long as they remained uninhumed.[382] When they gave burial to a body, they called that animam condere,[383] to cover the soul, put it under the earth and shelter it. They called it with a loud voice, and offered it libations of milk and blood. They also called that ceremony, hiding the shades,[384] sending them with their body under ground.

The sybil, speaking to AEneas, shows him the manes or shades wandering on the banks of the Acheron; and tells him that they are souls of persons who have not received sepulture, and who wander about for a hundred years.[385]

The philosopher Sallust[386] speaks of the apparitions of the dead around their tombs in dark bodies; he tries to prove thereby the dogma of the metempsychosis.

Here is a singular instance of a dead man, who refuses the rite of burial, acknowledging himself unworthy of it. Agathias relates[387] that some pagan philosophers, not being able to relish the dogma of the unity of a God, resolved to go from Constantinople to the court of Chosroes, King of Persia, who was spoken of as a humane prince, and one who loved learning. Simplicius of Silicia, Eulamius the Phrygian, Protanus the Lydian, Hermenes and Philogenes of Phoenicia, and Isidorus of Gaza, repaired then to the court of Chosroes, and were well received there; but they soon perceived that that country was much more corrupt than Greece, and they resolved to return to Constantinople, where Justinian then reigned.

As they were on their way, they found an unburied corpse, took pity on it, and had it put in the ground by their own servants. The following night this man appeared to one of them, and told him not to inter him, who was not worthy of receiving sepulture; for the earth abhorred one who had defiled his own mother. The next day they found the same corpse cast out of the ground, and they comprehended that it was defiled by incest, which rendered it unworthy of the honor of receiving burial, although such crimes were known in Persia, and did not excite the same horror there as in other countries.

The Greeks and Latins believed that the souls of the dead came and tasted what was presented on their tombs, especially honey and wine; that the demons loved the smoke and odor of sacrifices, melody, the blood of victims, commerce with women; that they were attached for a time to certain spots or to certain edifices, which they haunted, and where they appeared; that souls separated from their terrestrial body, retained after death a subtile one, flexible, aerial, which preserved the form of that they once had animated during their life; that they haunted those who had done them wrong and whom they hated. Thus Virgil describes Dido, in a rage, threatening to haunt the perfidious AEneas.[388]

When the spirit of Patroclus appeared to Achilles,[389] it had his voice, his shape, his eyes, his garments, but not his palpable body. When Ulysses went down to the infernal regions, he saw there the divine Hercules,[390] that is to say, says Homer, his likeness; for he himself is with the immortal gods, seated at their feast. AEneas recognized his wife Creuesa, who appeared to him in her usual form, only taller and more majestic.[391]

We might cite a quantity of passages from the ancient poets, even from the fathers of the church, who believed that spirits often appeared to the living. Tertullian[392] believes that the soul is corporeal, and that it has a certain figure. He appeals to the experience of those to whom the ghosts of dead persons have appeared, and who have seen them sensibly, corporeally, and palpably, although of an aerial color and consistency. He defines the soul[393] a breath sent from God, immortal, and having body and form. Speaking of the fictions of the poets, who have asserted that souls were not at rest while their bodies remain uninterred, he says all this is invented only to inspire the living with that care which they ought to take for the burial of the dead, and to take away from the relations of the dead the sight of an object which would only uselessly augment their grief, if they kept it too long in their houses; ut instantia funeris et honor corporum servetur et moeror affectuum temperetur.

St. Irenaeus[394] teaches, as a doctrine received from the Lord, that souls not only subsist after the death of the body—without however passing from one body into another, as those will have it who admit the metempsychosis—but that they retain the form and remain near this body, as faithful guardians of it, and remember naught of what they have done or not done in this life. These fathers believed, then, in the return of souls, their apparition, and their attachment to their body; but we do not adopt their opinion on the corporeality of souls; we are persuaded that they can appear with God's permission, independently of all matter and of any corporeal substance which may belong to them.

As to the opinion of the soul being in a state of unrest while its body is not interred, that it remains for some time near the tomb of the body, and appears there in a bodily form; those are opinions which have no solid foundation, either in Scripture or in the traditions of the Church, which teach us that directly after death the soul is presented before the judgment-seat of God, and is there destined to the place that its good or bad actions have deserved.


[369] Joseph Bell. Jud. lib. iii c. 25.

[370] Deut. xxi. 23.

[371] Homer, Iliad, XXIV.

[372] Origenes contra Celsum, p. 97.

[373] Origenes in Joan. ix. &c. Theophylac. ibid.

[374] Tertull. lib. de Anima.

[375] Origenes contra Cels. lib. ii.

[376] Bereseith Rabbae. c. 22. Vide Menasse de Resurrect. Mort.

[377] "Parete precanti Non in Tartareo latitantem poscimus antro, Assuetamque diu tenebris; modo luce fugata Descendentem animam primo pallentis hiatu Haeret adhuc orci." Lucan, Pharsal. 16.

[378] Porphyr. de Abstin. lib. ii. art. 47.

[379] Demet. lib. iv. art. 10.

[380] Gruter, p. lxiii. Mauric. Hist. de Metz, preface, p. 15.

[381] Homer, Odyss. sub finem. Horat. lib. i. satyr. 8. Aug. de Civit. Dei, lib. vii. c. 35. Clem. Alex. Paedag. lib. ii. c. 1. Prudent. lib. iv. contra Symmach. Tertull. de Anim. Lactantius, lib. iii.

[382] Virgil, AEn. iii. 150, et seq.

"Propterea jacet exanimum tibi corpus amici, Heu nescis! totamque incestat funere classem. Sedibus hunc refer ante suis et conde sepulcre."

[383] "Animamque sepulchro Condimus, et magna supremum voce ciemus."

[384] "Romulus ut tumulo fraternas condidit umbras, Et male veloci justa soluta Remo."

[385] "Haec omnis, quam cernis, inops inhumataque turba est. Centum errant annos, volitantque haec littora circum."

[386] Sallust. Philos. c. 19, 20.

[387] Stolust. lib. ii. de Bella Persico, sub fin.

[388] "Sequar atris ignibus absens; Et cum frigida mors animae subduxerit artus, Omnibus umbra lecis adero: dubis, improbe, poenas."

[389] Homer, Iliad, XXIII.

[390] Ibid. Odyss. V.

[391] "Infelix simulacrum etque ipsius umbra Creuesae Visa mihi ante oculos, et nota major imago." Virgil, AEneid I.

[392] Tertull. de Anim.

[393] Ibid.

[394] Iren. lib. ii. c. 34.



The apparitions which are seen are those of good angels, or of demons, or the spirits of the dead, or of living persons to others still living.

Good angels usually bring only good news, and announce nothing but what is fortunate; or if they do announce any future misfortunes, it is to persuade men to prevent them, or turn them aside by repentance, or to profit by the evils which God sends them by exercising their patience, and showing submission to his orders.

Bad angels generally foretell only misfortune; wars, the effect of the wrath of God on nations; and often even they execute the evils, and direct the wars and public calamities which desolate kingdoms, provinces, cities, and families. The spectres whose appearance to Brutus, Cassius, and Julian the Apostate we have related, are only bearers of the fatal orders of the wrath of God. If they sometimes promise any prosperity to those to whom they appear, it is only for the present time, never for eternity, nor for the glory of God, nor for the eternal salvation of those to whom they speak. It only extends to a temporal fortune, always of short duration, and very often deceitful.

The souls of the defunct, if these be Christians, ask very often that the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ should be offered, according to the observation of St. Gregory the Great;[395] and, as experience shows, there is hardly any apparition of a Christian that does not ask for masses, pilgrimages, restitutions, or that alms should be distributed, or that they would satisfy those to whom the deceased died indebted. They also often give salutary advice for the salvation or correction of the morals, or good regulation of families. They reveal the state in which certain persons find themselves in the other world, in order to relieve their pain, or to put the living on their guard, that the like misfortune may not befall them. They talk of hell, paradise, purgatory, angels, demons, of the Supreme Judge, of the rigor of his judgments, of the goodness he exercises towards the just, and the rewards with which he crowns their good works.

But we must greatly mistrust those apparitions which ask for masses, pilgrimages and restitution. St. Paul warns us that the demon often transforms himself into an angel of light;[396] and St. John[397] warns us to distrust the "depths of Satan," his illusions, and deceitful appearances; that spirit of malice and falsehood is found among the true prophets to put into the mouth of the false prophets falsehood and error. He makes a wrong use of the text of the Scriptures, of the most sacred ceremonies, even of the sacraments and prayers of the church, to seduce the simple, and win their confidence, to share as much as in him lies the glory which is due to the Almighty alone, and to appropriate it to himself. How many false miracles has he not wrought? How many times has he foretold future events? What cures has he not operated? How many holy actions has he not counseled? How many enterprises, praiseworthy in appearance, has he not inspired, in order to draw the faithful into his snare?

Boden, in his Demonology,[398] cites more than one instance of demons who have requested prayers, and have even placed themselves in the posture of persons praying over a grave, to point out that the dead persons wanted prayers. Sometimes it will be the demon in the shape of a wretch dead in crime, who will come and ask for masses, to show that his soul is in purgatory, and has need of prayers, although it may be certain that he finally died impenitent, and that prayers are useless for his salvation. All this is only a stratagem of a demon, who seeks to inspire the wicked with foolish and dangerous confidence in their being saved, notwithstanding their criminal life and their impenitence; and that they can obtain salvation by means of a few prayers, and a few alms, which shall be made after their death; not regarding that these good works can be useful only to those who died in a state of grace, although stained by some venial fault, since the Scripture informs us[399] that nothing impure will enter the kingdom of heaven.

It is believed that the reprobate can sometimes return to earth by permission, as persons dead in idolatry, and consequently in sin, and excluded from the kingdom of God, have been seen to come to life again, be converted, and receive baptism. St. Martin was as yet only the simple abbot of his monastery of Liguge,[400] when, in his absence, a catechumen who had placed himself under his discipline to be instructed in the truths of the Christian religion died without having been baptized. He had been three days deceased when the saint arrived. He sent everybody away, prayed over the dead man, resuscitated him, and administered to him the baptismal rite.

This catechumen related that he had been led before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge, who had condemned him to descend into the darkness with an infinity of other persons condemned like himself; but that two angels having represented to the Judge that it was this man for whom St. Martin interceded, God commanded the two angels to bring him back to earth, and restore him to Martin. This is an instance which proves what I have just said, that the reprobate can return to life, do penance, and receive baptism.

But as to what some have affirmed of the salvation of Falconila, procured by St. Thecla, of that of Trajan, saved by the prayers of St. Gregory, pope, and of some others who died heathens, this is all entirely contrary to the faith of the church and to the holy Scripture, which teach us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that he who believes not and has not received baptism is already judged and condemned. Thus the opinions of those who accord salvation to Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, &c., because it may appear to them that they lived in a praiseworthy manner, according to the rules of a merely human and philosophical morality, must be considered as rash, erroneous, false, and dangerous.

Philip, Chancellor of the Church of Paris, maintained that it was permitted to one man to hold a plurality of benefices. Being on his death-bed, he was visited by William, Bishop of Paris, who died in 1248. This prelate urged the chancellor to give up all his benefices save one only; he refused, saying that he wished to try if the holding a plurality of livings was so wrong as it was said to be; and in this disposition of mind he died in 1237.

Some days after his decease, Bishop William, or Guillaume, praying by night, after matins, in his cathedral, beheld before him the hideous and frightful figure of a man. He made the sign of the cross, and said to him, "If you are sent by God, speak." He spoke, and said: "I am that wretched chancellor, and have been condemned to eternal punishment." The bishop having asked him the cause, he replied, "I am condemned, first, for not having distributed the superfluity of my benefices; secondly, for having maintained that it was allowable to hold several at once; thirdly, for having remained for several days in the guilt of incontinence."

The story was often preached by Bishop William to his clerks. It is related by the Bishop Albertus Magnus, who was a cotemporary, in his book on the sacraments; by William Durand, Bishop of Mande, in his book De Modo celebrandi Concilia; and in Thomas de Cantimpre, in his work Des Abeilles. He believed, then, that God sometimes permitted the reprobate to appear to the living.

Here is an instance of the apparition of a man and woman who were in a state of reprobation. The Prince of Ratzivil,[401] in his Journey to Jerusalem, relates that when in Egypt he bought two mummies, had them packed up, and secretly as possible conveyed on board his vessel, so that only himself and his two servants were aware of it; the Turks making a great difficulty of allowing mummies to be carried away, because they fancy that the Christians make use of them for magical operations. When they were at sea, there arose at sundry times such a violent tempest that the pilot despaired of saving the vessel. A good Polish priest, of the suite of the Prince de Ratzivil, recited the prayers suitable to the circumstance; but he was tormented, he said, by two hideous black spectres, a man and a woman, who were on each side of him, and threatened to take away his life. It was thought at first that terror disturbed his mind.

A calm coming on, he appeared tranquil; but very soon, the storm beginning again, he was more tormented than before, and was only delivered from these haunting spectres when the two mummies, which he had not seen, were thrown into the sea, and neither himself nor the pilot knew of their being in the ship. I will not deny the fact, which is related by a prince incapable of desiring to impose on any one. But how many reflections may we make on this event! Were they the souls of these two pagans, or two demons who assumed their form? What interest could the demon have in not permitting these bodies to come under the power of the Christians?


[395] Greg. Mag. lib. iv. Dialog. c. 55.

[396] Cor. xi. 14.

[397] Rev. xxi. 14.

[398] Bodin, Daemon. tom. iii. c. 6.

[399] Rev. xxi. 27.

[400] Sulpit. Sever. Vita St. Martin. c. 5.

[401] Ratzivil, Peregrin, Jerosol. p. 218.



We find in all history, both sacred and profane, ancient and modern, an infinite number of examples of the apparition of persons alive to other living persons. The prophet Ezekiel says of himself,[402] "I was seated in my house, in the midst of the elders of my people, when on a sudden a hand, which came from a figure shining like fire, seized me by the hair; and the spirit transported me between heaven and earth, and took me to Jerusalem, where he placed me near the inner gate, which looks towards the north, where I saw the idol of jealousy" (apparently Adonis), "and I there remarked the majesty of the Lord, as I had seen it in the field; he showed me the idol of jealousy, to which the Israelites burned incense; and the angel of the Lord said to me: Thou seest the abominations which the children of Israel commit, in turning away from my sanctuary; thou shalt see still greater.

"And having pierced the wall of the temple, I saw figures of reptiles and animals, the abominations and idols of the house of Israel, and seventy men of the elders of Israel, who were standing before these figures, each one bearing a censer in his hand; after that the angel said to me, Thou shalt see yet something yet more abominable; and he showed me women who were mourning for Adonis. Lastly, having introduced me into the inner court of the temple, I saw twenty men between the vestibule and the altar, who turned their back upon the temple of the Lord, and stood with their faces to the east, and paid adoration to the rising sun."

Here we may remark two things; first, that Ezekiel is transported from Chaldaea to Jerusalem, through the air between heaven and earth by the hand of an angel; which proves the possibility of transporting a living man through the air to a very great distance from the place where he was.

The second is, the vision or apparition of those prevaricators who commit even within the temple the greatest abominations, the most contrary to the majesty of God, the sanctity of the spot, and the law of the Lord. After all these things, the same angel brings back Ezekiel into Chaldaea; but it was not until after God had showed him the vengeance he intended to exercise upon the Israelites.

It will, perhaps, be said that all this passed only in a vision; that Ezekiel thought that he was transported to Jerusalem and afterwards brought back again to Babylon; and that what he saw in the temple he saw only by revelation. I reply, that the text of this prophet indicates a real removal, and that he was transported by the hair of his head between heaven and earth. He was brought back from Jerusalem in the same way.

I do not deny that the thing might have passed in a vision, and that Ezekiel might have seen in spirit what was passing in the temple of Jerusalem. But I shall still deduce from it a consequence which is favorable to my design, that is, the possibility of a living man being carried through the air to a very great distance from the place he was in, or at least that a living man can imagine strongly that he is being carried from one place to another, although this transportation may be only imaginary and in a dream or vision, as they pretend it happens in the transportation of sorcerers to the witches' sabbath.

In short, there are true appearances of the living to others who are also alive. How is this done? The thing is not difficult to explain in following the recital of the prophet, who is transferred from Chaldaea into Judea in his own body by the ministration of angels; but the apparitions related in St. Augustine and in other authors are not of the same kind: the two persons who see and converse with each other go not from their places; and the one who appears knows nothing of what is passing in regard to him to whom he appears, and to whom he explains several things of which he did not even think at that moment.

In the third book of Kings, Obadiah, steward of king Ahab, having met the prophet Elijah, who had for some time kept himself concealed, tells him that king Ahab had him sought for everywhere, and that not having been able to discover him anywhere, had gone himself to seek him out. Elijah desired him to go and tell the king that Elijah had appeared; but Obadiah replied, "See to what you expose me; for if I go and announce to Ahab that I have spoken to you, the spirit of God will transport you into some unknown place, and the king, not finding you, will put me to death."

There again is an instance which proves the possibility of the transportation of a living man to a very distant spot. The same prophet, being on Mount Carmel, was seized by the Spirit of God, which transported him thence to Jezreel in very little time, not through the air, but by making him walk and run with a promptitude that was quite extraordinary.

In the Gospel, Elias[403] appeared with Moses on Mount Tabor, at the transfiguration of the Saviour. Moses had long been dead; but the Church believes that Elijah (or Elias) is still living. In the Acts of the Apostles,[404] Annanias appeared to St. Paul, and put his hands on him in a vision before he arrived at his house in Damascus.

Two men of the court of the Emperor Valens, wishing to discover by the aid of magical secrets who would succeed that emperor,[405] caused a table of laurel-wood to be made into a tripod, on which they placed a basin made of divers metals. On the border of this basin were engraved, at some distance from each other, the twenty-four letters of the Greek alphabet. A magician with certain ceremonies approached the basin, and holding in his hand a ring suspended by a thread, suffered it at intervals to fall upon the letters of the alphabet whilst they were rapidly turning the table; the ring falling on the different letters formed obscure and enigmatical verses like those pronounced by the oracle of Delphi.

At last they asked what was the name of him who should succeed to the Emperor Valens? The ring touched the four letters [Greek: THEOD], which they interpreted of Theodosius, the second secretary of the Emperor Valens. Theodosius was arrested, interrogated, convicted, and put to death; and with him all the culprits or accomplices in this operation; search was made for all the books of magic, and a great number were burnt. The great Theodosius, of whom they thought not at all, and who was at a great distance from the court, was the person designated by these letters. In 379, he was declared Augustus by the Emperor Gratian, and in coming to Constantinople in 380, he had a dream, in which it seemed to him that Melitus, Bishop of Antioch, whom he had never seen, and knew only by reputation, invested him with the imperial mantle and placed the diadem on his head.

They were then assembling the Eastern bishops to hold the Council of Constantinople. Theodosius begged that Melitus might not be pointed out to him, saying that he should recognize him by the signs he had seen in his dream. In fact, he distinguished him amongst all the other bishops, embraced him, kissed his hands, and looked upon him ever after as his father. This was a distinct apparition of a living man.[406]

St. Augustine relates[407] that a certain man saw, in the night before he slept, a philosopher, who was known to him, enter his house, and who explained to him some of Plato's opinions which he would not explain to him before. This apparition of the Platonician was merely fantastic; for the person to whom he had appeared having asked him why he would not explain to him at his house what he had come to explain to him when at home, the philosopher replied, "I did not do so, but I dreamt I did so." Here, then, are two persons both alive, one of whom, in his sleep and dreaming, speaks to another who is wide awake, and sees him only in imagination.

The same St. Augustine[408] acknowledges in the presence of his people that he had appeared to two persons who had never seen him, and knew him only by reputation, and that he advised them to come to Hippo, to be there cured by the merit of the martyr St. Stephen:—they came there, and recovered their health.

Evodius, teaching rhetoric at Carthage,[409] and finding himself puzzled concerning the sense of a passage in the books of the Rhetoric of Cicero, which he was to explain the next day to his scholars, was much disquieted when he went to bed, and could hardly get to sleep. During his sleep he fancied he saw St. Augustine, who was then at Milan, a great way from Carthage, who was not thinking of him at all, and was apparently sleeping very quietly in his bed at Milan, who came to him and explained the passage in question. St. Augustine avows that he does not know how it happens; but in whatever way it may occur, it is very possible for us to see in a dream a dead person as we see a living one, without either one or the other knowing how, when, or where, these images are formed in our mind. It is also possible that a dead man may appear to the living without being aware of it, and discover to them secrets and hidden things, the result of which reveals their truth and reality. When a living man appears in a dream to another man, we do not say that his body or his spirit have appeared, but simply that such a one has appeared to him. Why can we not say that the dead appear without body and without soul, but simply that their form presents itself to the mind and imagination of the living person?

St. Augustine, in the book which he has composed on the care which we ought to take of the dead,[410] says that a holy monk, named John, appeared to a pious woman, who ardently desired to see him. The saintly doctor reasons a great deal on this apparition;—whether this solitary foresaw what would happen to him; if he went in spirit to this woman; if it is his angel or his spirit in his bodily form which appeared to her in her sleep, as we behold in our dreams absent persons who are known to us. We should be able to speak to the monk himself, to know from himself how that occurred, if by the power of God, or by his permission; for there is little appearance that he did it by any natural power.

It is said that St. Simeon Stylites[411] appeared to his disciple St. Daniel, who had undertaken the journey to Jerusalem, where he would have to suffer much for Jesus Christ's sake. St. Benedict[412] had promised to comply with the request of some architects, who had begged him to come and show them how he wished them to build a certain monastery; the saint did not go to them bodily, but he went thither in spirit, and gave them the plan and design of the house which they were to construct. These men did not comprehend that it was what he had promised them, and came to him again to ask what were his intentions relative to this edifice: he said to them, "I have explained it to you in a dream; you can follow the plan which you have seen."

The Caesar Bardas, who had so mightily contributed to the deposition of St. Ignatius, patriarch of Constantinople, had a vision, which he thus related to Philothes his friend. "I thought I was that night going in procession to the high church with the Emperor Michael. When we had entered and were near the ambe, there appeared two eunuchs of the chamber, with a cruel and ferocious mien, one of whom, having bound the emperor, dragged him out of the choir on the right side; the other dragged me in the same manner to the left. Then I saw on a sudden an old man seated on the throne of the sanctuary. He resembled the image of St. Peter, and two terrific men were standing near him, who looked like provosts. I beheld, at the knees of St. Peter, St. Ignatius weeping, and crying aloud, 'You have the keys of the kingdom of heaven; if you know the injustice which has been done me, console my afflicted old age.'

"St. Peter replied, 'Point out the man who has used you ill.' Ignatius, turning round, pointed to me, saying, 'That is he who has done me most wrong.' St. Peter made a sign to the one at his right, and placing in his hand a short sword, he said to him aloud, 'Take Bardas, the enemy of God, and cut him in pieces before the vestibule.' As they were leading me to death, I saw that he said to the emperor, holding up his hand in a threatening manner, 'Wait, unnatural son!' after which I saw them cut me absolutely in pieces."

This took place in 866. The year following, in the month of April, the emperor having set out to attack the Isle of Crete, was made so suspicious of Bardas, that he resolved to get rid of him. He accompanied the Emperor Michael in this expedition. Bardas, seeing the murderers enter the emperor's tent, sword in hand, threw himself at his feet to ask his pardon; but they dragged him out, cut him in pieces, and in derision carried some of his members about at the end of a pike. This happened the 29th of April, 867.

Roger, Count of Calabria and Sicily, besieging the town of Capua, one named Sergius, a Greek by birth, to whom he had given the command of 200 men, having suffered himself to be bribed, formed the design of betraying him, and of delivering the army of the count to the Prince of Capua, during the night. It was on the 1st of March that he was to execute his intention. St. Bruno, who then dwelt in the Desert of Squilantia, appeared to Count Roger, and told him to fly to arms promptly, if he would not be oppressed by his enemies. The count starts from his sleep, commands his people to mount their horses and see what is going on in the camp. They met the men belonging to Sergius, with the Prince of Capua, who having perceived them retired promptly into the town; those of Count Roger took 162 of them, from whom they learned all the secret of the treason. Roger went, on the 29th of July following, to Squilantia, and having related to Bruno what had happened to him, the saint said to him, "It was not I who warned you; it was the angel of God, who is near princes in time of war." Thus Count Roger relates the affair himself, in a privilege granted to St. Bruno.

A monk[413] named Fidus, a disciple of St. Euthymius, a celebrated abbot in Palestine, having been sent by Martyrius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, on an important mission concerning the affairs of the church, embarked at Joppa, and was shipwrecked the following night; he supported himself above water for some time by clinging to a piece of wood, which he found by chance. Then he invoked the help of St. Euthymius, who appeared to him walking on the sea, and who said to him, "Know that this voyage is not pleasing to God, and will be of no utility to the mother of the Churches, that is to say, to Jerusalem. Return to him who sent you, and tell him from me not to be uneasy at the separation of the schismatics—union will take place ere long; for you, you must go to my laurel grove, and you must build there a monastery."

Having said this, he enveloped Fidus in his mantle, and Fidus found himself immediately at Jerusalem, and in his house, without knowing how he came there; he related it all to the Patriarch Martyrius, who remembered the prediction of St. Euthymius concerning the building in the laurel grove a monastery.

Queen Margaret, in her memoirs, asserts that God protects the great in a particular manner, and that he lets them know, either in dreams or otherwise, what is to happen to them. "As Queen Catherine de Medicis, my mother," says she, "who the night before that unhappy day dreamt she saw the king, Henry II., my father, wounded in the eye, as it really happened; when she awoke she several times implored the king not to tilt that day.

"The same queen being dangerously ill at Metz, and having around her bed the king (Charles IX.), my sister, and brother of Lorraine, and many ladies and princesses, she cried out as if she had seen the battle of Jarnac fought: 'See how they fly! my son has the victory! Do you see the Prince of Conde dead in that hedge?' All those who were present fancied she was dreaming; but the night after, M. de Losse brought her the news. 'I knew it well,' said she; 'did I not behold it the day before yesterday?'"

The Duchess Philippa, of Gueldres, wife of the Duke of Lorraine, Rene II., being a nun at St. Claire du Pont-a-Mousson, saw during her orisons the unfortunate battle of Pavia. She cried out suddenly, "Ah! my sisters, my dear sisters, for the love of God, say your prayers; my son De Lambesc is dead, and the king (Francis I.) my cousin is made prisoner." Some days after, news of this famous event, which happened the day on which the duchess had seen it, was received at Nancy. Certainly, neither the young Prince de Lambesc nor the king Francis I. had any knowledge of this revelation, and they took no part in it. It was, then, neither their spirit nor their phantoms which appeared to the princess; it was apparently their angel, or God himself, who by his power struck her imagination, and represented to her what was passing at that moment.

Mezeray affirms that he had often heard people of quality relate that the duke (Charles the Third) of Lorraine, who was at Paris when King Henry II. was wounded with the splinter of a lance, of which he died, told the circumstance often of a lady who lodged in his hotel having seen in a dream, very distinctly, that the king had been struck and brought to the ground by a blow from a lance.

To these instances of the apparition of living persons to other living persons in their sleep, we may add an infinite number of other instances of apparitions of angels and holy personages, or even of dead persons, to the living when asleep, to give them instructions, warn them of dangers which menace them, inspire them with salutary counsel relative to their salvation, or to give them aid; thick volumes might be composed on such matters. I shall content myself with relating here some examples of those apparitions drawn from profane authors.

Xerxes, king of Persia, when deliberating in council whether he should carry the war into Greece, was strongly dissuaded from it by Artabanes, his paternal uncle. Xerxes took offence at this liberty, and uttered some very disobliging words to him. The following night he reflected seriously on the arguments of Artabanes, and changed his resolution. When he was asleep, he saw in a dream a man of extraordinary size and beauty, who said to him, "You have then renounced your intention of making war on the Greeks, although you have already given orders to the Persian chiefs to assemble your army. You have not done well to change your resolve, even should no one be of your opinion. Go forward; believe me. Follow your first design." Having said this, the vision disappeared. The next day he again assembled his council, and without speaking of his dream, he testified his regret for what he said in his rage the preceding day to his uncle Artabanes, and declared that he had renounced his design of making war upon the Greeks. Those who composed the council, transported with joy, prostrated themselves before him, and congratulated him upon it.

The following night he had a second time the same vision, and the same phantom said to him, "Son of Darius, thou hast then abandoned thy design of declaring war against the Greeks, regardless of what I said to thee. Know that if thou dost not instantly undertake this expedition, thou wilt soon be reduced to a situation as low as that in which thou now findest thyself elevated." The king directly rose from his bed, and sent in all haste for Artabanes, to whom he related the two dreams which he had had two nights consecutively. He added, "I pray you to put on my royal ornaments, sit down on my throne, and then lie down in my bed. If the phantom which appeared to me appears to you also, I shall believe that the thing is ordained by the decrees of the gods, and I shall yield to their commands."

Artabanes would in vain have excused himself from putting on the royal ornaments, sitting on the king's throne, and lying down in his bed, alleging that all those things would be useless if the gods had resolved to let him know their will; that it would even be more likely to exasperate the gods, as if he desired to deceive them by external appearances. As for the rest, dreams in themselves deserve no attention, and usually they are only the consequences and representations of what is most strongly in the mind when awake.

Xerxes did not yield to his arguments, and Artabanes did what the king desired, persuaded that if the same thing should occur more than once, it would be a proof of the will of the gods, of the reality of the vision, and the truth of the dream. He then laid down in the king's bed, and the same phantom appeared to him, and said, "It is you, then, who prevent Xerxes from executing his resolve and accomplishing what is decreed by fate. I have already declared to the king what he has to fear if he disobeys my orders." At the same time it appeared to Artabanes that the spectre would burn his eyes with a red-hot iron. He directly sprang from the couch, and related to Xerxes what had appeared to him and what had been said to him, adding, "I now absolutely change my opinion, since it pleases the gods that we should make war, and that the Greeks be threatened with great misfortunes; give your orders and dispose everything for this war:"—which was executed immediately.

The terrible consequences of this war, which was so fatal to Persia, and at last caused the overthrow of that famous monarchy, leads us to judge that this apparition, if a true one, was announced by an evil spirit, hostile to that monarchy, sent by God to dispose things for events predicted by the prophets, and the succession of great empires predestined by the decrees of the Almighty.

Cicero remarks that two Arcadians, who were traveling together, arrived at Megara, a city of Greece, situated between Athens and Corinth. One of them, who could claim hospitality in the town, was lodged at a friend's, and the other at an inn. After supper, he who was at a friend's house retired to rest. In his sleep, it seemed to him that the man whom he had left at the inn appeared to him, and implored his help, because the innkeeper wanted to kill him. He arose directly, much alarmed at this dream, but having reassured himself, and fallen asleep again, the other again appeared to him, and told him that since he had not had the kindness to aid him, at least he must not leave his death unpunished; that the innkeeper, after having killed him, had hidden his body in a wagon, and covered it over with dung, and that he must not fail to be the next morning at the opening of the city gate, before the wagon went forth. Struck with this new dream, he went early in the morning to the city gate, saw the wagon, and asked the driver what he had got under the manure. The carter took flight directly, the body was extricated from the wagon, and the innkeeper arrested and punished.

Cicero relates also some other instances of similar apparitions which occurred in sleep; one is of Sophocles, the other of Simonides. The former saw Hercules in a dream, who told him the name of a robber who had taken a golden patera from his temple. Sophocles neglected this notice, as an effect of disturbed sleep; but Hercules appeared to him a second time, and repeated to him the same thing, which induced Sophocles to denounce the robber, who was convicted by the Areopagus, and from that time the temple was dedicated to Hercules the Revealer.

The dream or apparition of Simonides was more useful to himself personally. He was on the point of embarking, when he found on the shore the corpse of an unknown person, as yet without sepulture. Simonides had him interred, from humanity. The next night the dead man appeared to Simonides, and, through gratitude, counseled him not to embark in the vessel then riding in the harbor, because he would be shipwrecked if he did. Simonides believed him, and a few days after, he heard of the wreck of the vessel in which he was to have embarked.

John Pico de la Mirandola assures us in his treatise, De Auro, that a man, who was not rich, finding himself reduced to the last extremity, and without any resources either to pay his debts or procure nourishment for a numerous family in a time of scarcity, overcome with grief and uneasiness, fell asleep. At the same time, one of the blessed appeared to him in a dream, taught him by some enigmatical words the means of making gold, and pointed out to him at the same moment the water he must make use of to succeed in it. On his awaking, he took some of that water, and made gold of it, in small quantity, indeed, but enough to maintain his family. He made some twice with iron, and three times with orpiment. "He has convinced me by my own eyes," says Pico de la Mirandola, "that the means of making gold artificially is not a falsehood, but a true art."

Here is another sort of apparition of one living man to another, which is so much the more singular, because it proves at once the might of spells, and that a magician can render himself invisible to several persons, while he discovers himself to one man alone. The fact is taken from the Treatise on Superstitions, of the reverend father Le Brun,[414] and is characterized by all which can render it incontestible. On Friday, the first day of May, 1705, about five o'clock in the evening, Denis Misanger de la Richardiere, eighteen years of age, was attacked with an extraordinary malady, which began by a sort of lethargy. They gave him every assistance that medicine and surgery could afford. He fell afterwards into a kind of furor or convulsion, and they were obliged to hold him, and have five or six persons to keep watch over him, for fear that he should throw himself out of the windows, or break his head against the wall. The emetic which they gave him made him throw up a quantity of bile, and for four or five days he remained pretty quiet.

At the end of the month of May, they sent him into the country to take the air; and some other circumstances occurred, so unusual, that they judged he must be bewitched. And what confirmed this conjecture was that he never had any fever, and retained all his strength, notwithstanding all the pains and violent remedies which he had been made to take. They asked him if he had not had some dispute with a shepherd, or some other person suspected of sorcery or malpractices.

He declared that on the 18th of April preceding, when he was going through the village of Noysi on horseback for a ride, his horse stopped short in the midst of the Rue Feret, opposite the chapel, and he could not make him go forward, though he touched him several times with the spur. There was a shepherd standing leaning against the chapel, with his crook in his hand, and two black dogs at his side. This man said to him, "Sir, I advise you to return home, for your horse will not go forward." The young La Richardiere, continuing to spur his horse, said to the shepherd, "I do not understand what you say." The shepherd replied, in a low tone, "I will make you understand." In effect, the young man was obliged to get down from his horse, and lead it back by the bridle to his father's dwelling in the same village. Then the shepherd cast a spell upon him, which was to take effect on the 1st of May, as was afterwards known.

During this malady, they caused several masses to be said in different places, especially at St. Maur des Fosses, at St. Amable, and at St. Esprit. Young La Richardiere was present at some of these masses which were said at St. Maur; but he declared that he should not be cured till Friday, the 26th of June, on his return from St. Maur. On entering his chamber, the key of which he had in his pocket, he found there that shepherd, seated in his arm-chair, with his crook, and his two black dogs. He was the only person who saw him; none other in the house could perceive him. He said even that this man was called Damis, although he did not remember that any one had before this revealed his name to him. He beheld him all that day, and all the succeeding night. Towards six o'clock in the evening, as he felt his usual sufferings, he fell on the ground, exclaiming that the shepherd was upon him, and crushing him; at the same time he drew his knife, and aimed five blows at the shepherd's face, of which he retained the marks. The invalid told those who were watching over him that he was going to be very faint at five different times, and begged of them to help him, and move him violently. The thing happened as he had predicted.

On Friday, the 26th of June, M. de la Richardiere, having gone to the mass at St. Maur, asserted that he should be cured on that day. After mass, the priest put the stole upon his head and recited the Gospel of St. John, during which prayer the young man saw St. Maur standing, and the unhappy shepherd at his left, with his face bleeding from the five knife-wounds which he had given him. At that moment, the youth cried out, unintentionally, "A miracle! a miracle!" and asserted that he was cured, as in fact he was.

On the 29th of June, the same M. de la Richardiere returned to Noysi, and amused himself with shooting. As he was shooting in the vineyards, the shepherd presented himself before him; he hit him on the head with the butt-end of his gun. The shepherd cried out, "Sir, you are killing me!" and fled. The next day, this man presented himself again before him, and asked his pardon, saying, "I am called Damis; it was I who cast a spell over you which was to have lasted a year. By the aid of masses and prayers which have been said for you, you have been cured at the end of eight weeks. But the charm has fallen back upon myself, and I can be cured of it only by a miracle. I implore you then to pray for me."

During all these reports, the mare chausee had set off in pursuit of the shepherd; but he escaped them, having killed his two dogs and thrown away his crook. On Sunday, the 13th of September, he came to M. de la Richardiere, and related to him his adventure; that after having passed twenty years without approaching the sacraments, God had given him grace to confess himself at Troyes; and that after divers delays he had been admitted to the holy communion. Eight days after, M. de la Richardiere received a letter from a woman who said she was a relation of the shepherd's, informing him of his death, and begging him to cause a requiem mass to be said for him, which was done.

How many difficulties may we make about this story! How could this wretched shepherd cast the spell without touching the person? How could he introduce himself into young M. de la Richardiere's chamber without either opening or forcing the door? How could he render himself visible to him alone, whilst none other beheld him? Can one doubt of his corporeal presence, since he received five cuts from a knife in his face, of which he afterwards bore the marks, when, by the merit of the holy mass and the intercession of the saints, the spell was taken off? How could St. Maur appear to him in his Benedictine habit, having the wizard on his left hand? If the circumstance is certain, as it appears, who shall explain the manner in which all passed or took place?


[402] Ezek. viii. 1, 2, &c.

[403] Matt. xvii. 3.

[404] Acts ix. 10.

[405] Acts ix. 2.

[406] Ammian. Marcell. lib. xix. Sozomen. lib. vi. c. 35.

[407] Aug. lib. viii. de Civit. c. 18.

[408] Aug. Serm. cxxiii. pp. 1277, 1278.

[409] Aug. de cura gerenda pro Mortuis, c. 11, 12.

[410] Aug. de cura gerend. pro Mort. c. xxvii. p. 529.

[411] Vita Daniel Stylit. xi. Decemb.

[412] Gregor. lib. ii. Dialog. c. xxii.

[413] Vita Sancti Euthym. pp. 86, 87.

[414] Le Brun, Traite des Superstit. tom. i. pp. 281, 282, et seq.



After having spoken at some length upon apparitions, and after having established the truth of them, as far as it has been possible for us to do so, from the authority of the Scripture, from examples, and by arguments, we must now exercise our judgment on the causes, means, and reasons for these apparitions, and reply to the objections which may be made to destroy the reality of them, or at least to raise doubts on the subject.

We have supposed that apparitions were the work of angels, demons, or souls of the defunct; we do not talk of the appearance of God himself; his will, his operations, his power, are above our reach; we acknowledge that he can do all that he wills to do, that his will is all-powerful, and that he places himself, when he chooses, above the laws which he has made. As to the apparitions of the living to others also living, they are of a different nature from what we propose to examine in this place; we shall not fail to speak of them hereafter.

Whatever system we may follow on the nature of angels, or demons, or souls separated from the body; whether we consider them as purely spiritual substances, as the Christian church at this day holds; whether we give them an aerial body, subtile, and invisible, as many have taught; it appears almost as difficult to render palpable, perceptible, and thick a subtile and aerial body, as it is to condense the air, and make it seem like a solid and perceptible body; as, when the angels appeared to Abraham and Lot, the angel Raphael to Tobias, whom he conducted into Mesopotamia; or when the demon appeared to Jesus Christ, and led him to a high mountain, and on the pinnacle of the Temple at Jerusalem; or when Moses appeared with Elias on Mount Tabor: for those apparitions are certain from Scripture.

If you will say that these apparitions were seen only in the imagination and mind of those who saw, or believed they saw angels, demons, or souls separated from the body, as it happens every day in our sleep, and sometimes when awake, if we are strongly occupied with certain objects, or struck with certain things which we desire ardently or fear exceedingly—as when Ajax, thinking he saw Ulysses and Agamemnon, or Menelaues, threw himself upon some animals, which he killed, thinking he was killing those two men his enemies, and whom he was dying with the desire to wreak his vengeance upon—on this supposition, the apparition will not be less difficult to explain. There was neither prepossession nor disturbed imagination, nor any preceding emotion, which led Abraham to figure to himself that he saw three persons, to whom he gave hospitality, to whom he spoke, who promised him the birth of a son, of which he was scarcely thinking at that time. The three apostles who saw Moses conversing with Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor were not prepared for that appearance; there was no emotion of fear, love, revenge, ambition, or any other passion which struck their imagination, to dispose them to see Moses; as neither was there in Abraham, when he perceived the three angels who appeared to him.

Often in our sleep we see, or we believe we see, what has struck our attention very much when awake; sometimes we represent to ourselves in sleep things of which we have never thought, which even are repugnant to us, and which present themselves to our mind in spite of ourselves. None bethink themselves of seeking the causes of these kinds of representations; they are attributed to chance, or to some disposition of the humors of the blood or of the brain, or even of the way in which the body is placed in bed; but nothing like that is applicable to the apparitions of angels, demons, or spirits, when these apparitions are accompanied and followed by converse, predictions and real effects preceded and predicted by those which appear.

If we have recourse to a pretended fascination of the eyes or the other senses, which sometimes make us believe that we see and hear what we do not, or that we neither see nor hear what is passing before our eyes, or which strikes our ears; as when the soldiers sent to arrest Elisha spoke to him and saw him before they recognized him, or when the inhabitants of Sodom could not discover Lot's door, although it was before their eyes, or when the disciples of Emmaus knew not that it was Jesus Christ who accompanied them and expounded the Scriptures; they opened their eyes and knew him only by the breaking of bread.

That fascination of the senses which makes us believe that we see what we do not see, or that suspension of the exercise and natural functions of our senses which prevents us from seeing and recognizing what is passing before our eyes, is all of it hardly less miraculous than to condense the air, or rarefy it, or give solidity and consistence to what is purely spiritual and disengaged from matter.

From all this, it follows that no apparition can take place without a sort of miracle, and without a concurrence, both extraordinary and supernatural, of the power of God who commands, or causes, or permits an angel, or a demon, or a disembodied soul to appear, act, speak, walk, and perform other functions which belong only to an organized body.

I shall be told that it is useless to recur to the miraculous and the supernatural, if we have acknowledged in spiritual substances a natural power of showing themselves, whether by condensing the air, or by producing a massive and palpable body, or in raising up some dead body, to which these spirits give life and motion for a certain time.

I own it all; but I dare maintain that that is not possible either to angel or demon, nor to any spiritual substance whatsoever. The soul can produce in herself thoughts, will, and wishes; she can give her impulsion to the movements of her body, and repress its sallies and agitations; but how does she do that? Philosophy can hardly explain it, but by saying that by virtue of the union between herself and the body, God, by an effect of his wisdom, has given her power to act upon the humors, its organs, and impress them with certain movements; but there is reason to believe that the soul performs all that only as an occasional cause, and that it is God as the first, necessary, immediate, and essential cause, which produces all the movements of the body that are made in a natural way.

Neither angel nor demon has more privilege in this respect over matter than the soul of man has over its own body. They can neither modify matter, change it, nor impress it with action and motion, save by the power of God, and with his concurrence both necessary and immediate; our knowledge does not permit us to judge otherwise; there is no physical proportion between the spirit and the body; those two substances cannot act mutually and immediately one upon the other; they can act only occasionally, by determining the first cause, in virtue of the laws which wisdom has judged it proper to prescribe to herself for the reciprocal action of the creatures upon each other, to give them being, to preserve it, and perpetuate movement in the mass of matter which composes the universe, in himself giving life to spiritual substances, and permitting them with his concurrence, as the First Cause, to act, the body on the soul, and the soul on the body, one on the other, as secondary causes.

Porphyry, when consulted by Anebo, an Egyptian priest, if those who foretell the future and perform prodigies have more powerful souls, or whether they receive power from some strange spirit, replies that, according to appearance, all these things are done by means of certain evil spirits that are naturally knavish, and take all sorts of shapes, and do everything that one sees happen, whether good or evil; but that in the end they never lead men to what is truly good.

St. Augustine,[415] who cites this passage of Porphyry, lays much stress on his testimony, and says that every extraordinary thing which is done by certain tones of the voice, by figures or phantoms, is usually the work of the demon, who sports with the credulity and blindness of men; that everything marvellous which is transacted in nature, and has no relation to the worship of the true God, ought to pass for an illusion of the devil. The most ancient Fathers of the Church, Minutius Felix, Arnobius, St. Cyprian, attribute equally all these kinds of extraordinary effects to the evil spirit.

Tertullian[416] had no doubt that the apparitions which are produced by magic, and by the evocation of souls, which, forced by enchantments, come out, say they, from the depth of hell (or Hades), are but pure illusions of the demon, who causes to appear to those present a fantastical form, which fascinates the eyes of those who think they see what they see not; "which is not more difficult for the demon," says he, "than to seduce and blind the souls which he leads into sin. Pharaoh thought he saw real serpents produced by his magicians: it was mere illusion. The truth of Moses devoured the falsehood of these impostors."

Is it more easy to cause the fascination of the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants than to produce serpents, and can it be done without God's concurring thereto? And how can we reconcile this concurrence with the wisdom, independence, and truth of God? Has the devil in this respect a greater power than an angel and a disembodied soul? And if once we open the door to this fascination, everything which appears supernatural and miraculous will become uncertain and doubtful. It will be said that the wonders related in the Old and New Testament are in this respect, in regard both to those who are witnesses of them, and those to whom they happened, only illusions and fascinations: and whither may not these premises lead? It leads us to doubt everything, to deny everything; to believe that God in concert with the devil leads us into error, and fascinates our eyes and other senses, to make us believe that we see, hear, and know what is neither present to our eyes, nor known to our mind, nor supported by our reasoning power, since by that the principles of reasoning are overthrown.

We must, then, have recourse to the solid and unshaken principles of religion, which teach us—

1. That angels, demons, and souls disembodied are pure spirit, free from all matter.

2. That it is only by the order or permission of God that spiritual substances can appear to men, and seem to them to be true and tangible bodies, in which and by which they perform what they are seen to do.

3. That to make these bodies appear, and make them act, speak, walk, eat, &c, they must produce tangible bodies, either by condensing the air or substituting other terrestrial, solid bodies, capable of performing the functions we speak of.

4. That the way in which this production and apparition of a perceptible body is achieved is absolutely unknown to us; that we have no proof that spiritual substances have a natural power of producing this kind of change when it pleases them, and that they cannot produce them independently of God.

5. That although there may be often a great deal of illusion, prepossession, and imagination in what is related of the operations and apparitions of angels, demons, and disembodied souls, there is still some reality in many of these things; and we cannot reasonably doubt of them all, and still less deny them all.

6. That there are apparitions which bear about them the character and proof of truth, from the quality of him who relates them; from the circumstances which accompany them; from the events following those apparitions that announce things to come; which perform things impossible to the natural strength of man, and too much in opposition to the interest of the demon, and his malicious and deceitful character, for us to be able to suspect him to be the author or contriver of them. In short, these apparitions are certified by the belief, the prayers, and the practice of the church, which recognizes them, and supposes their reality.

7. That although what appears miraculous is not so always, we must at least usually perceive in it some illusion and operation of the demon; consequently, that the demon can, with the permission of God, do many things which surpass our knowledge, and the natural power which we suppose him to have.

8. That those who wish to explain them by fascination of the eyes and other senses, do not resolve the difficulty, and throw themselves into still greater embarrassment than those who admit simply that apparitions appear by the order or the permission of God.


[415] Aug. de Civit. Dei, lib. x. c. 11, 12.

[416] Tertull. de Anima, c. 57.



The greatest objection that can be raised against the apparitions of angels, demons, and disembodied souls, takes its rise in the nature of these substances, which being purely spiritual, cannot appear with evident, solid, and palpable bodies, nor perform those functions which belong only to matter, and living or animated bodies.

For, either spiritual substances are united to the bodies which appear or not. If they are not united to them, how can they move them, and cause them to act, walk, speak, reason, and eat? If they are united to them, then they form but one individual; and how can they separate themselves from them, after being united to them? Do they take them and leave them at will, as we lay aside a habit or a mask? That would be to suppose that they are at liberty to appear or disappear, which is not the case, since all apparitions are solely by the order or permission of God. Are those bodies which appear only instruments which the angels, demons, or souls make use of to affright, warn, chastise, or instruct the person or persons to whom they appear? This is, in fact, the most rational thing that can be said concerning these apparitions; the exorcisms of the church fall directly on the agent and cause of these apparitions, and not on the phantom which appears, nor on the first author, which is God, who orders and permits it.

Another objection, both very common and very striking, is that which is drawn from the multitude of false stories and ridiculous reports which are spread amongst the people, of the apparitions of spirits, demons, and elves, of possessions and obsessions.

It must be owned that, out of a hundred of these pretended appearances, hardly two will be found to be true. The ancients are not more to be credited on that point than the moderns, since they were, at least, equally as credulous as people are in our own age, or rather they were more credulous than we are at this day.

I grant that the foolish credulity of the people, and the love of everything that seems marvelous and extraordinary, have produced an infinite number of false histories on the subject we are now treating of. There are here two dangers to avoid: a too great credulity, and an excessive difficulty in believing what is above the ordinary course of nature; as likewise, we must not conclude what is general from what is particular, or make a general case of a particular one, nor say that all is false because some stories are so; also, we must not assert that such a particular history is a mere invention, because there are many stories of this latter kind. It is allowable to examine, prove, and select; we must never form our judgment but with knowledge of the case; a story may be false in many of its circumstances (as related), but true in its foundation.

The history of the deluge, and that of the passage across the Red Sea, are certain in themselves, and in the simple and natural recital given of them by Moses. The profane historians, and some Hebrew writers, and even Christians, have added some embellishment which must militate against the story in itself. Josephus the historian has much embellished the history of Moses; Christian authors have added much to that of Josephus; the Mahometans have altered several points of the sacred history of the Old and New Testament. Must we, on this account, consider these histories as problematical? The life of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus is full of miracles, as are also those of St. Martin and St. Bernard. St. Augustine relates several miraculous cures worked by the relics of St. Stephen. Many extraordinary things are related in the life of St. Ambrose. Why not give faith to them after the testimony of these great men, and that of their disciples, who had lived with them, and had been witnesses of a good part of what they relate?

It is not permitted us to dispute the truth of the apparitions noted in the Old and New Testament; but we may be permitted to explain them. For instance, it is said that the Lord appeared to Abraham in the valley of Mamre;[417] that he entered Abraham's tent, and that he promised him the birth of a son; also, it is allowed that he received three angels, who went from thence to Sodom. St. Paul[418] notices it expressly in his Epistle to the Hebrews; angelis hospitio receptis. It is also said that the Lord appeared unto Moses, and gave him the law; and St. Stephen, in the Acts,[419] informs us that it was an angel who spoke to him from the burning bush, and on Mount Horeb; and St. Paul, writing to the Galatians, says, that the law was given by angels.[420]

Sometimes, the name of angel of the Lord is taken for a prophet, a man filled with his Spirit, and deputed by him. It is certain that the Hebrew malae and the Greek angelos bear the same signification as our envoy. For instance, at the beginning of the Book of Judges,[421] it is said that there came an angel of the Lord from Gilgal to the place of tears (or Bochim), and that he there reproved the Israelites for their infidelity and ingratitude. The ablest commentators[422] think that this angel of the Lord is no other than Phineas, or the then high priest, or rather a prophet, sent expressly to the people assembled at Gilgal.

In the Scripture, the prophets are sometimes styled angels of the Lord.[423] "Here is what saith the envoy of the Lord, amongst the envoys of the Lord," says Haggai, speaking of himself.

The prophet Malachi, the last of the lesser prophets, says that "the Lord will send his angel, who will prepare the way before his face."[424] This angel is St. John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Jesus Christ, who is himself styled the Angel of the Lord—"And soon the Lord whom ye demand, and the so much desired Angel of the Lord, will come into his temple." This same Saviour is designated by Moses under the name of a prophet:[425] "The Lord will raise up in the midst of your nation, a prophet like myself." The name of angel is given to the prophet Nathan, who reproved David for his sin. I do not pretend, by these testimonies, to deny that the angels have often appeared to men; but I infer from them that sometimes these angels were only prophets or other persons, raised up and sent by God to his people.

As to apparitions of the demon, it is well to observe that in Scripture the greater part of public calamities and maladies are attributed to evil spirits; for example, it is said that Satan inspired David[426] with the idea of numbering his people; but in another place it is simply said that the anger of the Lord was inflamed[427] against Israel, and led David to cause his subjects to be numbered. There are several other passages in the Holy Books, where they relate what the demon said and what he did, in a popular manner, by the figure termed prosopopoeia; for instance, the conversation between Satan and the first woman,[428] and the discourse which the demon holds in company with the good angels before the Lord, when he talks to him of Job,[429] and obtains permission to tempt and afflict him. In the New Testament, it appears that the Jews attributed to the malice of the demon and to his possession almost all the maladies with which they were afflicted. In St. Luke,[430] the woman who was bent and could not raise herself up, and had suffered this for eighteen years, "had," says the evangelist, "a spirit of infirmity;" and Jesus Christ, after having healed her, says "that Satan held her bound for eighteen years;" and in another place, it is said that a lunatic or epileptic person was possessed by the demon. It is clear, from what is said by St. Matthew and St. Luke,[431] that he was attacked by epilepsy. The Saviour cured him of this evil malady, and by that means took from the demon the opportunity of tormenting him still more; as David, by dissipating with the sound of his harp the sombre melancholy of Saul, delivered him from the evil spirit, who abused the power of those inclinations which he found in him, to awaken his jealousy against David. All this means, that we often ascribed to the demon things of which he is not guilty, and that we must not lightly adopt all the prejudices of the people, nor take literally all that is related of the works of Satan.


[417] Gen. xviii. 10.

[418] Heb. xiii. 2.

[419] Acts vii. 30, 33.

[420] Gal. iii.

[421] Judges ii. 1.

[422] Vide commentar. in Judic. ii.

[423] Hagg. i. 13.

[424] Malac. iii. 1.

[425] Deut. xviii. 18.

[426] Chron. xxi. 1.

[427] 2 Sam. xxiv. 1.

[428] Gen. iii. 2, 3.

[429] Job i. 7-9.

[430] Luke xiii. 16.

[431] Matt. xvii. 14. Luke ix. 37.



In order to combat the apparitions of angels, demons, and disembodied souls, we still bring forward the effects of a prepossessed fancy, struck with an idea, and of a weak and timid mind, which imagine they see and hear what subsists only in idea; we advert to the inventions of the malignant spirits, who like to make sport of and to delude us; we call to our assistance the artifices of the charlatans, who do so many things which pass for supernatural in the eyes of the ignorant. Philosophers, by means of certain glasses, and what are called magic lanterns, by optical secrets, sympathetic powders, by their phosphorus, and lately by means of the electrical machine, show us an infinite number of things which the simpletons take for magic, because they know not how they are produced.

Eyes that are diseased do not see things as others see them, or else behold them differently. A drunken man will see objects double; to one who has the jaundice, they will appear yellow; in the obscurity, people fancy they see a spectre, when they see only the trunk of a tree.

A mountebank will appear to eat a sword; another will vomit coals or pebbles; one will drink wine and send it out again at his forehead; another will cut off his companion's head, and put it on again. You will think you see a chicken dragging a beam. The mountebank will swallow fire and vomit it forth, he will draw blood from fruit, he will send from his mouth strings of iron nails, he will put a sword on his stomach and press it strongly, and instead of running into him, it will bend back to the hilt; another will run a sword through his body without wounding himself; you will sometimes see a child without a head, then a head without a child, and all of them alive. That appears very wonderful; nevertheless, if it were known how all those things are done, people would only laugh, and be surprised that they could wonder at and admire such things.

What has not been said for and against the divining-rod of Jacques Aimar? Scripture proves to us the antiquity of divination by the divining-rod, in the instance of Nebuchadnezzar,[432] and in what is said of the prophet Hosea.[433] Fable speaks of the wonders wrought by the golden rod of Mercury. The Gauls and Germans also used the rod for divination; and there is reason to believe that often God permitted that the rods should make known by their movements what was to happen; for that reason they were consulted. Every body knows the secret of Circe's wand, which changed men into beasts. I do not compare it with the rod of Moses, by means of which God worked so many miracles in Egypt; but we may compare it with those of the magicians of Pharaoh, which produced so many marvelous effects.

Albertus Magnus relates that there had been seen in Germany two brothers, one of whom passing near a door securely locked, and presenting his left side, would cause it to open of itself; the other brother had the same virtue in the right side. St. Augustine says that there are men[434] who move their two ears one after another, or both together, without moving their heads; others, without moving it also, make all the skin of their head with the hair thereon come down over their forehead, and put it back as it was before; some imitate so perfectly the voices of animals, that it is almost impossible not to mistake them. We have seen men speak from the hollow of the stomach, and make themselves heard as if speaking from a distance, although they were close by. Others swallow an incredible quantity of different things, and by tightening their stomachs ever so little, throw up whole, as from a bag, whatever they please. Last year, in Alsatia, there was seen and heard a German who played on two French horns at once, and gave airs in two parts, the first and the second, at the same time. Who can explain to us the secret of intermitting fevers, of the flux and reflux of the sea, and the cause of many effects which are certainly all natural?

Galen relates[435] that a physician named Theophilus, having fallen ill, fancied that he saw near his bed a great number of musicians, whose noise split his head and augmented his illness. He cried out incessantly for them to send those people away. Having recovered his health and good sense, he perfectly well remembered all that had been said to him; but he could not get those players on musical instruments out of his head, and he affirmed that they tired him to death.

In 1629, Desbordes, valet-de-chambre of Charles IV., Duke of Lorraine, was accused of having hastened the death of the Princess Christina of Salms, wife of Duke Francis II., and mother of the Duke Charles IV., and of having inflicted maladies on different persons, which maladies the doctors attribute to evil spells. Charles IV. had conceived violent suspicions against Desbordes, since one day when in a hunting-party this valet-de-chambre had served a grand dinner to the duke and his company, without any other preparation than having to open a box with three shelves; and to wind up the wonders, he had ordered three robbers, who were dead and hung to a gibbet, to come down from it, and come and make their bow to the duke, and then to go back and resume their place at the gallows. It was said, moreover, that on another occasion he had commanded the personages in a piece of tapestry to detach themselves from it, and to come and present themselves in the middle of the room.

Charles IV. was not very credulous; nevertheless, he allowed Desbordes to be tried. He was, it is said, convicted of magic, and condemned to the flames; but I have since been assured[436] that he made his escape; and some years after, on presenting himself before the duke, and clearing himself, he demanded the restitution of his property, which had been confiscated; but he recovered only a very small part of it. Since the adventure of Desbordes, the partisans of Charles IV. wished to cast a doubt on the validity of the baptism of the Duchess Nichola, his wife, because she had been baptized by Lavallee, Chantre de St. George, a friend of Desbordes, and like him convicted of several crimes, which drew upon him similar condemnation. From a doubt of the baptism of the duchess, they wished to infer the invalidity of her marriage with Charles, which was then the grand business of Charles IV.

Father Delrio, a Jesuit, says that the magician called Trois-Echelles, by his enchantments, detached in the presence of King Charles IX. the rings or links of a collar of the Order of the King, worn by some knights who were at a great distance from him; he made them come into his hand, and after that replaced them, without the collar appearing deranged.

John Faust Cudlingen, a German, was requested, in a company of gay people, to perform in their presence some tricks of his trade; he promised to show them a vine loaded with grapes, ripe and ready to gather. They thought, as it was then the month of December, he could not execute his promise. He strongly recommended them not to stir from their places, and not to lift up their hands to cut the grapes, unless by his express order. The vine appeared directly, covered with leaves and loaded with grapes, to the great astonishment of all present; every one took up his knife, awaiting the order of Cudlingen to cut some grapes; but after having kept them for some time in that expectation, he suddenly caused the vine and the grapes to disappear: then every one found himself armed with his knife and holding his neighbor's nose with one hand, so that if they had cut off a bunch without the order of Cudlingen, they would have cut off one another's noses.

We have seen in these parts a horse which appeared gifted with wit and discernment, and to understand what his master said. All the secret consisted in the horse's having been taught to observe certain motions of his master; and from these motions he was led to do certain things to which he was accustomed, and to go to certain persons, which he would never have done but for the sign or motion which he saw his master make.

A hundred other similar facts might be cited, which might pass for magical operations, if we did not know that they are simple contrivances and tricks of art, performed by persons well exercised in such things. It may be that sometimes people have ascribed to magic and the evil spirit operations like those we have just related, and that what have been taken for the spirits of deceased persons were often arranged on purpose by young people to frighten passers-by. They will cover themselves with white or black, and show themselves in a cemetery in the posture of persons requesting prayers; after that they will be the first to exclaim that they have seen a spirit: at other times it will be pick-pockets, or young men, who will hide their amorous intrigues, or their thefts and knavish tricks, under this disguise.

Sometimes a widow, or heirs, from interested motives, will publicly declare that the deceased husband appears in his house, and is in torment; that he has asked or commanded such and such things, or such and such restitutions. I own that this may happen, and does happen sometimes; but it does not follow that spirits never return. The return of souls is infinitely more rare than the common people believe; I say the same of pretended magical operations and apparitions of the demon.

It is remarked that the greater the ignorance which prevails in a country, the more superstition reigns there; and that the spirit of darkness there exercises greater power, in proportion as the nations we plunged in irregularity, and into deeper moral darkness. Louis Vivez[437] testifies that, in the newly-discovered countries in America, nothing is more common than to see spirits which appear at noonday, not only in the country, but in towns and villages, speaking, commanding, sometimes even striking men. Olaues Magnus, Archbishop of Upsal, who has written on the antiquities of the northern nations, observes that in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Finmark, and Lapland, they frequently see spectres or spirits, which do many wonderful things; that there are even some amongst them who serve as domestics to men, and take the horses and other cattle to pasture.

The Laplanders, even at this day, as well those who have remained in idolatry as those who have embraced Christianity, believe the apparition of the manes or ghosts, and offer them a kind of sacrifice. I believe that prepossession, and the prejudices of childhood, have much more to do with this belief than reason and experience. In effect, among the Tartars, where barbarism and ignorance reign as much as in any country in the world, they talk neither of spirits nor of apparitions, no more than among the Mahometans, although they admit the apparitions of angels made to Abraham and the patriarchs, and that of the Archangel Gabriel to Mahomet himself.

The Abyssinians, a very rude and ignorant people, believe neither in sorcerers, nor spells, nor magicians; they say that it is giving too much power to the demon, and by that they fall into the error of the Manichaeans, who admit two principles, the one of good, which is God, and the other of evil, which is the devil. The Minister Becker, in his work entitled "The Enchanted World," (Le Monde Enchante,) laughs at apparitions of spirits and evil angels, and ridicules all that is said of the effects of magic: he maintains that to believe in magic is contrary to Scripture and religion.

But whence comes it, then, that the Scriptures forbid us to consult magicians, and that they make mention of Simon the magician, of Elymas, another magician, and of the works of Satan? What will become of the apparitions of angels, so well noted in the Old and New Testaments? What will become of the apparitions of Onias to Judas Maccabeus, and of the devil to Jesus Christ himself, after his fast of forty days? What will be said of the apparition of Moses at the transfiguration of the Saviour; and an infinity of other appearances made to all kinds of persons, and related by wise, grave, and enlightened authors? Are the apparitions of devils and spirits more difficult to explain and conceive than those of angels, which we cannot rationally dispute without overthrowing the entire Scriptures, and practices and belief of the churches?

Does not the apostle tell us that the angel of darkness transforms himself into an angel of light? Is not the absolute renunciation of all belief in apparitions assaulting Christianity in its most sacred authority, in the belief of another life, of a church still subsisting in another world, of rewards for good actions, and of punishments for bad ones; the utility of prayers for the dead, and the efficacy of exorcisms? We must then in these matters keep the medium between excessive credulity and extreme incredulity; we must be prudent, moderate, and enlightened; we must, according to the advice of St. Paul, test everything, examine everything, yield only to evidence and known truth.


[432] Ezek. xxi. 21.

[433] Hosea iv. 12.

[434] Aug. lib. xiv. de Civit. Dei, c. 24.

[435] Galen. de Differ. Sympt.

[436] By M. Fransquin Chanoine de Taul.

[437] Ludov. Vives, lib. i. de Veritate Fidei, p. 540.



It is possible to allege against my reasoning the secrets of physics and chemistry, which produce an infinity of wonderful effects, and appear beyond the power of natural agency. We have the composition of a phosphorus, with which they write; the characters do not appear by daylight, but in the dark we see them shine; with this phosphorus, figures can be traced which would surprise and even alarm during the night, as has been done more than once, apparently to cause maliciously useless fright. La poudre ardente is another phosphorus, which, provided it is exposed to the air, sheds a light both by night and by day. How many people have been frightened by those little worms which are found in certain kinds of rotten wood, and which give a brilliant flame by night.

We have the daily experience of an infinite number of things, all of them natural, which appear above the ordinary course of nature,[438] but which have nothing miraculous in them, and ought not to be attributed to angels or demons; for instance, teeth and noses taken from other persons, and applied to those who have lost similar parts; of this we find many instances in authors. These teeth and noses fall off directly when the person from whom they were taken dies, however great the distance between these two persons may be.

The presentiments experienced by certain persons of what happens to their relations and friends, and even of their own death, are not at all miraculous. There are many instances of persons who are in the habit of feeling these presentiments, and who in the night, even when asleep, will say that such a thing has happened, or is about to happen; that such messengers are coming, and will announce to them such and such things.

There are dogs that have the sense of smelling so keen that they scent from a good distance the approach of any person who has done them good or harm. This has been proved many times, and can only proceed from the diversity of organs in those animals, some of which have the scent much keener than others, and upon which the spirits which exhale from other bodies act more quickly and at a greater distance than in others. Certain persons have such an acute sense of hearing that they can hear what is whispered even in another chamber, of which the door is well closed. They cite as an example of this, a certain Marie Bucaille, to whom it was thought that her guardian angel discovered what was said at a great distance from her.

Others have the smell so keen that they distinguish by the odor all the men and animals they have ever seen, and scent their approach a long way off. Blind persons pretty often possess this faculty, as well as that of discerning the color of different stuffs by the touch, from horse-hair to playing-cards.

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