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Bygone Beliefs by H. Stanley Redgrove

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calculated by the mathematical theory of probability--are 119 to 1.

All the instruments employed in the art had to be specially prepared
and consecrated. Special robes had to be worn, perfumes and
incense burnt, and invocations, conjurations, _etc_., recited,
all of which depended on the planet ruling the operation.
A description of a few typical talismans in detail will not here
be out of place.

In _The Key of Solomon the King_ (translated by S. L. M. MATHERS,
1889)[1] are described five, six, or seven talismans for each planet.
Each of these was supposed to have its own peculiar virtues, and many
of them are stated to be of use in the evocation of spirits. The
majority of them consist of a central design encircled by a verse of
Hebrew Scripture. The central designs are of a varied character,
generally geometrical figures and Hebrew letters or words, or magical
characters. Five of these talismans are here portrayed, the first
three described differing from the above. The translations of the
Hebrew verses, _etc_., given below are due to Mr MATHERS.

[1] The _Clavicula Salomonis_, or _Key of Solomon the King_, consists
mainly of an elaborate ritual for the evocation of the various planetary
spirits, in which process the use of talismans or pentacles plays a
prominent part. It is claimed to be a work of white magic, but, inasmuch
as it, like other old books making the same claim, gives descriptions of
a pentacle for causing ruin, destruction, and death, and another for
causing earthquakes--to give only two examples,--the distinction between
black and white magic, which we shall no doubt encounter again in later
excursions, appears to be somewhat arbitrary.

Regarding the authorship of the work, Mr MATHERS, translator and editor of
the first printed copy of the book, says, "I see no reason to doubt the
tradition which assigns the authorship of the `Key' to King Solomon." If
this view be accepted, however, it is abundantly evident that the _Key_ as
it stands at present (in which we find S. JOHN quoted, and mention made of
SS. PETER and PAUL) must have received some considerable alterations and
additions at the hands of later editors. But even if we are compelled to
assign the _Clavicula Salomonis_ in its present form to the fourteenth or
fifteenth century, we must, I think, allow that it was based upon
traditions of the past, and, of course, the possibility remains that it
might have been based upon some earlier work. With regard to the
antiquity of the planetary sigils, Mr MATHERS notes "that, among the
Gnostic talismans in the British Museum, there is a ring of copper with
the sigils of Venus, which are exactly the same as those given by
mediaeval writers on magic."

In spite of the absurdity of its claims, viewed in the light of modern
knowledge, the _Clavicula Salomonis_ exercised a considerable influence
in the past, and is to be regarded as one of the chief sources of
mediaeval ceremonial magic. Historically speaking, therefore, it is a
book of no little importance.

_The First Pentacle of the Sun_.--"The Countenance of Shaddai the
Almighty, at Whose aspect all creatures obey, and the Angelic Spirits do
reverence on bended knees." About the face is the name "El Shaddai".
Around is written in Latin: "Behold His face and form by Whom all
things were made, and Whom all creatures obey" (see fig. 21).

_The Fifth Pentacle of Mars_.--"Write thou this Pentacle upon virgin
parchment or paper because it is terrible unto the Demons, and at its sight
and aspect they will obey thee, for they cannot resist its presence."
The design is a Scorpion,[1] around which the word Hvl is repeated.
The Hebrew versicle is from _Psalm_ xci. 13: "Thou shalt go upon the lion
and adder, the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet"
(see fig. 22).

[1] In astrology the zodiacal sign of the scorpion is the "night house"
of the planet Mars.

_The Third Pentacle of the Moon_.--"This being duly borne with thee
when upon a journey, if it be properly made, serveth against all
attacks by night, and against every kind of danger and peril by Water."
The design consists of a hand and sleeved forearm (this occurs on three
other moon talismans), together with the Hebrew names Aub and Vevaphel.
The versicle is from _Psalm_ xl. 13: "Be pleased O IHVH to deliver me,
O IHVH make haste to help me" (see fig 23)

_The Third Pentacle of Venus_.--"This, if it be only shown unto any
person, serveth to attract love. Its Angel Monachiel should be invoked
in the day and hour of Venus, at one o'clock or at eight." The design
consists of two triangles joined at their apices, with the following
names--IHVH, Adonai, Ruach, Achides, AEgalmiel, Monachiel, and Degaliel.
The versicle is from _Genesis_ i. 28: "And the Elohim blessed them, and
the Elohim said unto them, Be ye fruitful, and multiply, and replenish
the earth, and subdue it" (see fig. 24).

_The Third Pentacle of Mercury_.--"This serves to invoke the Spirits
subject unto Mercury; and especially those who are written in this
Pentacle." The design consists of crossed lines and magical characters
of Mercury. Around are the names of the angels, Kokaviel, Ghedoriah,
Savaniah, and Chokmahiel (see fig. 25).

CORNELIUS AGRIPPA, in his _Three Books of Occult Philosophy_, describes
another interesting system of talismans. FRANCIS BARRETT'S _Magus, or
Celestial Intelligencer_, a well-known occult work published in the
first year of the nineteenth century, I may mention, copies AGRIPPA'S
system of talismans, without acknowledgment, almost word for word.
To each of the planets is assigned a magic square or table, _i.e_. a
square composed of numbers so arranged that the sum of each row or
column is always the same. For example, the table for Mars is as

11 24 7 20 3
4 12 25 8 16
17 5 13 21 9
10 18 1 14 22
23 6 19 2 15

It will be noticed that every number from 1 up to the highest possible
occurs once, and that no number occurs twice. It will also be seen
that the sum of each row and of each column is always 65. Similar
squares can be constructed containing any square number of figures,
and it is, indeed, by no means surprising that the remarkable
properties of such "magic squares," before these were explained
mathematically, gave rise to the belief that they had some occult
significance and virtue. From the magic squares can be obtained
certain numbers which are said to be the numbers of the planets;
their orderliness, we are told, reflects the order of the heavens,
and from a consideration of them the magical properties of the
planets which they represent can be arrived at. For example, in the
above table the number of rows of numbers is 5. The total number of
numbers in the table is the square of this number, namely, 25, which is
also the greatest number in the table. The sum of any row or column is
65. And, finally, the sum of all the numbers is the product of the
number of rows (namely, 5) and the sum of any row (namely, 65), _i.e_.
325. These numbers, namely, 5, 25, 65, and 325, are the numbers of Mars.
Sets of numbers for the other planets are obtained in exactly the same

[1] Readers acquainted with mathematics will notice that if _n_ is
the number of rows in such a "magic square," the other numbers derived
as above will be n<2S>, 1/2_n_(_n_<2S> + 1), and 1/2_n_<2S>(_n_<2S> + 1).
This can readily be proved by the laws of arithmetical progressions.
Rather similar but more complicated and less uniform "magic squares"
are attributed to PARACELSUS.

Now to each planet is assigned an Intelligence or good spirit, and an
Evil Spirit or demon; and the names of these spirits are related to
certain of the numbers of the planets. The other numbers are also
connected with holy and magical Hebrew names. AGRIPPA, and BARRETT
copying him, gives the following table of "names answering to the
numbers of Mars":--

5. He, the letter of the holy name.
65. Adonai.
325. Graphiel, the Intelligence of Mars.
325. Barzabel, the Spirit of Mars.

Similar tables are given for the other planets. The numbers can be
derived from the names by regarding the Hebrew letters of which they are
composed as numbers, in which case (Aleph) to (Teth)
represent the units 1 to 9 in order, (Jod) to (Tzade) the
tens 10 to 90 in order, (Koph) to (Tau) the hundreds 100 to
400, whilst the hundreds 500 to 900 are represented by special terminal
forms of certain of the Hebrew letters.[2] It is evident that no little
wasted ingenuity must have been employed in working all this out.

[2] It may be noticed that this makes equal to 326,
one unit too much. Possibly an Alelph should be omitted.

Each planet has its own seal or signature, as well as the signature of
its intelligence and the signature of its demon. These signatures were
supposed to represent the characters of the planets' intelligences and
demons respectively. The signature of Mars is shown in fig. 26, that of
its intelligence in fig. 27, and that of its demon in fig. 28.

These various details were inscribed on the talismans each of which
was supposed to confer its own peculiar benefits--as follows:
On one side must be engraved the proper magic table and the astrological
sign of the planet, together with the highest planetary number,
the sacred names corresponding to the planet, and the name of
the intelligence of the planet, but not the name of its demon.
On the other side must be engraved the seals of the planet
and of its intelligence, and also the astrological sign.
BARRETT says, regarding the demons:[1] "It is to be understood
that the intelligences are the presiding good angels that are set
over the planets; but that the spirits or daemons, with their names,
seals, or characters, are never inscribed upon any Talisman,
except to execute any evil effect, and that they are subject
to the intelligences, or good spirits; and again, when the spirits
and their characters are used, it will be more conducive to the effect
to add some divine name appropriate to that effect which we desire."
Evil talismans can also be prepared, we are informed, by using a metal
antagonistic to the signs engraved thereon. The complete talisman of
Mars is shown in fig. 29.

[1] FRANCIS BARRETT: _The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer_
(1801), bk. i. p. 146.

ALPHONSE LOUIS CONSTANT,[1] a famous French occultist of the nineteenth
century, who wrote under the name of "ELIPHAS LEVI," describes yet
another system of talismans. He says: "The Pentagram must be always
engraved on one side of the talisman, with a circle for the Sun, a
crescent for the Moon, a winged caduceus for Mercury, a sword for Mars,
a G for Venus, a crown for Jupiter, and a scythe for Saturn. The other
side of the talisman should bear the sign of Solomon, that is, the
six-pointed star formed by two interlaced triangles; in the centre
there should be placed a human figure for the sun talismans, a cup for
those of the Moon, a dog's head for those of Jupiter, a lion for those
of Mars, a dove's for those of Venus, a bull's or goat's for those of
Saturn. The names of the seven angels should be added either in Hebrew,
Arabic, or magic characters similar to those of the alphabets of
Trimethius. The two triangles of Solomon may be replaced by the double
cross of Ezekiel's wheels, this being found on a great number of ancient
pentacles. All objects of this nature, whether in metals or in precious
stones, should be carefully wrapped in silk satchels of a colour
analogous to the spirit of the planet, perfumed with the perfumes of the
corresponding day, and preserved from all impure looks and touches."[2]

[1] For a biographical and critical account of this extraordinary
personage and his views, see Mr A. E. WAITE'S _The Mysteries of Magic:
a Digest of the writings of_ ELIPHAS LEVI (1897).

[2] _Op. cit_., p. 201.

ELIPHAS LEVI, following PYTHAGORAS and many of the mediaeval magicians,
regarded the pentagram, or five-pointed star, as an extremely
powerful pentacle. According to him, if with one horn in
the ascendant it is the sign of the microcosm--Man. With two
horns in the ascendant, however, it is the sign of the Devil,
"the accursed Goat of Mendes," and an instrument of black magic.
We can, indeed, trace some faint likeness between the pentagram
and the outline form of a man, or of a goat's head, according to
whether it has one or two horns in the ascendant respectively,
which resemblances may account for this idea. Fig. 30 shows
the pentagram embellished with other symbols according to ELIPHAS LEVI,
whilst fig. 31 shows his embellished form of the six-pointed star,
or Seal of SOLOMON. This, he says, is "the sign of the Macrocosmos,
but is less powerful than the Pentagram, the microcosmic sign,"
thus contradicting PYTHAGORAS, who, as we have seen, regarded the pentagram
as the sign of the Macrocosm. ELIPHAS LEVI asserts that he attempted
the evocation of the spirit of APOLLONIUS of Tyana in London on 24th
July 1854, by the aid of a pentagram and other magical apparatus
and ritual, apparently with success, if we may believe his word.
But he sensibly suggests that probably the apparition which appeared
was due to the effect of the ceremonies on his own imagination,
and comes to the conclusion that such magical experiments are
injurious to health.[1]

[1] _Op cit_. pp. 446-450.

Magical rings were prepared on the same principle as were talismans.
Says CORNELIUS AGRIPPA: "The manner of making these kinds of Magical
Rings is this, viz.: When any Star ascends fortunately, with the
fortunate aspect or conjunction of the Moon, we must take a stone and
herb that is under that Star, and make a ring of the metal that is
suitable to this Star, and in it fasten the stone, putting the herb
or root under it--not omitting the inscriptions of images, names, and
characters, as also the proper suffumigations...."[1] SOLOMON'S ring
was supposed to have been possessed of remarkable occult virtue.
Says JOSEPHUS (_c_. A.D. 37-100): "God also enabled him [SOLOMON] to
learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and
sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which
distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using
exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return;
and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have
seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing
people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons,
and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner
of the cure was this; he put a ring that had under the seal a root of
one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon, to the nostrils of the
demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils: and
when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return unto him
no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations
which he composed."[2]

[1] H. C. AGRIPPA: _Occult Philosophy_, bk. i. chap. xlvii.
(WHITEHEAD'S edition, pp. 141 and 142).

[2] FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS: _The Antiquities of the Jews_ (trans. by
W. WHISTON), bk. viii. chap. ii., SE 5 (45) to (47).

Enough has been said already to indicate the general nature
of talismanic magic. No one could maintain otherwise than
that much of it is pure nonsense; but the subject should not,
therefore, be dismissed as valueless, or lacking significance.
It is past belief that amulets and talismans should have been
believed in for so long unless they APPEARED to be productive
of some of the desired results, though these may have been due to
forces quite other than those which were supposed to be operative.
Indeed, it may be said that there has been no widely held superstition
which does not embody some truth, like some small specks of gold
hidden in an uninviting mass of quartz. As the poet BLAKE put it:
"Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth";[1]
and the attempt may here be made to extract the gold of truth
from the quartz of superstition concerning talismanic magic.
For this purpose the various theories regarding the supposed
efficacy of talismans must be examined.

[1] "Proverbs of Hell" (_The Marriage of Heaven and Hell_).

Two of these theories have already been noted, but the doctrine of effluvia
admittedly applied only to a certain class of amulets, and, I think,
need not be seriously considered. The "astral-spirit theory"
(as it may be called), in its ancient form at any rate, is equally
untenable to-day. The discoveries of new planets and new metals seem
destructive of the belief that there can be any occult connection
between planets, metals, and the days of the week, although the curious
fact discovered by Mr OLD, to which I have referred (footnote, p.
63@@@), assuredly demands an explanation, and a certain
validity may, perhaps, be allowed to astrological symbolism.
As concerns the belief in the existence of what may be called
(although the term is not a very happy one) "discarnate spirits,"
however, the matter, in view of the modern investigation of spiritistic
and other abnormal psychical phenomena, stands in a different position.
There can, indeed, be little doubt that very many of the phenomena observed
at spiritistic seances come under the category of deliberate fraud,
and an even larger number, perhaps, can be explained on the theory
of the subconscious self. I think, however, that the evidence goes
to show that there is a residuum of phenomena which can only be
explained by the operation, in some way, of discarnate intelligences.[1]
Psychical research may be said to have supplied the modern world
with the evidence of the existence of discarnate personalities,
and of their operation on the material plane, which the ancient
world lacked. But so far as our present subject is concerned,
all the evidence obtainable goes to show that the phenomena in question
only take place in the presence of what is called "a medium"--a person
of peculiar nervous or psychical organisation. That this is the case,
moreover, appears to be the general belief of spiritists on the subject.
In the sense, then, in which "a talisman" connotes a material object of
such a nature that by its aid the powers of discarnate intelligences
may become operative on material things, we might apply the term
"talisman" to the nervous system of a medium: but then that would be the
only talisman. Consequently, even if one is prepared to admit the whole
of modern spiritistic theory, nothing is thereby gained towards a belief
in talismans, and no light is shed upon the subject.

[1] The publications of The Society for Psychical Research,
and FREDERICK MYERS' monumental work on _Human Personality and
its Survival of Bodily Death_, should be specially consulted.
I have attempted a brief discussion of modern spiritualism
and psychical research in my _Matter, Spirit, and the Cosmos_
(1910), chap. ii.

Another theory concerning talismans which commended itself
to many of the old occult philosophers, PARACELSUS for instance,
is what may be called the "occult force" theory. This theory
assumes the existence of an occult mental force, a force
capable of being exerted by the human will, apart from its
usual mode of operation by means of the body. It was believed
to be possible to concentrate this mental energy and infuse it
into some suitable medium, with the production of a talisman,
which was thus regarded as a sort of accumulator for mental energy.
The theory seems a fantastic one to modern thought, though, in view
of the many startling phenomena brought to light by psychical research,
it is not advisable to be too positive regarding the limitations
of the powers of the human mind. However, I think we shall find
the element of truth in the otherwise absurd belief in talismans
by means of what may be called, not altogether fancifully perhaps,
a transcendental interpretation of this "occult force" theory.
I suggest, that is, that when a believer makes a talisman,
the transference of the occult energy is ideal, not actual;
that the power, believed to reside in the talisman itself,
is the power due to the reflex action of the believer's mind.
The power of what transcendentalists call "the imagination"
cannot be denied; for example, no one can deny that a man with
a firm conviction that such a success will be achieved by him,
or such a danger avoided, will be far more likely to gain his desire,
other conditions being equal, than one of a pessimistic turn of mind.
The mere conviction itself is a factor in success, or a factor
in failure, according to its nature; and it seems likely that
herein will be found a true explanation of the effects believed
to be due to the power of the talisman.

On the other hand, however, we must beware of the exaggerations
into which certain schools of thought have fallen in their estimates
of the powers of the imagination. These exaggerations are
particularly marked in the views which are held by many nowadays
with regard to "faith-healing," although the "Christian Scientists"
get out of the difficulty--at least to their own satisfaction--
by ascribing their alleged cures to the Power of the Divine Mind,
and not to the power of the individual mind.

Of course the real question involved in this "transcendental theory
of talismans" as I may, perhaps, call it, is that of the operation
of incarnate spirit on the plane of matter. This operation takes
place only through the medium of the nervous system, and it has been
suggested,[1] to avoid any violation of the law of the conservation
of energy, that it is effected, not by the transference, as is
sometimes supposed, of energy from the spiritual to the material plane,
but merely by means of directive control over the expenditure of
energy derived by the body from purely physical sources, _e.g_. the
latent chemical energy bound up in the food eaten and the oxygen

[1] _Cf_ Sir OLIVER LODGE: _Life and Matter_ (1907), especially chap.
ix.; and W. HIBBERT, F.I.C.: _Life and Energy_ (1904).

I am not sure that this theory really avoids the difficulty which it
is intended to obviate;[1] but it is at least an interesting one,
and at any rate there may be modes in which the body, under the
directive control of the spirit, may expend energy derived from the
material plane, of which we know little or nothing. We have the
testimony of many eminent authorities[2] to the phenomenon of the
movement of physical objects without contact at spiritistic seances.
It seems to me that the introduction of discarnate intelligences
to explain this phenomenon is somewhat gratuitous--the psychic
phenomena which yield evidence of the survival of human personality
after bodily death are of a different character. For if we suppose
this particular phenomenon to be due to discarnate spirits, we must,
in view of what has been said concerning "mediums," conclude that
the movements in question are not produced by these spirits DIRECTLY,
but through and by means of the nervous system of the medium present.
Evidently, therefore, the means for the production of the phenomenon
reside in the human nervous system (or, at any rate, in the peculiar
nervous system of "mediums"), and all that is lacking is intelligence
or initiative to use these means. This intelligence or initiative
can surely be as well supplied by the sub-consciousness as by a
discarnate intelligence. Consequently, it does not seem unreasonable
to suppose that equally remarkable phenomena may have been produced
by the aid of talismans in the days when these were believed in,
and may be produced to-day, if one has sufficient faith--that is
to say, produced by man when in the peculiar condition of mind
brought about by the intense belief in the power of a talisman.
And here it should be noted that the term "talisman" may be applied
to any object (or doctrine) that is believed to possess peculiar power
or efficacy. In this fact, I think, is to be found the peculiar
danger of erroneous doctrines which promise extraordinary benefits,
here and now on the material plane, to such as believe in them.
Remarkable results may follow an intense belief in such doctrines,
which, whilst having no connection whatever with their accuracy,
being proportional only to the intensity with which they are held,
cannot do otherwise than confirm the believer in the validity of his
beliefs, though these may be in every way highly fantastic and erroneous.
Both the Roman Catholic, therefore, and the Buddhist may admit
many of the marvels attributed to the relics of each other's saints;
though, in denying that these marvels prove the accuracy of each
other's religious doctrines, each should remember that the same is
true of his own.

[1] The subject is rather too technical to deal with here. I have
discussed it elsewhere; see "Thermo-Dynamical Objections to the
Mechanical Theory of Life," _The Chemical News_, vol. cxii. pp.
271 _et seq_. (3rd December 1915).

[2] For instance, the well-known physicist, Sir W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S.
(late Professor of Experimental Physics in The Royal College of Science
for Ireland). See his _On the Threshold of a New World of Thought_
(1908), SE 10.

In illustration of the real power of the imagination, I may instance
the Maori superstition of the Taboo. According to the Maories,
anyone who touches a tabooed object will assuredly die, the tabooed
object being a sort of "anti-talisman". Professor FRAZER[1] says:
"Cases have been known of Maories dying of sheer fright on learning
that they had unwittingly eaten the remains of a chief's dinner or
handled something that belonged to him," since such objects were,
_ipso facto_, tabooed. He gives the following case on good authority:
"A woman, having partaken of some fine peaches from a basket, was told
that they had come from a tabooed place. Immediately the basket dropped
from her hands and she cried out in agony that the atua or godhead of
the chief, whose divinity had been thus profaned, would kill her. That
happened in the afternoon, and next day by twelve o'clock she was dead."
For us the power of the taboo does not exist; for the Maori, who
implicitly believes in it, it is a very potent reality, but this power
of the taboo resides not in external objects but in his own mind.

[1] Professor J. G. FRAZER, D.C.L.: _Psyche's Task_ (1909), p. 7.

Dr HADDON[2] quotes a similar but still more remarkable story of a young
Congo negro which very strikingly shows the power of the imagination.
The young negro, "being on a journey, lodged at a friend's house;
the latter got a wild hen for his breakfast, and the young man asked
if it were a wild hen. His host answered `No.' Then he fell on heartily,
and afterwards proceeded on his journey. After four years these two met
together again, and his old friend asked him `if he would eat a wild hen,'
to which he answered that it was tabooed to him. Hereat the host
began immediately to laugh, inquiring of him, `What made him refuse
it now, when he had eaten one at his table about four years ago?'
At the hearing of this the negro immediately fell a-trembling, and
suffered himself to be so far possessed with the effects of imagination
that he died in less than twenty-four hours after."

[2] ALFRED C. HADDON, SC.D., F.R.S.: _Magic and Fetishism_
(1906), p. 56.

There are, of course, many stories about amulets, _etc_., which cannot
be thus explained. For example, ELIHU RICH gives the following:--

"In 1568, we are told (Transl. of Salverte, p. 196) that the Prince
of Orange condemned a Spanish prisoner to be shot at Juliers.
The soldiers tied him to a tree and fired, but he was invulnerable.
They then stripped him to see what armour he wore, but they found only
an amulet bearing the figure of a lamb (the _Agnus Dei_, we presume).
This was taken from him, and he was then killed by the first shot.
De Baros relates that the Portuguese in like manner vainly attempted
to destroy a Malay, so long as he wore a bracelet containing a bone
set in gold, which rendered him proof against their swords. A similar
marvel is related in the travels of the veracious Marco Polo. `In an
attempt of Kublai Khan to make a conquest of the island of Zipangu,
a jealousy arose between the two commanders of the expedition,
which led to an order for putting the whole garrison to the sword.
In obedience to this order, the heads of all were cut off excepting
of eight persons, who by the efficacy of a diabolical charm,
consisting of a jewel or amulet introduced into the right arm,
between the skin and the flesh, were rendered secure from the effects
of iron, either to kill or wound. Upon this discovery being made,
they were beaten with a heavy wooden club, and presently died.'"

[1] I think, however, that these, and many similar stories, must be taken
_cum grano salis_.

In conclusion, mention must be made of a very interesting and
suggestive philosophical doctrine--the Law of Correspondences,--due
in its explicit form to the Swedish philosopher, who was both scientist
and mystic, EMANUEL SWEDENBORG. To deal in any way adequately with this
important topic is totally impossible within the confines of the present
discussion.[2] But, to put the matter as briefly as possible, it may be
said that SWEDENBORG maintains (and the conclusion, I think, is valid)
that all causation is from the spiritual world, physical causation being
but secondary, or apparent--that is to say, a mere reflection, as it were,
of the true process. He argues from this, thereby supplying a
philosophical basis for the unanimous belief of the nature-mystics, that
every natural object is the symbol (because the creation) of an idea or
spiritual verity in its widest sense. Thus, there are symbols which are
inherent in the nature of things, and symbols which are not.
The former are genuine, the latter merely artificial. Writing from
the transcendental point of view, ELIPHAS LEVI says: "Ceremonies,
vestments, perfumes, characters and figures being . . .necessary to
enlist the imagination in the education of the will, the success of
magical works depends upon the faithful observance of all the rites,
which are in no sense fantastic or arbitrary, having been transmitted
to us by antiquity, and permanently subsisting by the essential laws of
analogical realisation and of the correspondence which inevitably
connects ideas and forms."[1b] Some scepticism, perhaps, may be
permitted as to the validity of the latter part of this statement, and
the former may be qualified by the proviso that such things are only
of value in the right education of the will, if they are, indeed, genuine,
and not merely artificial, symbols. But the writer, as I think will be
admitted, has grasped the essential point, and, to conclude our excursion,
as we began it, with a definition, I will say that _the power of the
talisman is the power of the mind (or imagination) brought into activity
by means of a suitable symbol_.

[1] ELIHU RICH: _The Occult Sciences_, p. 346.

[2] I may refer the reader to my _A Mathematical Theory of Spirit_
(1912), chap. i., for a more adequate statement.

[1b] ELIPHAS LEVI: _Transcendental Magic: its Doctrine and Ritual_
(trans. by A. E. WAITE, 1896), p. 234.



THE word "magic," if one may be permitted to say so, is itself almost
magical--magical in its power to conjure up visions in the human mind.
For some these are of bloody rites, pacts with the powers of darkness,
and the lascivious orgies of the Saturnalia or Witches' Sabbath; in other
minds it has pleasanter associations, serving to transport them from the
world of fact to the fairyland of fancy, where the purse of FORTUNATUS,
the lamp and ring of ALADDIN, fairies, gnomes, jinn, and innumerable other
strange beings flit across the scene in a marvellous kaleidoscope of
ever-changing wonders. To the study of the magical beliefs of the past
cannot be denied the interest and fascination which the marvellous and
wonderful ever has for so many minds, many of whom, perhaps, cannot
resist the temptation of thinking that there may be some element of truth
in these wonderful stories. But the study has a greater claim to our
attention; for, as I have intimated already, magic represents a phase in
the development of human thought, and the magic of the past was the womb
from which sprang the science of the present, unlike its parent though
it be.

What then is magic? According to the dictionary definition--and this
will serve us for the present--it is the (pretended) art of producing
marvellous results by the aid of spiritual beings or arcane spiritual
forces. Magic, therefore, is the practical complement of animism.
Wherever man has really believed in the existence of a spiritual world,
there do we find attempts to enter into communication with that world's
inhabitants and to utilise its forces.Professor LEUBA[1] and others
distinguish between propitiative behaviour towards the beings of the
spiritual world, as marking the religious attitude, and coercive behaviour
towards these beings as characteristic of the magical attitude; but one
form of behaviour merges by insensible degrees into the other, and the
distinction (though a useful one) may, for our present purpose, be

[1] JAMES H. LEUBA: _The Psychological Origin and the Nature of
Religion_ (1909), chap. ii.

Animism, "the Conception of Spirit everywhere" as Mr EDWARD CLODD[2]
neatly calls it, and perhaps man's earliest view of natural phenomena,
persisted in a modified form, as I have pointed out in "Some
Characteristics of Mediaeval Thought," throughout the Middle Ages.
A belief in magic persisted likewise. In the writings of the Greek
philosophers of the Neo-Platonic school, in that curious body of
esoteric Jewish lore known as the Kabala, and in the works of later
occult philosophers such as AGRIPPA and PARACELSUS, we find magic, or
rather the theory upon which magic as an art was based, presented in
its most philosophical form. If there is anything of value for modern
thought in the theory of magic, here is it to be found; and it is, I
think, indeed to be found, absurd and fantastic though the practices
based upon this philosophy, or which this philosophy was thought to
substantiate, most certainly are. I shall here endeavour to give a
sketch of certain of the outstanding doctrines of magical philosophy,
some details concerning the art of magic, more especially as practiced
in the Middle Ages in Europe, and, finally, an attempt to extract from
the former what I consider to be of real worth. We have already
wandered down many of the byways of magical belief, and, indeed, the
word "magic" may be made to cover almost every superstition of the past:
To what we have already gained on previous excursions the present, I
hope, will add what we need in order to take a synthetic view of the
whole subject.

[2] EDWARD CLODD: _Animism the Seed of Religion_ (1905), p. 26.

In the first place, something must be said concerning what is called
the Doctrine of Emanations, a theory of prime importance in
Neo-Platonic and Kabalistic ontology. According to this theory,
everything in the universe owes its existence and virtue to an
emanation from God, which divine emanation is supposed to descend,
step by step (so to speak), through the hierarchies of angels and the
stars, down to the things of earth, that which is nearer to the Source
containing more of the divine nature than that which is relatively
distant. As CORNELIUS AGRIPPA expresses it: "For God, in the first
place is the end and beginning of all Virtues; he gives the seal of
#the _Ideas_ to his servants, the Intelligences; who as faithful
officers, sign all things intrusted to them with an Ideal Virtue; the
Heavens and Stars, as instruments, disposing the matter in the mean
while for the receiving of those forms which reside in Divine Majesty
(as saith Plato in Timeus) and to be conveyed by Stars; and the Giver
of Forms distributes them by the ministry of his Intelligences, which
he hath set as Rulers and Controllers over his Works, to whom such a
power is intrusted to things committed to them that so all Virtues of
Stones, Herbs, Metals, and all other things may come from the
Intelligences, the Governors. The Form, therefore, and Virtue of
things comes first from the _Ideas_, then from the ruling and governing
Intelligences, then from the aspects of the Heavens disposing, and
lastly from the tempers of the Elements disposed, answering the
influences of the Heavens, by which the Elements themselves are ordered,
or disposed. These kinds of operations, therefore, are performed in
these inferior things by express forms, and in the Heavens by disposing
virtues, in Intelligences by mediating rules, in the Original Cause
by _Ideas_ and exemplary forms, all which must of necessity agree in
the execution of the effect and virtue of every thing.

"There is, therefore, a wonderful virtue and operation in every Herb
and Stone, but greater in a Star, beyond which, even from the
governing Intelligences everything receiveth and obtains many things
for itself, especially from the Supreme Cause, with whom all things
do mutually and exactly correspond, agreeing in an harmonious consent,
as it were in hymns always praising the highest Maker of all
things.... There is, therefore, no other cause of the necessity of
effects than the connection of all things with the First Cause, and
their correspondency with those Divine patterns and eternal _Ideas_
whence every thing hath its determinate and particular place in the
exemplary world, from whence it lives and receives its original being:
And every virtue of herbs, stones, metals, animals, words and speeches,
and all things that are of God, is placed there."[1] As compared with
the _ex nihilo_ creationism of orthodox theology, this theory is as
light is to darkness. Of course, there is much in CORNELIUS AGRIPPA'S
statement of it which is inacceptable to modern thought; but these are
matters of form merely, and do not affect the doctrine fundamentally.
For instance, as a nexus between spirit and matter AGRIPPA places the
stars: modern thought prefers the ether. The theory of emanations may
be, and was, as a matter of fact, made the justification of
superstitious practices of the grossest absurdity, but on the other hand
it may be made the basis of a lofty system of transcendental philosophy,
as, for instance, that of EMANUEL SWEDENBORG, whose ontology resembles
in some respects that of the Neo-Platonists. AGRIPPA uses the theory to
explain all the marvels which his age accredited, marvels which we know
had for the most part no existence outside of man's imagination.
I suggest, on the contrary, that the theory is really needed to explain
the commonplace, since, in the last analysis, every bit of experience,
every phenomenon, be it ever so ordinary--indeed the very fact of
experience itself,--is most truly marvellous and magical, explicable
only in terms of spirit. As ELIPHAS LEVI well says in one of his
flashes of insight: "The supernatural is only the natural in an
extraordinary grade, or it is the exalted natural; a miracle is a
phenomenon which strikes the multitude because it is unexpected; the
astonishing is that which astonishes; miracles are effects which
surprise those who are ignorant of their causes, or assign them causes w
hich are not in proportion to such effects."[1b] But I am anticipating
the sequel.

[1] H. C. AGRIPPA: _Occult Philosophy_, bk. i., chap. xiii.
(WHITEHEAD'S edition, pp. 67-68).

[1b] ELIPHAS LEVI: _Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual_
(trans. by A. E. WAITE, 1896), p. 192.

The doctrine of emanations makes the universe one vast harmonious
whole, between whose various parts there is an exact analogy,
correspondence, or sympathetic relation. "Nature" (the productive
principle), says IAMBLICHOS (3rd-4th century), the Neo-Platonist,
"in her peculiar way, makes a likeness of invisible principles through
symbols in visible forms."[2] The belief that seemingly similar things
sympathetically affect one another, and that a similar relation holds
good between different things which have been intimately connected
with one another as parts within a whole, is a very ancient one.
Most primitive peoples are very careful to destroy all their
nail-cuttings and hair-clippings, since they believe that a witch
gaining possession of these might work them harm. For a similar
reason they refuse to reveal their REAL names, which they regard as
part of themselves, and adopt nicknames for common use. The belief
that a witch can torment an enemy by making an image of his person
in clay or wax, correctly naming it, and mutilating it with pins, or,
in the case of a waxen image, melting it by fire, is a very ancient
one, and was held throughout and beyond the Middle Ages. The
Sympathetic Powder of Sir KENELM DIGBY we have already noticed, as
well as other instances of the belief in "sympathy," and examples
of similar superstitions might be multiplied almost indefinitely.
Such are generally grouped under the term "sympathetic magic"; but
inasmuch as all magical practices assume that by acting on part of a
thing, or a symbolic representation of it, one acts magically on the
whole, or on the thing symbolised, the expression may in its broadest
sense be said to involve the whole of magic.

[2] IAMBLICHOS: _Theurgia, or the Egyptian Mysteries_
(trans. by Dr ALEX. WILDER, New York, 1911), p. 239.

The names of the Divine Being, angels and devils, the planets of the
solar system (including sun and moon) and the days of the week, birds
and beasts, colours, herbs, and precious stones--all, according to
old-time occult philosophy, are connected by the sympathetic relation
believed to run through all creation, the knowledge of which was
essential to the magician; as well, also, the chief portions of the
human body, for man, as we have seen, was believed to be a microcosm--a
universe in miniature. I have dealt with this matter and exhibited
some of the supposed correspondences in "The Belief in Talismans". Some
further particulars are shown in the annexed table, for which I am
mainly indebted to AGRIPPA. But, as in the case of the zodiacal gems
already dealt with, the old authorities by no means agree as to the
majority of the planetary correspondences.


Arch- Part of Precious
angel. Angel. Planet. Human Animal. Bird. stone.

Raphael Michael Sun Heart Lion Swan Carbuncle
Gabriel Gabriel Moon Left foot Cat Owl Crystal
Camael Zamael Mars Right hand Wolf Vulture Diamond
Michael Raphael Mercury Left hand Ape Stork Agate
Zadikel Sachiel Jupiter Head Hart Eagle Sapphire
(=Lapis lazuli)
Haniel Anael Venus Generative Goat Dove Emerald
Zaphhiel Cassiel Saturn Right foot Mole Hoopoe Onyx

The names of the angels are from Mr Mather's translation of
_Clavicula Salomonis_; the other correspondences are from the
second book of Agrippa's _Occult Philosophy_, chap. x.

In many cases these supposed correspondences are based, as will be obvious
to the reader, upon purely trivial resemblances, and, in any case,
whatever may be said--and I think a great deal may be said--in favour
of the theory of symbology, there is little that may be adduced to support
the old occultists' application of it.

So essential a part does the use of symbols play in all magical
operations that we may, I think, modify the definition of "magic"
adopted at the outset, and define "magic" as "an attempt
to employ the powers of the spiritual world for the production
of marvellous results, BY THE AID OF SYMBOLS." It has,
on the other hand, been questioned whether the appeal
to the spirit-world is an essential element in magic.
But a close examination of magical practices always reveals at
the root a belief in spiritual powers as the operating causes.
The belief in talismans at first sight seems to have little
to do with that in a supernatural realm; but, as we have seen,
the talisman was always a silent invocation of the powers of
some spiritual being with which it was symbolically connected,
and whose sign was engraved thereon. And, as Dr T. WITTON DAVIES
well remarks with regard to "sympathetic magic": "Even this
could not, at the start, be anything other than a symbolic prayer
to the spirit or spirits having authority in these matters.
In so far as no spirit is thought of, it is a mere survival,
and not magic at all...."[1]

[1] Dr T. WITTON DAVIES: _Magic, Divination, and Demonology
among the Hebrews and their Neighbours_ (1898), p. 17.

What I regard as the two essentials of magical practices, namely,
the use of symbols and the appeal to the supernatural realm,
are most obvious in what is called "ceremonial magic". Mediaeval
ceremonial magic was subdivided into three chief branches--White
Magic, Black Magic, and Necromancy. White magic was concerned
with the evocations of angels, spiritual beings supposed to be
essentially superior to mankind, concerning which I shall give some
further details later--and the spirits of the elements,--which were,
as I have mentioned in "Some Characteristics of Mediaeval Thought,"
personifications of the primeval forces of Nature. As there
were supposed to be four elements, fire, air, water, and earth,
so there were supposed to be four classes of elementals or spirits
of the elements, namely, Salamanders, Sylphs, Undines, and Gnomes,
inhabiting these elements respectively, and deriving their
characters therefrom. Concerning these curious beings,
the inquisitive reader may gain some information from a quaint
little book, by the Abbe de MONTFAUCON DE VILLARS, entitled
_The Count of Gabalis, or Conferences about Secret Sciences_
(1670), translated into English and published in 1680, which has
recently been reprinted. The elementals, we learn therefrom,
were, unlike other supernatural beings, thought to be mortal.
They could, however, be rendered immortal by means of sexual
intercourse with men or women, as the case might be; and it was,
we are told, to the noble end of endowing them with this great gift,
that the sages devoted themselves.

Goety, or black magic, was concerned with the evocation of demons
and devils--spirits supposed to be superior to man in certain powers,
but utterly depraved. Sorcery may be distinguished from witchcraft,
inasmuch as the sorcerer attempted to command evil spirits by the aid
of charms, _etc_., whereas the witch or wizard was supposed to have made
a pact with the Evil One; though both terms have been rather loosely used,
"sorcery" being sometimes employed as a synonym for "necromancy".
Necromancy was concerned with the evocation of the spirits of the dead:
etymologically, the term stands for the art of foretelling events by means
of such evocations, though it is frequently employed in the wider sense.

It would be unnecessary and tedious to give any detailed account of
the methods employed in these magical arts beyond some general remarks.
Mr A. E. WAITE gives full particulars of the various rituals in his _Book
of Ceremonial Magic_ (1911), to which the curious reader may be referred.
The following will, in brief terms, convey a general idea of
a magical evocation:--

Choosing a time when there is a favourable conjunction of the planets,
the magician, armed with the implements of magical art, after much prayer
and fasting, betakes himself to a suitable spot, alone, or perhaps
accompanied by two trusty companions. All the articles he intends
to employ, the vestments, the magic sword and lamp, the talismans,
the book of spirits, _etc_., have been specially prepared and consecrated.
If he is about to invoke a martial spirit, the magician's vestment
will be of a red colour, the talismans in virtue of which he may have
power over the spirit will be of iron, the day chosen a Tuesday, and
the incense and perfumes employed of a nature analogous to Mars. In a
similar manner all the articles employed and the rites performed must
in some way be symbolical of the spirit with which converse is desired.
Having arrived at the spot, the magician first of all traces the magic
circle within which, we are told, no evil spirit can enter; he then
commences the magic rite, involving various prayers and conjurations,
a medley of meaningless words, and, in the case of the black art, a
sacrifice. The spirit summoned then appears (at least, so we are told),
and, after granting the magician's request, is licensed to depart--a
matter, we are admonished, of great importance.

The question naturally arises, What were the results obtained by these
magical arts? How far, if at all, was the magician rewarded by the
attainment of his desires? We have asked a similar question regarding
the belief in talismans, and the reply which we there gained
undoubtedly applies in the present case as well. Modern psychical
research, as I have already pointed out, is supplying us with further
evidence for the survival of human personality after bodily death than
the innate conviction humanity in general seems to have in this belief,
and the many reasons which idealistic philosophy advances in favour of
it. The question of the reality of the phenomenon of "materialisation,"
that is, the bodily appearance of a discarnate spirit, such as is
vouched for by spiritists, and which is what, it appears, was aimed at
in necromancy (though why the discarnate should be better informed as
to the future than the incarnate, I cannot suppose), must be regarded
as _sub judice_.[1] Many cases of fraud in connection with the alleged
production of this phenomenon have been detected in recent times; but,
inasmuch as the last word has not yet been said on the subject, we must
allow the possibility that necromancy in the past may have been sometimes
successful. But as to the existence of the angels and devils of magical
belief--as well, one might add, of those of orthodox faith,--nothing can
be adduced in evidence of this either from the results of psychical
research or on _a priori_ grounds.

[1] The late Sir WILLIAM CROOKES' _Experimental Researches in the
Phenomena of Spiritualism_ contains evidence in favour of the reality
of this phenomenon very difficult to gainsay.

Pseudo-DIONYSIUS classified the angels into three hierarchies,
each subdivided into three orders, as under:--

_First Hierarchy_.--Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;

_Second Hierarchy_.--Dominions, Powers, and Authorities (or Virtues);

_Third Hierarchy_.--Principalities, Archangels, and Angels,--

and this classification was adopted by AGRIPPA and others.
Pseudo-DIONYSIUS explains the names of these orders as follows:
" . . . the holy designation of the Seraphim denotes either that they
are kindling or burning; and that of the Cherubim, a fulness of
knowledge or stream of wisdom.... The appellation of the most exalted
and pre-eminent Thrones denotes their manifest exaltation above every
grovelling inferiority, and their super-mundane tendency towards higher
things; . . . and their invariable and firmly-fixed settlement around
the veritable Highest, with the whole force of their powers.... The
explanatory name of the Holy Lordships [Dominions] denotes a certain
unslavish elevation . . . superior to every kind of cringing slavery,
indomitable to every subserviency, and elevated above every
dissimularity, ever aspiring to the true Lordship and source of
Lordship.... The appellation of the Holy Powers denotes a certain
courageous and unflinching virility . . . vigorously conducted to the
Divine imitation, not forsaking the Godlike movement through its own
unmanliness, but unflinchingly looking to the super-essential and
powerful-making power, and becoming a powerlike image of this, as far
as is attainable....The appellation of the Holy Authorities ... denotes
the beautiful and unconfused good order, with regard to Divine receptions,
and the discipline of the super-mundane and intellectual
authority . . . conducted indomitably, with good order towards Divine
things.... [And the appellation] of the Heavenly Principalities
manifests their princely and leading function, after the Divine
example...."[1] There is a certain grandeur in these views, and if
we may be permitted to understand by the orders of the hierarchy,
"discrete" degrees (to use SWEDENBORG'S term) of spiritual
reality--stages in spiritual involution,--we may see in them a certain
truth as well. As I said, all virtue, power, and knowledge which man
has from God was believed to descend to him by way of these angelical
hierarchies, step by step; and thus it was thought that those of the
lowest hierarchy alone were sent from heaven to man. It was such
beings that white magic pretended to evoke. But the practical
occultists, when they did not make them altogether fatuous,
attributed to these angels characters not distinguishable from those
of the devils. The description of the angels in the _Heptemeron_, or
_Magical Elements_,[2] falsely attributed to PETER DE ABANO (1250-1316),
may be taken as fairly characteristic. Of MICHAEL and the other
spirits of Sunday he writes: "Their nature is to procure Gold, Gemmes,
Carbuncles, Riches; to cause one to obtain favour and benevolence;
to dissolve the enmities of men; to raise men to honors; to carry or
take away infirmities." Of GABRIEL and the other spirits of Monday,
he says: "Their nature is to give silver; to convey things from
place to place; to make horses swift, and to disclose the secrets of
persons both present and future." Of SAMAEL and the other spirits of
Tuesday he says: "Their nature is to cause wars, mortality, death
and combustions; and to give two thousand Souldiers at a time; to
bring death, infirmities or health," and so on for RAPHAEL, SACHIEL,
ANAEL, CASSIEL, and their colleagues.[1b]

[1] _On the Heavenly Hierarchy_. See the Rev. JOHN PARKER'S
translation of _The Works of_ DIONYSIUS _the Areopagite_, vol. ii.
(1889), pp. 24, 25, 31, 32, and 36.

[2] The book, which first saw the light three centuries after its
alleged author's death, was translated into English by ROBERT TURNER,
and published in 1655 in a volume containing the spurious _Fourth Book
of Occult Philosophy_, attributed to CORNELIUS AGRIPPA, and other
magical works. It is from this edition that I quote.

[1b] _Op. cit_., pp. 90, 92, and 94.

Concerning the evil planetary spirits, the spurious _Fourth Book of
Occult Philosophy_, attributed to CORNELIUS AGRIPPA, informs us that
the spirits of Saturn "appear for the most part with a tall, lean,
and slender body, with an angry countenance, having four faces; one
in the hinder part of the head, one on the former part of the head,
and on each side nosed or beaked: there likewise appeareth a face on
each knee, of a black shining colour: their motion is the moving of the
wince, with a kinde of earthquake: their signe is white earth, whiter
than any Snow." The writer adds that their "particular forms are,--
A King having a beard, riding on a Dragon.
An Old man with a beard.
An Old woman leaning on a staffe.
A Hog.
A Dragon.
An Owl.
A black Garment.
A Hooke or Sickle.
A Juniper-tree."

Concerning the spirits of Jupiter, he says that they "appear with a
body sanguine and cholerick, of a middle stature, with a horrible
fearful motion; but with a milde countenance, a gentle speech, and of
the colour of Iron. The motion of them is flashings of Lightning and
Thunder; their signe is, there will appear men about the circle, who
shall seem to be devoured of Lions," their particular forms being--
"A King with a Sword drawn, riding on a Stag.
A Man wearing a Mitre in long rayment.
A Maid with a Laurel-Crown adorned with Flowers.
A Bull.
A Stag.
A Peacock.
An azure Garment.
A Sword.
A Box-tree."

As to the Martian spirits, we learn that "they appear in a tall body,
cholerick, a filthy countenance, of colour brown, swarthy or red,
having horns like Harts horns, and Griphins claws, bellowing like
wilde Bulls. Their Motion is like fire burning; their signe Thunder
and Lightning about the Circle. Their particular shapes are,--
A King armed riding upon a Wolf.
A Man armed.
A Woman holding a buckler on her thigh.
A Hee-goat.
A Horse.
A Stag.
A red Garment.
A Cheeslip."[1]

[1] _Op. cit_., pp. 43-45.

The rest are described in equally fantastic terms.

I do not think I shall be accused of being unduly sceptical if I
say that such beings as these could not have been evoked by any
magical rites, because such beings do not and did not exist, save in
the magician's own imagination. The proviso, however, is important,
for, inasmuch as these fantastic beings did exist in the imagination
of the credulous, therein they may, indeed, have been evoked.
The whole of magic ritual was well devised to produce hallucination.
A firm faith in the ritual employed, and a strong effort of will to
bring about the desired result, were usually insisted upon as
essential to the success of the operation.[2] A period of fasting
prior to the experiment was also frequently prescribed as necessary,
which, by weakening the body, must have been conducive to hallucination.
Furthermore, abstention from the gratification of the sexual appetite
was stipulated in certain cases, and this, no doubt, had a similar
effect, especially as concerns magical evocations directed to the
satisfaction of the sexual impulse. Add to these factors the details
of the ritual itself, the nocturnal conditions under which it was
carried out, and particularly the suffumigations employed, which, most
frequently, were of a narcotic nature, and it is not difficult to
believe that almost any type of hallucination may have occurred. Such,
as we have seen, was ELIPHAS LEVI'S view of ceremonial magic; and
whatever may be said as concerns his own experiment therein (for one
would have thought that the essential element of faith was lacking in
this case), it is undoubtedly the true view as concerns the ceremonial
magic of the past. As this author well says: "Witchcraft, properly
so-called, that is ceremonial operation with intent to bewitch, acts
only on the operator, and serves to fix and confirm his will, by
formulating it with persistence and labour, the two conditions which
make volition efficacious."[1b]

[2] "MAGICAL AXIOM. In the circle of its action, every word
creates that which it affirms.

DIRECT CONSEQUENCE. He who affirms the devil, creates or makes the devil.

"_Conditions of Success in Infernal Evocations_.
1, Invincible obstinacy; 2, a conscience at once hardened
to crime and most subject to remorse and fear; 3, affected or
natural ignorance; 4, blind faith in all that is incredible, 5,
a completely false idea of God. (ELIPHAS LEVI: _Op. cit_., pp.
297 and 298.)

[1b] ELIPHAS LEVI: _Op. cit_., pp. 130 and 131.

EMANUEL SWEDENBORG in one place writes: "Magic is nothing but the
perversion of order; it is especially the abuse of correspondences."[2]
A study of the ceremonial magic of the Middle Ages and the following
century or two certainly justifies SWEDENBORG in writing of magic as
something evil. The distinction, rigid enough in theory, between white
and black, legitimate and illegitimate, magic, was, as I have indicated,
extremely indefinite in practice. As Mr A. E. WAITE justly remarks:
"Much that passed current in the west as White (_i.e_. permissible)
Magic was only a disguised goeticism, and many of the resplendent
angels invoked with divine rites reveal their cloven hoofs.
It is not too much to say that a large majority of past psychological
experiments were conducted to establish communication with demons, and
that for unlawful purposes. The popular conceptions concerning the
diabolical spheres, which have been all accredited by magic, may have
been gross exaggerations of fact concerning rudimentary and perverse
intelligences, but the wilful viciousness of the communicants is
substantially untouched thereby."[1b]

[2] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: _Arcana Caelestia_, SE 6692.

[1b] ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE: _The Occult Sciences_ (1891), p. 51.

These "psychological experiments" were not, save, perhaps, in rare cases,
carried out in the spirit of modern psychical research, with the high aim
of the man of science. It was, indeed, far otherwise; selfish motives
were at the root of most of them; and, apart from what may be termed
"medicinal magic," it was for the satisfaction of greed, lust, revenge,
that men and women had recourse to magical arts. The history of goeticism
and witchcraft is one of the most horrible of all histories. The
"Grimoires," witnesses to the superstitious folly of the past, are full
of disgusting, absurd, and even criminal rites for the satisfaction of
unlawful desires and passions. The Church was certainly justified in
attempting to put down the practice of magic, but the means adopted in
this design and the results to which they led were even more abominable
than witchcraft itself. The methods of detecting witches and the tortures
to which suspected persons were subjected to force them to confess to
imaginary crimes, employed in so-called civilised England and Scotland
and also in America, to say nothing of countries in which the "Holy"
Inquisition held undisputed sway, are almost too horrible to describe.
For details the reader may be referred to Sir WALTER SCOTT'S _Letters on
Demonology and Witchcraft_ (1830), and (as concerns America) COTTON
MATHER'S The _Wonders of the Invisible World_ (1692). The credulous
Church and the credulous people were terribly afraid of the power of
witchcraft, and, as always, fear destroyed their mental balance and made
them totally disregard the demands of justice. The result may be well
illustrated by what almost inevitably happens when a country goes to war;
for war, as the Hon. BERTRAND RUSSELL has well shown, is fear's offspring.
Fear of the enemy causes the military party to persecute in an insensate
manner, without the least regard to justice, all those of their
fellow-men whom they consider are not heart and soul with them in their
cause; similarly the Church relentlessly persecuted its supposed enemies,
of whom it was so afraid. No doubt some of the poor wretches that were
tortured and killed on the charge of witchcraft really believed themselves
to have made a pact with the devil, and were thus morally depraved, though,
generally speaking, they were no more responsible for their actions than
any other madmen. But the majority of the persons persecuted as witches
and wizards were innocent even of this.

However, it would, I think, be unwise to disregard the existence of
another side to the question of the validity and ethical value of magic,
and to use the word only to stand for something essentially evil.
SWEDENBORG, we may note, in the course of a long passage from the work
from which I have already quoted, says that by "magic" is signified "the
science of spiritual things"[1] His position appears to be that there
is a genuine magic, or science of spiritual things, and a false magic,
that science perverted: a view of the matter which I propose here to
adopt. The word "magic" itself is derived from the Greek "magos," the
wise man of the East, and hence the strict etymological meaning of the
term is "the wisdom or science of the magi"; and it is, I think,
significant that we are told (and I see no reason to doubt the truth of
it) that the magi were among the first to worship the new-born

[1] _Op. cit_., SE 5223.

[2] See The Gospel according to MATTHEW, chap. ii., verses 1 to 12.

If there be an abuse of correspondences, or symbols, there surely must
also be a use, to which the word "magic" is not inapplicable. As such,
religious ritual, and especially the sacraments of the Christian Church,
will, no doubt, occur to the minds of those who regard these symbols as
efficacious, though they would probably hesitate to apply the term
"magical" to them. But in using this term as applying thereto, I do not
wish to suggest that any such rites or ceremonies possess, or can possess,
any CAUSAL efficacy in the moral evolution of the soul. The will alone,
in virtue of the power vouchsafed to it by the Source of all power, can
achieve this; but I do think that the soul may be assisted by ritual,
harmoniously related to the states of mind which it is desired to induce.
No doubt there is a danger of religious ritual, especially when its
meaning is lost, being engaged in for its own sake. It is then mere
superstition;[1] and, in view of the danger of this degeneracy, many
robust minds, such as the members of the Society of Friends, prefer to
dispense with its aid altogether. When ritual is associated with
erroneous doctrines, the results are even more disastrous, as I have
indicated in "The Belief in Talismans". But when ritual is allied with,
and based upon, as adequately symbolising, the high teaching of genuine
religion, it may be, and, in fact, is, found very helpful by many people.
As such its efficacy seems to me to be altogether magical, in the best
sense of that word.

[1] As "ELIPHAS LEVI" well says: "Superstition . . . is the sign
surviving the thought; it is the dead body of a religious rite."
(_Op cit_., p. 150.)

But, indeed, I think a still wider application of the word "magic" is
possible. "All experience is magic," says NOVALIS (1772-1801), "and
only magically explicable";[2a] and again: "It is only because of the
feebleness of our perceptions and activity that we do not perceive
ourselves to be in a fairy world." No doubt it will be objected that
the common experiences of daily life are "natural," whereas magic
postulates the "supernatural". If, as is frequently done, we use the
term "natural," as relating exclusively to the physical realm, then,
indeed, we may well speak of magic as "supernatural," because its aims
are psychical. On the other hand, the term "natural" is sometimes
employed as referring to the whole realm of order, and in this sense one
can use the word "magic" as descriptive of Nature herself when viewed
in the light of an idealistic philosophy, such as that of SWEDENBORG,
in which all causation is seen to be essentially spiritual, the things
of this world being envisaged as symbols of ideas or spiritual verities,
and thus physical causation regarded as an appearance produced in virtue
of the magical, non-causal efficacy of symbols.[1] Says CORNELIUS AGRIPPA:
". . . every day some natural thing is drawn by art and some divine thing
is drawn by Nature which, the Egyptians, seeing, called Nature a
Magicianess (_i.e_.) the very Magical power itself, in the attracting of
like by like, and of suitable things by suitable."[2]

[2a] NOVALIS: _Schriften_ (ed. by LUDWIG TIECK and FR. SCHLEGEL, 1805),
vol. ii. p. 195

[1] For a discussion of the essentially magical character of inductive
reasoning, see my _The Magic of Experience_ (1915)

[2] _Op. cit_., bk. i. chap. xxxvii. p. 119.

I would suggest, in conclusion, that there is nothing really opposed to
the spirit of modern science in the thesis that "all experience is magic,
and only magically explicable." Science does not pretend to reveal
the fundamental or underlying cause of phenomena, does not pretend
to answer the final Why? This is rather the business of philosophy,
though, in thus distinguishing between science and philosophy, I am far
from insinuating that philosophy should be otherwise than scientific.
We often hear religious but non-scientific men complain because scientific
and perhaps equally as religious men do not in their books ascribe
the production of natural phenomena to the Divine Power. But if they
were so to do they would be transcending their business as scientists.
In every science certain simple facts of experience are taken for granted:
it is the business of the scientist to reduce other and more complex facts
of experience to terms of these data, not to explain these data themselves.
Thus the physicist attempts to reduce other related phenomena of greater
complexity to terms of simple force and motion; but, What are force and
motion? Why does force produce or result in motion? are questions which
lie beyond the scope of physics. In order to answer these questions, if,
indeed, this be possible, we must first inquire, How and why do these ideas
of force and motion arise in our minds? These problems land us in the
psychical or spiritual world, and the term "magic" at once becomes

"If, says THOMAS CARLYLE, . . . we . . . have led thee into the true Land
of Dreams; and . . . thou lookest, even for moments, into the region of
the Wonderful, and seest and feelest that thy daily life is girt with
Wonder, and based on Wonder, and thy very blankets and breeches are
Miracles,--then art thou profited beyond money's worth...."[1]

[1] THOMAS CARLYLE: _Sartor Resartus_, bk. iii. chap. ix.



I WAS once rash enough to suggest in an essay "On Symbolism in Art"[1]
that "a true work of art is at once realistic, imaginative, and
symbolical," and that its aim is to make manifest the spiritual
significance of the natural objects dealt with. I trust that those
artists (no doubt many) who disagree with me will forgive me--a man of
science--for having ventured to express any opinion whatever on the
subject. But, at any rate, if the suggestions in question are accepted,
then a criterion for distinguishing between art and craft is at once
available; for we may say that, whilst craft aims at producing works
which are physically useful, art aims at producing works which are
spiritually useful. Architecture, from this point of view, is a
combination of craft and art. It may, indeed, be said that the modern
architecture which creates our dwelling-houses, factories, and even to
a large extent our places of worship, is pure craft unmixed with art
On the other hand, it might be argued that such works of architecture
are not always devoid of decoration, and that "decorative art," even
though the "decorative artist" is unconscious of this fact, is based
upon rules and employs symbols which have a deep significance. The
truly artistic element in architecture, however, is more clearly
manifest if we turn our gaze to the past. One thinks at once, of course,
of the pyramids and sphinx of Egypt, and the rich and varied symbolism
of design and decoration of antique structures to be found in Persia
and elsewhere in the East. It is highly probable that the Egyptian
pyramids were employed for astronomical purposes, and thus subserved
physical utility, but it seems no less likely that their shape was
suggested by a belief in some system of geometrical symbolism, and
was intended to embody certain of their philosophical or religious

[1] Published in _The Occult Review_ for August 1912, vol. xvi. pp.
98 to 102.

The mediaeval cathedrals and churches of Europe admirably exhibit this
combination of art with craft. Craft was needed to design and construct
permanent buildings to protect worshippers from the inclemency of the
weather; art was employed not only to decorate such buildings, but it
dictated to craft many points in connection with their design.
The builders of the mediaeval churches endeavoured so to construct
their works that these might, as a whole and in their various parts,
embody the truths, as they believed them, of the Christian religion:
thus the cruciform shape of churches, their orientation, etc.
The practical value of symbolism in church architecture is obvious.
As Mr F. E. HULME remarks, "The sculptured fonts or stained-glass
windows in the churches of the Middle Ages were full of teaching to a
congregation of whom the greater part could not read, to whom therefore
one great avenue of knowledge was closed. The ignorant are especially
impressed by pictorial teaching, and grasp its meaning far more readily
than they can follow a written description or a spoken discourse."[1]

[1] F. EDWARD HULME, F.L.S., F.S.A.: _The History, Principles, and Practice
of Symbolism in Christian Art_ (1909), p. 2.

The subject of symbolism in church architecture is an extensive one,
involving many side issues. In these excursions we shall consider
only one aspect of it, namely, the symbolic use of animal forms
in English church architecture.

As Mr COLLINS, who has written, in recent years, an interesting work
on this topic of much use to archaeologists as a book of data,[2a]
points out, the great sources of animal symbolism were the famous
_Physiologus_ and other natural history books of the Middle Ages
(generally called "Bestiaries"), and the Bible, mystically understood.
The modern tendency is somewhat unsympathetic towards any attempt
to interpret the Bible symbolically, and certainly some of the
interpretations that have been forced upon it in the name of symbolism
are crude and fantastic enough. But in the belief of the mystics,
culminating in the elaborate system of correspondences of SWEDENBORG,
that every natural object, every event in the history of the human race,
and every word of the Bible, has a symbolic and spiritual significance,
there is, I think, a fundamental truth. We must, however, as I have
suggested already, distinguish between true and forced symbolism.
The early Christians employed the fish as a symbol of Christ, because the
Greek word for fish, icqus, is obtained by _notariqon_[1]
from the phrase --"JESUS CHRIST,
the Son of God, the Saviour." Of course, the obvious use of such a symbol
was its entire unintelligibility to those who had not yet been instructed
in the mysteries of the Christian faith, since in the days of persecution
some degree of secrecy was necessary. But the symbol has significance
only in the Greek language, and that of an entirely arbitrary nature.
There is nothing in the nature of the fish, apart from its name in Greek,
which renders it suitable to be used as a symbol of CHRIST. Contrast this
pseudo-symbol, however, with that of the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God
(fig. 34), or the Lion of Judah. Here we have what may be regarded
as true symbols, something of whose meanings are clear to the smallest
degree of spiritual sight, even though the second of them has frequently
been badly misinterpreted.

[2a] ARTHUR H. COLLINS, M.A.: _Symbolism of Animals and Birds represented
in English Church Architecture_ (1913).

[1] A Kabalistic process by which a word is formed by taking the initial
letters of a sentence or phrase.

It was a belief in the spiritual or moral significance of nature similar
to that of the mystical expositors of the Bible, that inspired the
mediaeval naturalists. The Bestiaries almost invariably conclude the
account of each animal with the moral that might be drawn from its
behaviour. The interpretations are frequently very far-fetched, and
as the writers were more interested in the morals than in the facts of
natural history themselves, the supposed facts from which they drew their
morals were frequently very far from being of the nature of facts.
Sometimes the product of this inaccuracy is grotesque, as shown by the
following quotation: "The elephants are in an absurd way typical of Adam
and Eve, who ate of the forbidden fruit, and also have the dragon for
their enemy. It was supposed that the elephant . . . used to sleep by
leaning against a tree. The hunters would come by night, and cut the
trunk through. Down he would come, roaring helplessly. None of his
friends would be able to help him, until a small elephant should come and
lever him up with his trunk. This small elephant was symbolic of Jesus
Christ, Who came in great humility to rescue the human race which had
fallen `through a tree.' "[1]

[1] A. H. COLLINS: _Symbolism of Animals, etc_., pp. 41 and 42.

In some cases, though the symbolism is based upon quite erroneous notions
concerning natural history, and is so far fantastic, it is not devoid of
charm. The use of the pelican to symbolise the Saviour is a case in
point. Legend tells us that when other food is unobtainable, the pelican
thrusts its bill into its breast (whence the red colour of the bill) and
feeds its young with its life-blood. Were this only a fact, the symbol
would be most appropriate. There is another and far less charming form
of the legend, though more in accord with current perversions of
Christian doctrine, according to which the pelican uses its blood to
revive its young, after having slain them through anger aroused by the
great provocation which they are supposed to give it. For an example of
the use of the pelican in church architecture see fig. 36.

Mention must also be made of the purely fabulous animals of the
Bestiaries, such as the basilisk, centaur, dragon, griffin, hydra,
mantichora, unicorn, phoenix, _etc_. The centaur (fig. 39) was a beast,
half man, half horse. It typified the flesh or carnal mind of man, and
the legend of the perpetual war between the centaur and a certain tribe
of simple savages who were said to live in trees in India, symbolised
the combat between the flesh and the spirit.[1]

[1] A H. COLLINS: _Symbolism of Animals, etc_., pp. 150 and 153.

With bow and arrow in its hands the centaur forms the astrological
sign Sagittarius (or the Archer). An interesting example of this sign
occurring in church architecture is to be found on the western doorway
of Portchester Church--a most beautiful piece of Norman architecture.
"This sign of the Zodiac," writes the Rev. Canon VAUGHAN, M.A., a
former Vicar of Portchester, "was the badge of King Stephen, and its
presence on the west front [of Portchester Church] seems to indicate,
what was often the case elsewhere, that the elaborate Norman carving
was not carried out until after the completion of the building."[2]
The facts, however, that this Sagittarius is accompanied on the other
side of the doorway by a couple of fishes, which form the astrological
sign Pisces (or the Fishes), and that these two signs are what are termed,
in astrological phraseology, the "houses" of the planet Jupiter,
the "Major Fortune," suggest that the architect responsible for the design,
influenced by the astrological notions of his day, may have put
the signs there in order to attract Jupiter's beneficent influence.
Or he may have had the Sagittarius carved for the reason Canon VAUGHAN
suggests, and then, remembering how good a sign it was astrologically,
had the Pisces added to complete the effect.[1b]

[2] Rev. Canon VAUGHAN, M.A.: A Short History of Portchester Castle, p. 14.

[1b] Two other possible explanations of the Pisces have been suggested by
the Rev. A. HEADLEY. In his MS. book written in 1888, when he was Vicar
of Portchester, he writes: "I have discovered an interesting proof that
it [the Church] was finished in Stephen's reign, namely, the figure of
Sagittarius in the Western Doorway.

"Stephen adopted this as his badge for the double reason that it formed
part of the arms of the city of Blois, and that the sun was in Sagittarius
in December when he came to the throne. I, therefore, conclude that this
badge was placed where it is to mark the completion of the church.

"There is another sign of the Zodiac in the archway, apparently Pisces.
This may have been chosen to mark the month in which the church was
finished, or simply on account of its nearness to the sea. At one time I
fancied it might refer to March, the month in which Lady Day occurred,
thus referring to the Patron Saint, St Mary. As the sun leaves Pisces
just before Lady Day this does not explain it. Possibly in the old
calendar it might do so. This is a matter for further research."
(I have to thank the Rev. H. LAWRENCE FRY, present Vicar of Portchester,
for this quotation, and the Rev. A. HEADLEY for permission to utilise it.)

The phoenix and griffin we have encountered already in our excursions.
The latter, we are told, inhabits desert places in India, where it
can find nothing for its young to eat. It flies away to other regions
to seek food, and is sufficiently strong to carry off an ox. Thus it
symbolises the devil, who is ever anxious to carry away our souls to
the deserts of hell. Fig. 37 illustrates an example of the use of this
symbolic beast in church architecture.

The mantichora is described by PLINY (whose statements were unquestioningly
accepted by the mediaeval naturalists), on the authority of CTESIAS
(_fl_. 400 B.C.), as having "A triple row of teeth, which fit
into each other like those of a comb, the face and ears of a man,
and azure eyes, is the colour of blood, has the body of the lion,
and a tail ending in a sting, like that of the scorpion.
Its voice resembles the union of the sound of the flute and the trumpet;
it is of excessive swiftness, and is particularly fond of human flesh."[1]

[1] PLINY: _Natural History_, bk. viii. chap. xxx. (BOSTOCK and RILEY'S
trans., vol. ii., 1855, p. 280.)

Concerning the unicorn, in an eighteenth-century work on natural history
we read that this is "a Beast, which though doubted of by many Writers,
yet is by others thus described: He has but one Horn, and that an
exceedingly rich one, growing out of the middle of his Forehead. His
Head resembles an Hart's, his Feet an Elephant's, his tail a Boar's, and
the rest of his Body an Horse's. The Horn is about a Foot and half in
length. His Voice is like the Lowing of an Ox. His Mane and Hair are of
a yellowish Colour. His Horn is as hard as Iron, and as rough as any File,
twisted or curled, like a flaming Sword; very straight, sharp, and every
where black, excepting the Point. Great Virtues are attributed to it, in
expelling of Poison and curing of several Diseases. He is not a Beast of
prey."[2] The method of capturing the animal believed in by mediaeval
writers was a curious one. The following is a literal translation from
the _Bestiary_ of PHILIPPE DE THAUN (12th century):--

[2] [THOMAS BOREMAN]: _A Description of Three Hundred Animals_ (1730),
p. 6.

"Monosceros is an animal which has one horn on its head,
Therefore it is so named; it has the form of a goat,
It is caught by means of a virgin, now hear in what manner.
When a man intends to hunt it and to take and ensnare it
He goes to the forest where is its repair;
There he places a virgin, with her breast uncovered,
And by its smell the monosceros perceives it;
Then it comes to the virgin, and kisses her breast,
Falls asleep on her lap, and so comes to its death;
The man arrives immediately, and kills it in its sleep,
Or takes it alive and does as he likes with it.
It signifies much, I will not omit to tell it you.

"Monosceros is Greek, it means _one horn_ in French:
A beast of such a description signifies Jesus Christ;
One God he is and shall be, and was and will continue so;
He placed himself in the virgin, and took flesh for man's sake,
And for virginity to show chastity;
To a virgin he APPEARED and a virgin conceived him,
A virgin she is, and will be, and will remain always.
Now hear briefly the signification.

"This animal in truth signifies God;
Know that the virgin signifies St Mary;
By her breast we understand similarly Holy Church;
And then by the kiss it ought to signify,
That a man when he sleeps is in semblance of death;
God slept as man, who suffered death on the cross,
And his destruction was our redemption,
And his labour our repose,
Thus God deceived the Devil by a proper semblance;
Soul and body were one, so was God and man,
And this is the signification of an animal of that description."[1]

[1] _Popular Treatises on Science written during the Middle Ages in
Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and English_, ed. by THOMAS WRIGHT (Historical
Society of Science, 1841), pp. 81-82.

This being the current belief concerning the symbolism of the unicorn
in the Middle Ages, it is not surprising to find this animal utilised
in church architecture; for an example see fig. 35.

The belief in the existence of these fabulous beasts may very probably
have been due to the materialising of what were originally nothing more
than mere arbitrary symbols, as I have already suggested of the phoenix.[1]
Thus the account of the mantichora may, as BOSTOCK has suggested,
very well be a description of certain hieroglyphic figures, examples of
which are still to be found in the ruins of Assyrian and Persian cities.
This explanation seems, on the whole, more likely than the alternative
hypothesis that such beliefs were due to mal-observation; though that,
no doubt, helped in their formation.

[1] "Superstitions concerning Birds."

It may be questioned, however, whether the architects and preachers of
the Middle Ages altogether believed in the strange fables of the
Bestiaries. As Mr COLLINS says in reply to this question: "Probably
they were credulous enough. But, on the whole, we may say that the
truth of the story was just what they did not trouble about, any more
than some clergymen are particular about the absolute truth of the
stories they tell children from the pulpit. The application, the lesson,
is the thing!" With their desire to interpret Nature spiritually, we
ought, I think, to sympathise. But there was one truth they had yet to
learn, namely, that in order to interpret Nature spiritually, it is
necessary first to understand her aright in her literal sense.



THE need of unity is a primary need of human thought.
Behind the varied multiplicity of the world of phenomena, primitive
man, as I have indicated on a preceding excursion, begins to seek,
more or less consciously, for that Unity which alone is Real. And
this statement not only applies to the first dim gropings of the
primitive human mind, but sums up almost the whole of science and
philosophy; for almost all science and philosophy is explicitly or
implicitly a search for unity, for one law or one love, one matter
or one spirit. That which is the aim of the search may, indeed, be
expressed under widely different terms, but it is always conceived
to be the unity in which all multiplicity is resolved, whether it
be thought of as one final law of necessity, which all things obey,
and of which all the various other "laws of nature" are so many special
and limited applications; or as one final love for which all things
are created, and to which all things aspire; as one matter of which
all bodies are but varying forms; or as one spirit, which is the life
of all things, and of which all things are so many manifestations.
Every scientist and philosopher is a merchant seeking for goodly
pearls, willing to sell every pearl that he has, if he may secure
the One Pearl beyond price, because he knows that in that One Pearl
all others are included.

This search for unity in multiplicity, however, is not confined to the
acknowledged scientist and philosopher. More or less unconsciously
everyone is engaged in this quest. Harmony and unity are the very
fundamental laws of the human mind itself, and, in a sense, all mental
activity is the endeavour to bring about a state of harmony and unity in
the mind. No two ideas that are contradictory of one another, and are
perceived to be of this nature, can permanently exist in any sane man's
mind. It is true that many people try to keep certain portions of their
mental life in water-tight compartments; thus some try to keep their
religious convictions and their business ideas, or their religious faith
and their scientific knowledge, separate from another one--and, it seems,
often succeed remarkably well in so doing. But, ultimately, the arbitrary
mental walls they have erected will break down by the force of their own
ideas. Contradictory ideas from different compartments will then present
themselves to consciousness at the same moment of time, and the result of
the perception of their contradictory nature will be mental anguish and
turmoil, persisting until one set of ideas is conquered and overcome by
the other, and harmony and unity are restored.

It is true of all of us, then, that we seek for Unity--unity in mind and
life. Some seek it in science and a life of knowledge; some seek it in
religion and a life of faith; some seek it in human love and find it in
the life of service to their fellows; some seek it in pleasure and the
gratification of the senses' demands; some seek it in the harmonious
development of all the facets of their being. Many the methods, right
and wrong; many the terms under which the One is conceived, true and
false--in a sense, to use the phraseology of a bygone system of
philosophy, we are all, consciously or unconsciously, following paths
that lead thither or paths that lead away, seekers in the quest of the
Philosopher's Stone.

Let us, in these excursions in the byways of thought, consider for a
while the form that the quest of fundamental unity took in the hands of
those curious mediaeval philosophers, half mystics, half experimentalists
in natural things--that are known by the name of "alchemists."

The common opinion concerning alchemy is that it was a pseudo-science
or pseudo-art flourishing during the Dark Ages, and having for its aim
the conversion of common metals into silver and gold by means of a most
marvellous and wholly fabulous agent called the Philosopher's Stone,
that its devotees were half knaves, half fools, whose views concerning
Nature were entirely erroneous, and whose objects were entirely mercenary.
This opinion is not absolutely destitute of truth; as a science alchemy
involved many fantastic errors; and in the course of its history it
certainly proved attractive to both knaves and fools. But if this opinion
involves some element of truth, it involves a far greater proportion of
error. Amongst the alchemists are numbered some of the greatest
intellects of the Middle Ages--ROGER BACON (_c_. 1214-1294), for example,
who might almost be called the father of experimental science. And
whether or not the desire for material wealth was a secondary object, the
true aim of the genuine alchemist was a much nobler one than this as one
of them exclaims with true scientific fervour: "Would to God . . . all
men might become adepts in our Art--for then gold, the great idol of
mankind, would lose its value, and we should prize it only for its
scientific teaching."[1] Moreover, recent developments in physical and
chemical science seem to indicate that the alchemists were not so utterly
wrong in their concept of Nature as has formerly been supposed--that,
whilst they certainly erred in both their methods and their
interpretations of individual phenomena, they did intuitively grasp
certain fundamental facts concerning the universe ofthe very greatest

[1] EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _An Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the
King_. (See _The Hermetic Museum, Restored and Enlarged_, ed. by A. E.
WAITE, 1893, vol. ii. p. 178.)

Suppose, however, that the theories of the alchemists are entirely
erroneous from beginning to end, and are nowhere relieved by the merest
glimmer of truth. Still they were believed to be true, and this belief
had an important influence upon human thought. Many men of science have,
I am afraid, been too prone to regard the mystical views of the alchemists
as unintelligible; but, whatever their theories may be to us, these
theories were certainly very real to them: it is preposterous to maintain
that the writings of the alchemists are without meaning, even though their
views are altogether false. And the more false their views are believed
to be, the more necessary does it become to explain why they should have
gained such universal credit. Here we have problems into which scientific
inquiry is not only legitimate, but, I think, very desirable,--apart
altogether from the question of the truth or falsity of alchemy as a
science, or its utility as an art. What exactly was the system of beliefs
grouped under the term "alchemy," and what was its aim? Why were the
beliefs held? What was their precise influence upon human thought and

It was in order to elucidate problems of this sort, as well as to
determine what elements of truth, if any, there are in the theories of
the alchemists, that The Alchemical Society was founded in 1912, mainly
through my own efforts and those of my confreres, and for the first
time something like justice was being done to the memory of the
alchemists when the Society's activities were stayed by that greatest
calamity of history, the European War.

Some students of the writings of the alchemists have advanced a very
curious and interesting theory as to the aims of the alchemists, which
may be termed "the transcendental theory". According to this theory, the
alchemists were concerned only with the mystical processes affecting the
soul of man, and their chemical references are only to be understood
symbolically. In my opinion, however, this view of the subject is
rendered untenable by the lives of the alchemists themselves; for, as
Mr WAITE has very fully pointed out in his _Lives of Alchemystical
Philosophers_ (1888), the lives of the alchemists show them to have been
mainly concerned with chemical and physical processes; and, indeed, to
their labours we owe many valuable discoveries of a chemical nature.
But the fact that such a theory should ever have been formulated, and
should not be altogether lacking in consistency, may serve to direct
our attention to the close connection between alchemy and mysticism.

If we wish to understand the origin and aims of alchemy we must
endeavour to recreate the atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and to look
at the subject from the point of view of the alchemists themselves.
Now, this atmosphere was, as I have indicated in a previous essay,
surcharged with mystical theology and mystical philosophy. Alchemy,
so to speak, was generated and throve in a dim religious light. We
cannot open a book by any one of the better sort of alchemists without
noticing how closely their theology and their chemistry are interwoven,
and what a remarkably religious view they take of their subject.
Thus one alchemist writes: "In the first place, let every devout and
God-fearing chemist and student of this Art consider that this arcanum
should be regarded, not only as a truly great, but as a most holy Art
(seeing that it typifies and shadows out the highest heavenly good).
Therefore, if any man desire to reach this great and unspeakable Mystery,
he must remember that it is obtained not by the might of man,
but by the grace of God, and that not our will or desire, but only
the mercy of the Most High, can bestow it upon us. For this reason
you must first of all cleanse your heart, lift it up to Him alone,
and ask of Him this gift in true, earnest and undoubting prayer.
He alone can give and bestow it."[1] Whilst another alchemist declares:
"I am firmly persuaded that any unbeliever who got truly to know
this Art, would straightway confess the truth of our Blessed Religion,
and believe in the Trinity and in our Lord JESUS CHRIST."[2]

[1] _The Sophic Hydrolith; or, Water Stone of the Wise_. (See _The
Hermetic Museum_, vol. i. pp. 74 and 75.)

[2] PETER BONUS: _The New Pearl of Great Price_ (trans. by A. E. WAITE,
1894), p. 275.

Now, what I suggest is that the alchemists constructed their chemical
theories for the main part by means of _a priori_ reasoning, and that
the premises from which they started were (i.) the truth of mystical
theology, especially the doctrine of the soul's regeneration, and (ii.)
the truth of mystical philosophy, which asserts that the objects of
Nature are symbols of spiritual verities. There is, I think, abundant
evidence to show that alchemy was a more or less deliberate attempt to
apply, according to the principles of analogy, the doctrines of religious
mysticism to chemical and physical phenomena. Some of this evidence I
shall attempt to put forward in this essay.

In the first place, however, I propose to say a few words more in
description of the theological and philosophical doctrines which so
greatly influenced the alchemists, and which, I believe, they borrowed
for their attempted explanations of chemical and physical phenomena.
This system of doctrine I have termed "mysticism"--a word which is
unfortunately equivocal, and has been used to denote various systems of
religious and philosophical thought, from the noblest to the most degraded.
I have, therefore, further to define my usage of the term.

By mystical theology I mean that system of religious thought which
emphasises the unity between Creator and creature, though not
necessarily to the extent of becoming pantheistic. Man, mystical
theology asserts, has sprung from God, but has fallen away from Him
through self-love. Within man, however, is the seed of divine grace,
whereby, if he will follow the narrow road of self-renunciation, he may
be regenerated, born anew, becoming transformed into the likeness of God
and ultimately indissolubly united to God in love. God is at once the
Creator and the Restorer of man's soul, He is the Origin as well as the
End of all existence; and He is also the Way to that End. In Christian
mysticism, CHRIST is the Pattern, towards which the mystic strives;
CHRIST also is the means towards the attainment of this end.

By mystical philosophy I mean that system of philosophical thought
which emphasises the unity of the Cosmos, asserting that God and
the spiritual may be perceived immanent in the things of this world,
because all things natural are symbols and emblems of spiritual verities.
As one of the _Golden Verses_ attributed to PYTHAGORAS, which I have
quoted in a previous essay, puts it: "The Nature of this Universe
is in all things alike"; commenting upon which, HIEROCLES, writing in
the fifth or sixth century, remarks that "Nature, in forming this
Universe after the Divine Measure and Proportion, made it in all things
conformable and like to itself, analogically in different manners.
Of all the different species, diffused throughout the whole, it made,
as it were, an Image of the Divine Beauty, imparting variously
to the copy the perfections of the Original."[1] We have, however,
already encountered so many instances of this belief, that no more
need be said here concerning it.

[1] _Commentary of_ HIEROCLES _on the Golden Verses of_ PYTHAGORAS
(trans. by N. ROWE, 1906), pp. 101 and 102.

In fine, as Dean INGE well says: "Religious Mysticism may be defined
as the attempt to realise the presence of the living God in the soul
and in nature, or, more generally, as _the attempt to realise,
in thought and feeling, the immanence of the temporal in the eternal,
and of the eternal in the temporal_."[2]

[2] WILLIAM RALPH INGE, M.A.: _Christian Mysticism_ (the Bampton Lectures,
1899), p. 5.

Now, doctrines such as these were not only very prevalent during
the Middle Ages, when alchemy so greatly flourished, but are of
great antiquity, and were undoubtedly believed in by the learned
class in Egypt and elsewhere in the East in those remote days when,
as some think, alchemy originated, though the evidence,
as will, I hope, become plain as we proceed, points to a later
and post-Christian origin for the central theorem of alchemy.
So far as we can judge from their writings, the more important
alchemists were convinced of the truth of these doctrines,
and it was with such beliefs in mind that they commenced
their investigations of physical and chemical phenomena.
Indeed, if we may judge by the esteem in which the Hermetic maxim,
"What is above is as that which is below, what is below is as that
which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing,"
was held by every alchemist, we are justified in asserting that the
mystical theory of the spiritual significance of Nature--a theory with
which, as we have seen, is closely connected the Neoplatonic and
Kabalistic doctrine that all things emanate in series from the Divine
Source of all Being--was at the very heart of alchemy. As writes one
alchemist: " . . . the Sages have been taught of God that this
natural world is only an image and material copy of a heavenly and
spiritual pattern; that the very existence of this world is based
upon the reality of its celestial archetype; and that God has created
it in imitation of the spiritual and invisible universe, in order that
men might be the better enabled to comprehend His heavenly teaching,
and the wonders of His absolute and ineffable power and wisdom.
Thus the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror; and he
pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love
of the knowledge which it reveals; he jealously conceals it from the
sinner and the scornful, lest the mysteries of heaven should be laid
bare to the vulgar gaze."[1]

[1] MICHAEL SENDIVOGIUS (?): _The New Chemical Light, Pt. II., Concerning
Sulphur_. (See _The Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. p. 138.)

The alchemists, I hold, convinced of the truth of this view of Nature,
_i.e_. that principles true of one plane of being are true also of all
other planes, adopted analogy as their guide in dealing with the facts
of chemistry and physics known to them. They endeavoured to explain these
facts by an application to them of the principles of mystical theology,
their chief aim being to prove the truth of these principles as applied
to the facts of the natural realm, and by studying natural phenomena
to become instructed in spiritual truth. They did not proceed by the sure,
but slow, method of modern science, _i.e_. the method of induction,
which questions experience at every step in the construction of a theory;
but they boldly allowed their imaginations to leap ahead and to formulate
a complete theory of the Cosmos on the strength of but few facts.
This led them into many fantastic errors, but I would not venture to deny
them an intuitive perception of certain fundamental truths concerning
the constitution of the Cosmos, even if they distorted these truths
and dressed them in a fantastic garb.

Now, as I hope to make plain in the course of this excursion, the
alchemists regarded the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone and the
transmutation of "base" metals into gold as the consummation of the
proof of the doctrines of mystical theology as applied to chemical
phenomena, and it was as such that they so ardently sought to achieve
the _magnum opus_, as this transmutation was called. Of course, it
would be useless to deny that many, accepting the truth of the great
alchemical theorem, sought for the Philosopher's Stone because of what
was claimed for it in the way of material benefits. But, as I have
already indicated, with the nobler alchemists this was not the case, and
the desire for wealth, if present at all, was merely a secondary object.

The idea expressed in DALTON'S atomic hypothesis (1802), and universally
held during the nineteenth century, that the material world is made
up of a certain limited number of elements unalterable in quantity,
subject in themselves to no change or development, and inconvertible
one into another, is quite alien to the views of the alchemists.
The alchemists conceived the universe to be a unity; they believed
that all material bodies had been developed from one seed;
their elements are merely different forms of one matter and,
therefore, convertible one into another. They were thoroughgoing
evolutionists with regard to the things of the material world,
and their theory concerning the evolution of the metals was,
I believe, the direct outcome of a metallurgical application of
the mystical doctrine of the soul's development and regeneration.
The metals, they taught, all spring from the same seed in Nature's womb,
but are not all equally matured and perfect; for, as they say,
although Nature always intends to produce only gold, various impurities
impede the process. In the metals the alchemists saw symbols
of man in the various stages of his spiritual development.
Gold, the most beautiful as well as the most untarnishable metal,
keeping its beauty permanently, unaffected by sulphur, most acids,
and fire--indeed, purified by such treatment,--gold, to the alchemist,
was the symbol of regenerate man, and therefore he called it "a
noble metal". Silver was also termed "noble"; but it was regarded
as less mature than gold, for, although it is undoubtedly beautiful
and withstands the action of fire, it is corroded by nitric acid
and is blackened by sulphur; it was, therefore, considered to be
analogous to the regenerate man at a lower stage of his development.
Possibly we shall not be far wrong in using SWEDENBORG'S terms,
"celestial" to describe the man of gold, "spiritual" to designate
him of silver. Lead, on the other hand, the alchemists regarded
as a very immature and impure metal: heavy and dull, corroded by
sulphur and nitric acid, and converted into a calx by the action
of fire,--lead, to the alchemists, was a symbol of man in a sinful
and unregenerate condition.

The alchemists assumed the existence of three principles in the metals,
their obvious reason for so doing being the mystical threefold division
of man into body, soul (_i.e_. affections and will), and spirit (_i.e_.
intelligence), though the principle corresponding to body was a
comparatively late introduction in alchemical philosophy. This latter
fact, however, is no argument against my thesis; because, of course, I
do not maintain that the alchemists started out with their chemical
philosophy ready made, but gradually worked it out, by incorporating in
it further doctrines drawn from mystical theology. The three principles
just referred to were called "mercury," "sulphur," and "salt"; and they
must be distinguished from the common bodies so designated (though the
alchemists themselves seem often guilty of confusing them). "Mercury" is
the metallic principle _par excellence_, conferring on metals their
brightness and fusibility, and corresponding to the spirit or intelligence
in man.[1] "Sulphur," the principle of combustion and colour, is the
analogue of the soul. Many alchemists postulated two sulphurs in the
metals, an inward and an outward.[1b] The outward sulphur was thought to
be the chief cause of metallic impurity, and the reason why all (known)
metals, save gold and silver, were acted on by fire. The inward sulphur,
on the other hand, was regarded as essential to the development of the
metals: pure mercury, we are told, matured by a pure inward sulphur
yields pure gold. Here again it is evident that the alchemists borrowed
their theories from mystical theology; for, clearly, inward sulphur is
nothing else than the equivalent to love of God; outward sulphur to love
of self. Intelligence (mercury) matured by love to God (inward sulphur)
exactly expresses the spiritual state of the regenerate man according to
mystical theology. There is no reason, other than their belief in analogy,
why the alchemists should have held such views concerning the metals.
"Salt," the principle of solidity and resistance to fire, corresponding to
the body in man, plays a comparatively unimportant part in alchemical
theory, as does its prototype in mystical theology.

[1] The identification of the god MERCURY with THOTH, the Egyptian god
of learning, is worth noticing in this connection.

[1b] Pseudo-GEBER, whose writings were highly esteemed, for instance.
See R. RUSSEL'S translation of his works (1678), p. 160.

Now, as I have pointed out already, the central theorem of mystical
theology is, in Christian terminology, that of the regeneration of the
soul by the Spirit of CHRIST. The corresponding process in alchemy is
that of the transmutation of the "base" metals into silver and gold by
the agency of the Philosopher's Stone. Merely to remove the evil sulphur
of the "base" metals, thought the alchemists, though necessary, is not
sufficient to transmute them into "noble" metals; a maturing process is
essential, similar to that which they supposed was effected in Nature's
womb. Mystical theology teaches that the powers and life of the soul
are not inherent in it, but are given by the free grace of God. Neither,
according to the alchemists, are the powers and life of nature in herself,
but in that immanent spirit, the Soul of the World, that animates her. As
writes the famous alchemist who adopted the pleasing pseudonym of "BASIL
VALENTINE" (_c_. 1600), "the power of growth . . . is imparted not by the
earth, but by the life-giving spirit that is in it. If the earth were
deserted by this spirit, it would be dead, and no longer able to afford
nourishment to anything. For its sulphur or richness would lack the
quickening spirit without which there can be neither life nor growth."[1a]
To perfect the metals, therefore, the alchemists argued, from analogy
with mystical theology, which teaches that men can be regenerated only
by the power of CHRIST within the soul, that it is necessary to subject
them to the action of this world-spirit, this one essence underlying all
the varied powers of nature, this One Thing from which "all things were
produced . . . by adaption, and which is the cause of all perfection
throughout the whole world."[2a] "This," writes one alchemist, "is the
Spirit of Truth, which the world cannot comprehend without the
interposition of the Holy Ghost, or without the instruction of those who
know it. The same is of a mysterious nature, wondrous strength, boundless
power.... By Avicenna this Spirit is named the Soul of the World. For, as
the Soul moves all the limbs of the Body, so also does this Spirit move
all bodies. And as the Soul is in all the limbs of the Body, so also is
this Spirit in all elementary created things. It is sought by many and
found by few. It is beheld from afar and found near; for it exists in
every thing, in every place, and at all times. It has the powers of all
creatures; its action is found in all elements, and the qualities of all
things are therein, even in the highest perfection . . . it heals all
dead and living bodies without other medicine . . . converts all metallic
bodies into gold, and there is nothing like unto it under Heaven."[1b]
It was this Spirit, concentrated in all its potency in a suitable
material form, which the alchemists sought under the name of "the
Philosopher's Stone". Now, mystical theology teaches that the Spirit
of CHRIST, by which alone the soul of man can be tinctured and
transmuted into the likeness of God, is Goodness itself; consequently,
the alchemists argued that the Philosopher's Stone must be, so to
speak, Gold itself, or the very essence of Gold: it was to them, as
CHRIST is of the soul's perfection, at once the pattern and the means
of metallic perfection. "The Philosopher's Stone," declares
"EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES" (_nat. c_. 1623), "is a certain heavenly,
spiritual, penetrative, and fixed substance, which brings all metals to
the perfection of gold or silver (according to the quality of the
Medicine), and that by natural methods, which yet in their effects
transcend Nature.... Know, then, that it is called a stone, not because
it is like a stone, but only because, by virtue of its fixed nature, it
resists the action of fire as successfully as any stone. In species it
is gold, more pure than the purest; it is fixed and incombustible like

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