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Title: Bygone Beliefs: being a series of excursions in the byways of thought
Author: Redgrove, H. Stanley (Herbert Stanley), 1887-1943
Language: English
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By H. Stanley Redgrove

     _Alle Erfahrung ist Magic, und nur magisch erklarbar_.
     NOVALIS (Friedrich von Hardenberg).

     Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.


Transcriber's Note:

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THESE Excursions in the Byways of Thought were undertaken at different
times and on different occasions; consequently, the reader may be able
to detect in them inequalities of treatment. He may feel that I have
lingered too long in some byways and hurried too rapidly through others,
taking, as it were, but a general view of the road in the latter case,
whilst examining everything that could be seen in the former with,
perhaps, undue care. As a matter of fact, how ever, all these excursions
have been undertaken with one and the same object in view, that, namely,
of understanding aright and appreciating at their true worth some of the
more curious byways along which human thought has travelled. It is easy
for the superficial thinker to dismiss much of the thought of the past
(and, indeed, of the present) as _mere_ superstition, not worth the
trouble of investigation: but it is not scientific. There is a reason
for every belief, even the most fantastic, and it should be our object
to discover this reason. How far, if at all, the reason in any case
justifies us in holding a similar belief is, of course, another
question. Some of the beliefs I have dealt with I have treated at
greater length than others, because it seems to me that the truths of
which they are the images--vague and distorted in many cases though they
be--are truths which we have either forgotten nowadays, or are in danger
of forgetting. We moderns may, indeed, learn something from the thought
of the past, even in its most fantastic aspects. In one excursion at
least, namely, the essay on "The Cambridge Platonists," I have ventured
to deal with a higher phase--perhaps I should say the highest phase--of
the thought of a bygone age, to which the modern world may be completely

"Some Characteristics of Mediaeval Thought," and the two essays on
Alchemy, have appeared in _The Journal of the Alchemical Society_.
In others I have utilised material I have contributed to _The Occult
Review_, to the editor of which journal my thanks are due for permission
so to do. I have also to express my gratitude to the Rev. A. H. COLLINS,
and others to be referred to in due course, for permission here to
reproduce illustrations of which they are the copyright holders. I have
further to offer my hearty thanks to Mr B. R. ROWBOTTOM and my wife for
valuable assistance in reading the proofs. H. S. R.

BLETCHLEY, BUCKS, _December_ 1919.


    PREFACE........................... ix
    LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.................... xiii
  2.  PYTHAGORAS AND HIS PHILOSOPHY...............  8
  3.  MEDICINE AND MAGIC..................... 25
  6.  THE BELIEF IN TALISMANS.................. 57
  8.  ARCHITECTURAL SYMBOLISM..................111
  11. ROGER BACON:  AN APPRECIATION...............183
  12. THE CAMBRIDGE PLATONISTS..................193

{the LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS are incomplete and raw OCR output!}

 PAGE 46.  Symbolic Alchemical Design from Mutus Liber (1677).
 PLATE: 25, to face p.176
 47.  Symbolic Alchemical Design illustrating the Work of Woman,
      from MAIER's Atalanta Fugiens...,, 26,,, 178
 48.  Symbolic Alchemica Design, Hermaphrodite,
      from MAIER's Atalanta Fugiens..,, 27,,, 180
 49.  ROGER BACON presenting a Book to a King, from a Fifteenth Century
      Miniature in the Bodleian Library, Oxford...,, 28,,, 184
 50.  ROGER BACON, from a Portrait in Knole Castle..,, 29,,, 188
 51.  BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE, from an engraved Portrait
      by ROBERT WHITE....30...194
 52.  HENRY MORE, from a Portrait by DAVID LOGGAN, engraved ad vivum, 1679
     ...,, 31,,, 198
 53.  RALPH CUDWORTH, from an engraved Portrait by VERTUE, after LOGGAN,
      forming the Frontispiece to CUDWORTH's Treatise Concerning Morality
      (1731) ,, 32,,, 3~



IN the earliest days of his upward evolution man was satisfied with
a very crude explanation of natural phenomena--that to which the name
"animism" has been given. In this stage of mental development all the
various forces of Nature are personified: the rushing torrent, the
devastating fire, the wind rustling the forest leaves--in the mind of
the animistic savage all these are personalities, spirits, like himself,
but animated by motives more or less antagonistic to him.

I suppose that no possible exception could be taken to the statement
that modern science renders animism impossible. But let us inquire
in exactly what sense this is true. It is not true that science robs
natural phenomena of their spiritual significance. The mistake is often
made of supposing that science explains, or endeavours to explain,
phenomena. But that is the business of philosophy. The task science
attempts is the simpler one of the correlation of natural phenomena, and
in this effort leaves the ultimate problems of metaphysics untouched. A
universe, however, whose phenomena are not only capable of some degree
of correlation, but present the extraordinary degree of harmony and
unity which science makes manifest in Nature, cannot be, as in animism,
the product of a vast number of inco-ordinated and antagonistic wills,
but must either be the product of one Will, or not the product of will
at all.

The latter alternative means that the Cosmos is inexplicable, which not
only man's growing experience, but the fact that man and the
universe form essentially a unity, forbid us to believe. The term
"anthropomorphic" is too easily applied to philosophical systems, as if
it constituted a criticism of their validity. For if it be true, as
all must admit, that the unknown can only be explained in terms of
the known, then the universe must either be explained in terms of
man--_i.e_. in terms of will or desire--or remain incomprehensible. That
is to say, a philosophy must either be anthropomorphic, or no philosophy
at all.

Thus a metaphysical scrutiny of the results of modern science leads us
to a belief in God. But man felt the need of unity, and crude animism,
though a step in the right direction, failed to satisfy his thought,
long before the days of modern science. The spirits of animism, however,
were not discarded, but were modified, co-ordinated, and worked into a
system as servants of the Most High. Polytheism may mark a stage in this
process; or, perhaps, it was a result of mental degeneracy.

What I may term systematised as distinguished from crude animism
persisted throughout the Middle Ages. The work of systematisation had
already been accomplished, to a large extent, by the Neo-Platonists
and whoever were responsible for the Kabala. It is true that these main
sources of magical or animistic philosophy remained hidden during the
greater part of the Middle Ages; but at about their close the youthful
and enthusiastic CORNELIUS AGRIPPA (1486-1535)(1) slaked his thirst
thereat and produced his own attempt at the systematisation of magical
belief in the famous _Three Books of Occult Philosophy_. But the waters
of magical philosophy reached the mediaeval mind through various devious
channels, traditional on the one hand and literary on the other. And of
the latter, the works of pseudo-DIONYSIUS,(2) whose immense influence
upon mediaeval thought has sometimes been neglected, must certainly be

(1) The story of his life has been admirably told by HENRY MORLEY (2
vols., 1856).

(2) These writings were first heard of in the early part of the sixth
century, and were probably the work of a Syrian monk of that date, who
fathered them on to DIONYSIUS the Areopagite as a pious fraud. See Dean
INGE'S _Christian Mysticism_ (1899), pp. 104--122, and VAUGHAN'S _Hours
with the Mystics_ (7th ed., 1895), vol. i. pp. 111-124. The books have
been translated into English by the Rev. JOHN PARKER (2 vols.1897-1899),
who believes in the genuineness of their alleged authorship.

The most obvious example of a mediaeval animistic belief is that in
"elementals"--the spirits which personify the primordial forces of
Nature, and are symbolised by the four elements, immanent in which they
were supposed to exist, and through which they were held to manifest
their powers. And astrology, it must be remembered, is essentially a
systematised animism. The stars, to the ancients, were not material
bodies like the earth, but spiritual beings. PLATO (427-347 B.C.) speaks
of them as "gods". Mediaeval thought did not regard them in quite this
way. But for those who believed in astrology, and few, I think, did
not, the stars were still symbols of spiritual forces operative on man.
Evidences of the wide extent of astrological belief in those days are
abundant, many instances of which we shall doubtless encounter in our

It has been said that the theological and philosophical atmosphere of
the Middle Ages was "scholastic," not mystical. No doubt "mysticism," as
a mode of life aiming at the realisation of the presence of God, is
as distinct from scholasticism as empiricism is from rationalism,
or "tough-minded" philosophy (to use JAMES' happy phrase) is from
"tender-minded". But no philosophy can be absolutely and purely
deductive. It must start from certain empirically determined facts. A
man might be an extreme empiricist in religion (_i.e_. a mystic),
and yet might attempt to deduce all other forms of knowledge from the
results of his religious experiences, never caring to gather experience
in any other realm. Hence the breach between mysticism and scholasticism
is not really so wide as may appear at first sight. Indeed,
scholasticism officially recognised three branches of theology, of which
the MYSTICAL was one. I think that mysticism and scholasticism both had
a profound influence on the mediaeval mind, sometimes acting as opposing
forces, sometimes operating harmoniously with one another. As Professor
WINDELBAND puts it: "We no longer onesidedly characterise the philosophy
of the middle ages as scholasticism, but rather place mysticism beside
it as of equal rank, and even as being the more fruitful and promising

(1) Professor WILHELM WINDELBAND, Ph.D.: "Present-Day Mysticism," _The
Quest_, vol. iv. (1913), P. 205.

Alchemy, with its four Aristotelian or scholastic elements and its
three mystical principles--sulphur, mercury, salt,--must be cited as
the outstanding product of the combined influence of mysticism and
scholasticism: of mysticism, which postulated the unity of the Cosmos,
and hence taught that everything natural is the expressive image and
type of some supernatural reality; of scholasticism, which taught men
to rely upon deduction and to restrict experimentation to the smallest
possible limits.

The mind naturally proceeds from the known, or from what is supposed to
be known, to the unknown. Indeed, as I have already indicated, it must
so proceed if truth is to be gained. Now what did the men of the Middle
Ages regard as falling into the category of the known? Why, surely, the
truths of revealed religion, whether accepted upon authority or upon
the evidence of their own experience. The realm of spiritual and moral
reality: there, they felt, they were on firm ground. Nature was a realm
unknown; but they had analogy to guide, or, rather, misguide them.
Nevertheless if, as we know, it misguided, this was not, I think,
because the mystical doctrine of the correspondence between the
spiritual and the natural is unsound, but because these ancient seekers
into Nature's secrets knew so little, and so frequently misapplied what
they did know. So alchemical philosophy arose and became systematised,
with its wonderful endeavour to perfect the base metals by the
Philosopher's Stone--the concentrated Essence of Nature,--as man's soul
is perfected through the life-giving power of JESUS CHRIST.

I want, in conclusion to these brief introductory remarks, to say a
few words concerning phallicism in connection with my topic. For some
"tender-minded"(1) and, to my thought, obscure, reason the subject is
tabooed. Even the British Museum does not include works on phallicism
in its catalogue, and special permission has to be obtained to consult
them. Yet the subject is of vast importance as concerns the origin
and development of religion and philosophy, and the extent of phallic
worship may be gathered from the widespread occurrence of obelisks and
similar objects amongst ancient relics. Our own maypole dances may be
instanced as one survival of the ancient worship of the male generative

(1) I here use the term with the extended meaning Mr H. G. WELLS has
given to it. See _The New Machiavelli_.

What could be more easy to understand than that, when man first
questioned as to the creation of the earth, he should suppose it to have
been generated by some process analogous to that which he saw held in
the case of man? How else could he account for its origin, if knowledge
must proceed from the known to the unknown? No one questions at all
that the worship of the human generative organs as symbols of the dual
generative principle of Nature degenerated into orgies of the most
frightful character, but the view of Nature which thus degenerated is
not, I think, an altogether unsound one, and very interesting remnants
of it are to be found in mediaeval philosophy.

These remnants are very marked in alchemy. The metals, as I have
suggested, are there regarded as types of man; hence they are
produced from seed, through the combination of male and female
principles--mercury and sulphur, which on the spiritual plane are
intelligence and love. The same is true of that Stone which is perfect
Man. As BERNARD of TREVISAN (1406-1490) wrote in the fifteenth century:
"This Stone then is compounded of a Body and Spirit, or of a volatile
and fixed Substance, and that is therefore done, because nothing in
the World can be generated and brought to light without these two
Substances, to wit, a Male and Female: From whence it appeareth, that
although these two Substances are not of one and the same species, yet
one Stone doth thence arise, and although they appear and are said to be
two Substances, yet in truth it is but one, to wit, _Argent-vive_."(1)
No doubt this sounds fantastic; but with all their seeming intellectual
follies these old thinkers were no fools. The fact of sex is the most
fundamental fact of the universe, and is a spiritual and physical as
well as a physiological fact. I shall deal with the subject as concerns
the speculations of the alchemists in some detail in a later excursion.

(1) BERNARD, Earl of TREVISAN: _A Treatise of the Philosopher's Stone_,
1683. (See _Collectanea Chymica: A Collection of Ten Several Treatises
in Chemistry_, 1684, p. 91.)


IT is a matter for enduring regret that so little is known to us
concerning PYTHAGORAS. What little we do know serves but to enhance
for us the interest of the man and his philosophy, to make him, in many
ways, the most attractive of Greek thinkers; and, basing our estimate
on the extent of his influence on the thought of succeeding ages, we
recognise in him one of the world's master-minds.

PYTHAGORAS was born about 582 B.C. at Samos, one of the Grecian isles.
In his youth he came in contact with THALES--the Father of Geometry,
as he is well called,--and though he did not become a member of THALES'
school, his contact with the latter no doubt helped to turn his mind
towards the study of geometry. This interest found the right ground for
its development in Egypt, which he visited when still young. Egypt is
generally regarded as the birthplace of geometry, the subject having, it
is supposed, been forced on the minds of the Egyptians by the necessity
of fixing the boundaries of lands against the annual overflowing of the
Nile. But the Egyptians were what is called an essentially practical
people, and their geometrical knowledge did not extend beyond a few
empirical rules useful for fixing these boundaries and in constructing
their temples. Striking evidence of this fact is supplied by the AHMES
papyrus, compiled some little time before 1700 B.C. from an older
work dating from about 3400 B.C.,(1) a papyrus which almost certainly
represents the highest mathematical knowledge reached by the Egyptians
of that day. Geometry is treated very superficially and as of subsidiary
interest to arithmetic; there is no ordered series of reasoned
geometrical propositions given--nothing, indeed, beyond isolated rules,
and of these some are wanting in accuracy.

(1) See AUGUST EISENLOHR: _Ein mathematisches Handbuch der alten
Aegypter_ (1877); J. Gow: _A Short History of Greek Mathematics_ (1884);
and V. E. JOHNSON: _Egyptian Science from the Monuments and Ancient
Books_ (1891).

One geometrical fact known to the Egyptians was that if a triangle be
constructed having its sides 3, 4, and 5 units long respectively, then
the angle opposite the longest side is exactly a right angle; and the
Egyptian builders used this rule for constructing walls perpendicular to
each other, employing a cord graduated in the required manner. The
Greek mind was not, however, satisfied with the bald statement of mere
facts--it cared little for practical applications, but sought above all
for the underlying REASON of everything. Nowadays we are beginning to
realise that the results achieved by this type of mind, the general laws
of Nature's behaviour formulated by its endeavours, are frequently
of immense practical importance--of far more importance than the mere
rules-of-thumb beyond which so-called practical minds never advance.
The classic example of the utility of seemingly useless knowledge is
afforded by Sir WILLIAM HAMILTON'S discovery, or, rather, invention of
Quarternions, but no better example of the utilitarian triumph of the
theoretical over the so-called practical mind can be adduced than that
afforded by PYTHAGORAS. Given this rule for constructing a right angle,
about whose reason the Egyptian who used it never bothered himself, and
the mind of PYTHAGORAS, searching for its full significance, made that
gigantic geometrical discovery which is to this day known as the Theorem
of PYTHAGORAS--the law that in every right-angled triangle the square
on the side opposite the right angle is equal in area to the sum of the
squares on the other two sides.(1) The importance of this discovery
can hardly be overestimated. It is of fundamental importance in most
branches of geometry, and the basis of the whole of trigonometry--the
special branch of geometry that deals with the practical mensuration of
triangles. EUCLID devoted the whole of the first book of his _Elements
of Geometry_ to establishing the truth of this theorem; how PYTHAGORAS
demonstrated it we unfortunately do not know.

(1) Fig. 3 affords an interesting practical demonstration of the truth
of this theorem. If the reader will copy this figure, cut out the
squares on the two shorter sides of the triangle and divide them along
the lines AD, BE, EF, he will find that the five pieces so obtained can
be made exactly to fit the square on the longest side as shown by the
dotted lines. The size and shape of the triangle ABC, so long as it
has a right angle at C, is immaterial. The lines AD, BE are obtained
by continuing the sides of the square on the side AB, _i.e_. the side
opposite the right angle, and EF is drawn at right angles to BE.

After absorbing what knowledge was to be gained in Egypt, PYTHAGORAS
journeyed to Babylon, where he probably came into contact with even
greater traditions and more potent influences and sources of knowledge
than in Egypt, for there is reason for believing that the ancient
Chaldeans were the builders of the Pyramids and in many ways the
intellectual superiors of the Egyptians.

At last, after having travelled still further East, probably as far as
India, PYTHAGORAS returned to his birthplace to teach the men of his
native land the knowledge he had gained. But CROESUS was tyrant over
Samos, and so oppressive was his rule that none had leisure in which to
learn. Not a student came to PYTHAGORAS, until, in despair, so the story
runs, he offered to pay an artisan if he would but learn geometry. The
man accepted, and later, when PYTHAGORAS pretended inability any longer
to continue the payments, he offered, so fascinating did he find
the subject, to pay his teacher instead if the lessons might only be
continued. PYTHAGORAS no doubt was much gratified at this; and the
motto he adopted for his great Brotherhood, of which we shall make the
acquaintance in a moment, was in all likelihood based on this event. It
ran, "Honour a figure and a step before a figure and a tribolus"; or, as
a freer translation renders it:--

"A figure and a step onward Not a figure and a florin."

"At all events," as Mr FRANKLAND remarks, "the motto is a lasting witness
to a very singular devotion to knowledge for its own sake."(1)

(1) W. B. FRANKLAND, M.A.: _The Story of Euclid_ (1902), p. 33

But PYTHAGORAS needed a greater audience than one man, however
enthusiastic a pupil he might be, and he left Samos for Southern
Italy, the rich inhabitants of whose cities had both the leisure and
inclination to study. Delphi, far-famed for its Oracles, was visited _en
route_, and PYTHAGORAS, after a sojourn at Tarentum, settled at Croton,
where he gathered about him a great band of pupils, mainly young people
of the aristocratic class. By consent of the Senate of Croton, he formed
out of these a great philosophical brotherhood, whose members lived
apart from the ordinary people, forming, as it were, a separate
community. They were bound to PYTHAGORAS by the closest ties of
admiration and reverence, and, for years after his death, discoveries
made by Pythagoreans were invariably attributed to the Master, a fact
which makes it very difficult exactly to gauge the extent of PYTHAGORAS'
own knowledge and achievements. The regime of the Brotherhood, or
Pythagorean Order, was a strict one, entailing "high thinking and low
living" at all times. A restricted diet, the exact nature of which is
in dispute, was observed by all members, and long periods of silence, as
conducive to deep thinking, were imposed on novices. Women were admitted
to the Order, and PYTHAGORAS' asceticism did not prohibit romance,
for we read that one of his fair pupils won her way to his heart, and,
declaring her affection for him, found it reciprocated and became his

SCHURE writes: "By his marriage with Theano, Pythagoras affixed _the
seal of realization_ to his work. The union and fusion of the two lives
was complete. One day when the master's wife was asked what length of
time elapsed before a woman could become pure after intercourse with a
man, she replied: 'If it is with her husband, she is pure all the time;
if with another man, she is never pure.'" "Many women," adds the writer,
"would smilingly remark that to give such a reply one must be the wife
of Pythagoras, and love him as Theano did. And they would be in the
right, for it is not marriage that sanctifies love, it is love which
justifies marriage."(1)

(1) EDOUARD SCHURE: _Pythagoras and the Delphic Mysteries_, trans. by F.
ROTHWELL, B.A. (1906), pp. 164 and 165.

PYTHAGORAS was not merely a mathematician, he was first and foremost a
philosopher, whose philosophy found in number the basis of all things,
because number, for him, alone possessed stability of relationship. As I
have remarked on a former occasion, "The theory that the Cosmos has its
origin and explanation in Number... is one for which it is not difficult
to account if we take into consideration the nature of the times in
which it was formulated. The Greek of the period, looking upon Nature,
beheld no picture of harmony, uniformity and fundamental unity. The
outer world appeared to him rather as a discordant chaos, the mere sport
and plaything of the gods. The theory of the uniformity of Nature--that
Nature is ever like to herself--the very essence of the modern
scientific spirit, had yet to be born of years of unwearied labour
and unceasing delving into Nature's innermost secrets. Only in
Mathematics--in the properties of geometrical figures, and of
numbers--was the reign of law, the principle of harmony, perceivable.
Even at this present day when the marvellous has become commonplace,
that property of right-angled triangles... already discussed... comes
to the mind as a remarkable and notable fact: it must have seemed a
stupendous marvel to its discoverer, to whom, it appears, the regular
alternation of the odd and even numbers, a fact so obvious to us that
we are inclined to attach no importance to it, seemed, itself, to be
something wonderful. Here in Geometry and Arithmetic, here was order and
harmony unsurpassed and unsurpassable. What wonder then that Pythagoras
concluded that the solution of the mighty riddle of the Universe was
contained in the mysteries of Geometry? What wonder that he read mystic
meanings into the laws of Arithmetic, and believed Number to be the
explanation and origin of all that is?"(1)

(1) _A Mathematical Theory of Spirit_ (1912), pp. 64-65.

No doubt the Pythagorean theory suffers from a defect similar to that
of the Kabalistic doctrine, which, starting from the fact that all words
are composed of letters, representing the primary sounds of language,
maintained that all the things represented by these words were created
by God by means of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. But at
the same time the Pythagorean theory certainly embodies a considerable
element of truth. Modern science demonstrates nothing more clearly
than the importance of numerical relationships. Indeed, "the history of
science shows us the gradual transformation of crude facts of experience
into increasingly exact generalisations by the application to them of
mathematics. The enormous advances that have been made in recent years
in physics and chemistry are very largely due to mathematical methods
of interpreting and co-ordinating facts experimentally revealed, whereby
further experiments have been suggested, the results of which have
themselves been mathematically interpreted. Both physics and chemistry,
especially the former, are now highly mathematical. In the biological
sciences and especially in psychology it is true that mathematical
methods are, as yet, not so largely employed. But these sciences are far
less highly developed, far less exact and systematic, that is to say,
far less scientific, at present, than is either physics or chemistry.
However, the application of statistical methods promises good results,
and there are not wanting generalisations already arrived at which
are expressible mathematically; Weber's Law in psychology, and the law
concerning the arrangement of the leaves about the stems of plants in
biology, may be instanced as cases in point."(1)

(1) Quoted from a lecture by the present writer on "The Law of
Correspondences Mathematically Considered," delivered before The
Theological and Philosophical Society on 26th April 1912, and published
in _Morning Light_, vol. xxxv (1912), p. 434 _et seq_.

The Pythagorean doctrine of the Cosmos, in its most reasonable form,
however, is confronted with one great difficulty which it seems
incapable of overcoming, namely, that of continuity. Modern science,
with its atomic theories of matter and electricity, does, indeed, show
us that the apparent continuity of material things is spurious, that all
material things consist of discrete particles, and are hence measurable
in numerical terms. But modern science is also obliged to postulate an
ether behind these atoms, an ether which is wholly continuous, and hence
transcends the domain of number.(1) It is true that, in quite recent
times, a certain school of thought has argued that the ether is
also atomic in constitution--that all things, indeed, have a grained
structure, even forces being made up of a large number of quantums
or indivisible units of force. But this view has not gained general
acceptance, and it seems to necessitate the postulation of an ether
beyond the ether, filling the interspaces between its atoms, to obviate
the difficulty of conceiving of action at a distance.

(1) Cf. chap. iii., "On Nature as the Embodiment of Number," of my _A
Mathematical Theory of Spirit_, to which reference has already been

According to BERGSON, life--the reality that can only be lived, not
understood--is absolutely continuous (_i.e_. not amenable to numerical
treatment). It is because life is absolutely continuous that we cannot,
he says, understand it; for reason acts discontinuously, grasping only,
so to speak, a cinematographic view of life, made up of an immense
number of instantaneous glimpses. All that passes between the glimpses
is lost, and so the true whole, reason can never synthesise from that
which it possesses. On the other hand, one might also argue--extending,
in a way, the teaching of the physical sciences of the period between
the postulation of DALTON'S atomic theory and the discovery of the
significance of the ether of space--that reality is essentially
discontinuous, our idea that it is continuous being a mere illusion
arising from the coarseness of our senses. That might provide a complete
vindication of the Pythagorean view; but a better vindication, if not
of that theory, at any rate of PYTHAGORAS' philosophical attitude,
is forthcoming, I think, in the fact that modern mathematics has
transcended the shackles of number, and has enlarged her kingdom, so as
to include quantities other than numerical. PYTHAGORAS, had he been
born in these latter centuries, would surely have rejoiced in this,
enlargement, whereby the continuous as well as the discontinuous is
brought, if not under the rule of number, under the rule of mathematics

PYTHAGORAS' foremost achievement in mathematics I have already
mentioned. Another notable piece of work in the same department was
the discovery of a method of constructing a parallelogram having a side
equal to a given line, an angle equal to a given angle, and its area
equal to that of a given triangle. PYTHAGORAS is said to have celebrated
this discovery by the sacrifice of a whole ox. The problem appears in
the first book of EUCLID'S _Elements of Geometry_ as proposition 44. In
fact, many of the propositions of EUCLID'S first, second, fourth, and
sixth books were worked out by PYTHAGORAS and the Pythagoreans; but,
curiously enough, they seem greatly to have neglected the geometry of
the circle.

The symmetrical solids were regarded by PYTHAGORAS, and by the Greek
thinkers after him, as of the greatest importance. To be perfectly
symmetrical or regular, a solid must have an equal number of faces
meeting at each of its angles, and these faces must be equal regular
polygons, _i.e_. figures whose sides and angles are all equal.
PYTHAGORAS, perhaps, may be credited with the great discovery that there
are only five such solids. These are as follows:--

The Tetrahedron, having four equilateral triangles as faces.

The Cube, having six squares as faces.

The Octahedron, having eight equilateral triangles as faces.

The Dodecahedron, having twelve regular pentagons (or five-sided
figures) as faces.

The Icosahedron, having twenty equilateral triangles as faces.(1)

(1) If the reader will copy figs. 4 to 8 on cardboard or stiff paper,
bend each along the dotted lines so as to form a solid, fastening
together the free edges with gummed paper, he will be in possession of
models of the five solids in question.

Now, the Greeks believed the world to be composed of four
elements--earth, air, fire, water,--and to the Greek mind the conclusion
was inevitable(2a) that the shapes of the particles of the elements
were those of the regular solids. Earth-particles were cubical, the cube
being the regular solid possessed of greatest stability; fire-particles
were tetrahedral, the tetrahedron being the simplest and, hence,
lightest solid. Water-particles were icosahedral for exactly the reverse
reason, whilst air-particles, as intermediate between the two latter,
were octahedral. The dodecahedron was, to these ancient mathematicians,
the most mysterious of the solids: it was by far the most difficult to
construct, the accurate drawing of the regular pentagon necessitating a
rather elaborate application of PYTHAGORAS' great theorem.(1) Hence the
conclusion, as PLATO put it, that "this (the regular dodecahedron) the
Deity employed in tracing the plan of the Universe."(2b) Hence also
the high esteem in which the pentagon was held by the Pythagoreans. By
producing each side of this latter figure the five-pointed star (fig.
9), known as the pentagram, is obtained. This was adopted by the
Pythagoreans as the badge of their Society, and for many ages was held
as a symbol possessed of magic powers. The mediaeval magicians made use
of it in their evocations, and as a talisman it was held in the highest

(2a) _Cf_. PLATO: The Timaeus, SESE xxviii--xxx.

(1) In reference to this matter FRANKLAND remarks: "In those early days
the innermost secrets of nature lay in the lap of geometry, and the
extraordinary inference follows that Euclid's _Elements_, which are
devoted to the investigation of the regular solids, are therefore in
reality and at bottom an attempt to 'solve the universe.' Euclid,
in fact, made this goal of the Pythagoreans the aim of his
_Elements_."--_Op. cit_., p. 35.

(2b) _Op. cit_., SE xxix.

Music played an important part in the curriculum of the Pythagorean
Brotherhood, and the important discovery that the relations between
the notes of musical scales can be expressed by means of numbers is a
Pythagorean one. It must have seemed to its discoverer--as, in a sense,
it indeed is--a striking confirmation of the numerical theory of the
Cosmos. The Pythagoreans held that the positions of the heavenly bodies
were governed by similar numerical relations, and that in consequence
their motion was productive of celestial music. This concept of "the
harmony of the spheres" is among the most celebrated of the Pythagorean
doctrines, and has found ready acceptance in many mystically-speculative
minds. "Look how the floor of heaven," says Lorenzo in SHAKESPEARE'S
_The Merchant of Venice_--

 "... Look how the floor of heaven
 Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
 There's not the smallest orb which thou behold's"
 But in his motion like an angel sings,
 Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
 Such harmony is in immortal souls;
 But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
 Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."(1)

(1) Act v. scene i.

Or, as KINGSLEY writes in one of his letters, "When I walk the fields I
am oppressed every now and then with an innate feeling that everything
I see has a meaning, if I could but understand it. And this feeling
of being surrounded with truths which I cannot grasp, amounts to an
indescribable awe sometimes! Everything seems to be full of God's
reflex, if we could but see it. Oh! how I have prayed to have the
mystery unfolded, at least hereafter. To see, if but for a moment, the
whole harmony of the great system! To hear once the music which the
whole universe makes as it performs His bidding!"(1) In this connection
may be mentioned the very significant fact that the Pythagoreans did
not consider the earth, in accordance with current opinion, to be a
stationary body, but believed that it and the other planets revolved
about a central point, or fire, as they called it.

(1) CHARLES KINGSLEY: _His Letters and Memories of His Life_, edited by
his wife (1883), p. 28.

As concerns PYTHAGORAS' ethical teaching, judging from the so-called
_Golden Verses_ attributed to him, and no doubt written by one of his
disciples,(2) this would appear to be in some respects similar to that
of the Stoics who came later, but free from the materialism of the Stoic
doctrines. Due regard for oneself is blended with regard for the gods
and for other men, the atmosphere of the whole being at once rational
and austere. One verse--"Thou shalt likewise know, according to Justice,
that the nature of this Universe is in all things alike"(3)--is of
particular interest, as showing PYTHAGORAS' belief in that principle of
analogy--that "What is below is as that which is above, what is above is
as that which is below"--which held so dominant a sway over the minds of
ancient and mediaeval philosophers, leading them--in spite, I suggest,
of its fundamental truth--into so many fantastic errors, as we shall
see in future excursions. Metempsychosis was another of the Pythagorean
tenets, a fact which is interesting in view of the modern revival
of this doctrine. PYTHAGORAS, no doubt, derived it from the East,
apparently introducing it for the first time to Western thought.

(2) It seems probable, though not certain, that PYTHAGORAS wrote nothing
himself, but taught always by the oral method.

(3) Cf. the remarks of HIEROCLES on this verse in his _Commentary_.

Such, in brief, were the outstanding doctrines of the Pythagorean
Brotherhood. Their teachings included, as we have seen, what may justly
be called scientific discoveries of the first importance, as well as
doctrines which, though we may feel compelled--perhaps rightly--to
regard them as fantastic now, had an immense influence on the thought of
succeeding ages, especially on Greek philosophy as represented by PLATO
and the Neo-Platonists, and the more speculative minds--the occult
philosophers, shall I say?--of the latter mediaeval period and
succeeding centuries. The Brotherhood, however, was not destined to
continue its days in peace. As I have indicated, it was a philosophical,
not a political, association; but naturally PYTHAGORAS' philosophy
included political doctrines. At any rate, the Brotherhood acquired a
considerable share in the government of Croton, a fact which was greatly
resented by the members of the democratic party, who feared the loss of
their rights; and, urged thereto, it is said, by a rejected applicant
for membership of the Order, the mob made an onslaught on the
Brotherhood's place of assembly and burnt it to the ground. One account
has it that PYTHAGORAS himself died in the conflagration, a sacrifice
to the mad fury of the mob. According to another account--and we like to
believe that this is the true one--he escaped to Tarentum, from which he
was banished, to find an asylum in Metapontum, where he lived his last
years in peace.

The Pythagorean Order was broken up, but the bonds of brotherhood still
existed between its members. "One of them who had fallen upon sickness
and poverty was kindly taken in by an innkeeper. Before dying he traced
a few mysterious signs (the pentagram, no doubt) on the door of the inn
and said to the host: 'Do not be uneasy, one of my brothers will pay my
debts.' A year afterwards, as a stranger was passing by this inn he saw
the signs and said to the host: 'I am a Pythagorean; one of my brothers
died here; tell me what I owe you on his account.'"(1)

(1) EDOUARD SCHURE: _Op. cit_., p. 174.

In endeavouring to estimate the worth of PYTHAGORAS' discoveries and
teaching, Mr FRANKLAND writes, with reference to his achievements in
geometry: "Even after making a considerable allowance for his pupils'
share, the Master's geometrical work calls for much admiration"; and,
"... it cannot be far wrong to suppose that it was Pythagoras' wont
to insist upon proofs, and so to secure that rigour which gives to
mathematics its honourable position amongst the sciences." And of his
work in arithmetic, music, and astronomy, the same author writes: "...
everywhere he appears to have inaugurated genuinely scientific methods,
and to have laid the foundations of a high and liberal education";
adding, "For nearly a score of centuries, to the very close of the
Middle Ages, the four Pythagorean subjects of study--arithmetic,
geometry, astronomy, music--were the staple educational course, and were
bound together into a fourfold way of knowledge--the Quadrivium."(1)
With these words of due praise, our present excursion may fittingly

(1) _Op. cit_., pp. 35, 37, and 38.


THERE are few tasks at once so instructive and so fascinating as the
tracing of the development of the human mind as manifested in the
evolution of scientific and philosophical theories. And this is,
perhaps, especially true when, as in the case of medicine, this
evolution has followed paths so tortuous, intersected by so many
fantastic byways, that one is not infrequently doubtful as to the true
road. The history of medicine is at once the history of human wisdom and
the history of human credulity and folly, and the romantic element (to
use the expression in its popular acceptation) thus introduced, whilst
making the subject more entertaining, by no means detracts from its
importance considered psychologically.

To whom the honour of having first invented medicines is due is unknown,
the origins of pharmacy being lost in the twilight of myth. OSIRIS and
ISIS, BACCHUS, APOLLO father of the famous physician AESCULAPIUS, and
CHIRON the Centaur, tutor of the latter, are among the many mythological
personages who have been accredited with the invention of physic. It
is certain that the art of compounding medicines is extraordinarily
ancient. There is a papyrus in the British Museum containing medical
prescriptions which was written about 1200 B.C.; and the famous EBERS
papyrus, which is devoted to medical matters, is reckoned to date
from about the year 1550 B.C. It is interesting to note that in the
prescriptions given in this latter papyrus, as seems to have been the
case throughout the history of medicine, the principle that the efficacy
of a medicine is in proportion to its nastiness appears to have been the
main idea. Indeed, many old medicines contained ingredients of the
most disgusting nature imaginable: a mediaeval remedy known as oil of
puppies, made by cutting up two newly-born puppies and boiling them with
one pound of live earthworms, may be cited as a comparatively pleasant
example of the remedies (?) used in the days when all sorts of excreta
were prescribed as medicines.(1)

(1) See the late Mr A. C. WOOTTON'S excellent work, _Chronicles of
Pharmacy_ (2 vols, 1910), to which I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness.

Presumably the oldest theory concerning the causation of disease is that
which attributes all the ills of mankind to the malignant operations of
evil spirits, a theory which someone has rather fancifully suggested is
not so erroneous after all, if we may be allowed to apply the term "evil
spirits" to the microbes of modern bacteriology. Remnants of this theory
(which does--shall I say?--conceal a transcendental truth), that is,
in its original form, still survive to the present day in various
superstitious customs, whose absurdity does not need emphasising: for
example, the use of red flannel by old-fashioned folk with which to
tie up sore throats--red having once been supposed to be a colour very
angatonistic to evil spirits; so much so that at one time red cloth hung
in the patient's room was much employed as a cure for smallpox!

Medicine and magic have always been closely associated. Indeed, the
greatest name in the history of pharmacy is also what is probably the
greatest name in the history of magic--the reference, of course, being
to PARACELSUS (1493-1541). Until PARACELSUS, partly by his vigorous
invective and partly by his remarkable cures of various diseases,
demolished the old school of medicine, no one dared contest the
authority of GALEN (130-_circa_ 205) and AVICENNA (980--1037). GALEN'S
theory of disease was largely based upon that of the four humours
in man--bile, blood, phlegm, and black bile,--which were regarded as
related to (but not identical with) the four elements--fire, air, water,
and earth,--being supposed to have characters similar to these. Thus, to
bile, as to fire, were attributed the properties of hotness and dryness;
to blood and air those of hotness and moistness; to phlegm and water
those of coldness and moistness; and, finally, black bile, like earth,
was said to be cold and dry. GALEN supposed that an alteration in the
due proportion of these humours gives rise to disease, though he did not
consider this to be its only cause; thus, cancer, it was thought, might
result from an excess of black bile, and rheumatism from an excess of
phlegm. Drugs, GALEN argued, are of efficiency in the curing of disease,
according as they possess one or more of these so-called fundamental
properties, hotness, dryness, coldness, and moistness, whereby it was
considered that an excess of any humour might be counteracted; moreover,
it was further assumed that four degrees of each property exist, and
that only those drugs are of use in curing a disease which contain the
necessary property or properties in the degree proportionate to that
in which the opposite humour or humours are in excess in the patient's

PARACELSUS' views were based upon his theory (undoubtedly true in a
sense) that man is a microcosm, a world in miniature.(1) Now, all things
material, taught PARACELSUS, contain the three principles termed in
alchemistic phraseology salt, sulphur, and mercury. This is true,
therefore, of man: the healthy body, he argued, is a sort of chemical
compound in which these three principles are harmoniously blended (as
in the Macrocosm) in due proportion, whilst disease is due to a
preponderance of one principle, fevers, for example, being the result
of an excess of sulphur (_i.e_. the fiery principle), _etc_. PARACELSUS,
although his theory was not so different from that of GALEN, whose views
he denounced, was thus led to seek for CHEMICAL remedies, containing
these principles in varying proportions; he was not content with
medicinal herbs and minerals in their crude state, but attempted
to extract their effective essences; indeed, he maintained that the
preparation of new and better drugs is the chief business of chemistry.

(1) See the "Note on the Paracelsian Doctrine of the Microcosm" below.

This theory of disease and of the efficacy of drugs was complicated by
many fantastic additions;(1) thus there is the "Archaeus," a sort
of benevolent demon, supposed by PARACELSUS to look after all the
unconscious functions of the bodily organism, who has to be taken into
account. PARACELSUS also held the Doctrine of Signatures, according to
which the medicinal value of plants and minerals is indicated by their
external form, or by some sign impressed upon them by the operation of
the stars. A very old example of this belief is to be found in the use
of mandrake (whose roots resemble the human form) by the Hebrews and
Greeks as a cure for sterility; or, to give an instance which is still
accredited by some, the use of eye-bright (_Euphrasia officinalis_, L.,
a plant with a black pupil-like spot in its corolla) for complaints of
the eyes.(2) Allied to this doctrine are such beliefs, once held, as
that the lungs of foxes are good for bronchial troubles, or that the
heart of a lion will endow one with courage; as CORNELIUS AGRIPPA put
it, "It is well known amongst physicians that brain helps the brain, and
lungs the lungs."(3)

(1) The question of PARACELSUS' pharmacy is further complicated by the
fact that this eccentric genius coined many new words (without regard to
the principles of etymology) as names for his medicines, and often used
the same term to stand for quite different bodies. Some of his disciples
maintained that he must not always be understood in a literal sense,
in which probably there is an element of truth. See, for instance, _A
Golden and Blessed Casket of Nature's Marvels_, by BENEDICTUS FIGULUS
(trans. by A. E. WAITE, 1893).

(2) See Dr ALFRED C. HADDON'S _Magic and Fetishism_ (1906), p. 15.

(3) HENRY CORNELIUS AGRIPPA: _Occult Philosophy_, bk. i. chap. xv.
(WHITEHEAD'S edition, Chicago, 1898, P. 72).

In modern times homoeopathy--according to which a drug is a cure,
if administered in small doses, for that disease whose symptoms it
produces, if given in large doses to a healthy person---seems to bear
some resemblance to these old medical theories concerning the curing of
like by like. That the system of HAHNEMANN (1755--1843), the founder
of homoeopathy, is free from error could be scarcely maintained, but
certain recent discoveries in connection with serum-therapy appear to
indicate that the last word has not yet been said on the subject, and
the formula "like cures like" may still have another lease of life to

To return to PARACELSUS, however. It may be thought that his views were
not so great an advance on those of GALEN; but whether or not this be
the case, his union of chemistry and medicine was of immense benefit
to each science, and marked a new era in pharmacy. Even if his theories
were highly fantastic, it was he who freed medicine from the shackles of
traditionalism, and rendered progress in medical science possible.

I must not conclude these brief notes without some reference to the
medical theory of the medicinal efficacy of words. The EBERS papyrus
already mentioned gives various formulas which must be pronounced when
preparing and when administering a drug; and there is a draught used by
the Eastern Jews as a cure for bronchial complaints prepared by writing
certain words on a plate, washing them off with wine, and adding three
grains of a citron which has been used at the Tabernacle festival. But
enough for our present excursion; we must hie us back to the modern
world, with its alkaloids, serums, and anti-toxins--another day we will,
perhaps, wander again down the by-paths of Medicinal Magic.


"Man's nature," writes CORNELIUS AGRIPPA, "_is the most complete Image
of the whole Universe_."(1) This theory, especially connected with the
name of PARACELSUS, is worthy of more than passing reference; but as
the consideration of it leads us from medicine to metaphysics, I have
thought it preferable to deal with the subject in a note.

(1) H. C. AGRIPPA: _Occult Philosophy_, bk. i. chap. xxxiii.
(WHITEHEAD'S edition, p. 111).

Man, taught the old mystical philosophers, is threefold in nature,
consisting of spirit, soul, and body. The Paracelsian mercury, sulphur,
and salt were the mineral analogues of these. "As to the Spirit," writes
VALENTINE WEIGEL (1533--1588), a disciple of PARACELSUS, "we are of God,
move in God, and live in God, and are nourished of God. Hence God is in
us and we are in God; God hath put and placed Himself in us, and we are
put and placed in God. As to the Soul, we are from the Firmament and
Stars, we live and move therein, and are nourished thereof. Hence the
Firmament with its astralic virtues and operations is in us, and we in
it. The Firmament is put and placed in us, and we are put and placed in
the Firmament. As to the Body, we are of the elements, we move and live
therein, and are nourished of them:--hence the elements are in us, and
we in them. The elements, by the slime, are put and placed in us, and we
are put and placed in them."(1) Or, to quote from PARACELSUS himself, in
his _Hermetic Astronomy_ he writes: "God took the body out of which He
built up man from those things which He created from nothingness into
something... Hence man is now a microcosm, or a little world, because
he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament,
from the earth and the elements, and so he is their quintessence.... But
between the macrocosm and the microcosm this difference occurs, that the
form, image, species, and substance of man are diverse therefrom. In man
the earth is flesh, the water is blood, fire is the heat thereof, and
air is the balsam. These properties have not been changed but only the
substance of the body. So man is man, not a world, yet made from the
world, made in the likeness, not of the world, but of God. Yet man
comprises in himself all the qualities of the world.... His body is from
the world, and therefore must be fed and nourished by that world from
which he has sprung.... He has been taken from the earth and from the
elements, and therefore, must be nourished by these.... Now, man is not
only flesh and blood, but there is within the intellect which does not,
like the complexion, come from the elements, but from the stars. And
the condition of the stars is this, that all the wisdom, intelligence,
industry of the animal, and all the arts peculiar to man are contained
in them. From the stars man has these same things, and that is called
the light of Nature; in fact, it is whatever man has found by the light
of Nature.... Such, then, is the condition of man, that, out of the
great universe he needs both elements and stars, seeing that he himself
is constituted in that way."(1b)

(1) VALENTINE WEIGEL: "_Astrology Theologised": The Spiritual
Hermeneutics of Astrology and Holy Writ_, ed. by ANNA BONUS KINGSFORD
(1886), p. 59.

(1b) _The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of_ PARACELSUS, ed. by A. E.
WAITE (1894), vol. ii. pp. 289-291.

It is not difficult to discern a certain truth in all this, making
allowances for modes of thought which are not those of the present day.
The Swedish philosopher SWEDENBORG (1688-1772) reaffirmed the theory
in later years; but, as he points out,(2) the reason that man is a
microcosm lies deeper than in the facts that his body is of the elements
of this earth and is nourished thereby. According to this profound
thinker, FORM, spiritually understood, is the expression of USE, the
uses of things being indicated by their forms. Now, the human form is
the highest of all forms, because it subserves the highest of all uses.
Hence, both the world of matter and the world of spirit are in the
human form, because there is a correspondence in use between man and
the Cosmos. We may, therefore, call man as to his body a microcosm, or
little world; as to his soul a micro-uranos, or little heaven. Or we may
speak of the macrocosm, or great world, as the Grand Man, and we may
say that the Soul of this Grand Man, the self-existent, substantial, and
efficient cause of all things, at once immanent within yet transcending
all things, is God.

(2) See especially his _Divine Love and Wisdom_, SESE 251 and 319.


AMONGST the most remarkable of natural occurrences must be included
many of the phenomena connected with the behaviour of birds. Undoubtedly
numerous species of birds are susceptible to atmospheric changes (of
an electrical and barometric nature) too slight to be observed by man's
unaided senses; thus only is to be explained the phenomenon of migration
and also the many other peculiarities in the behaviour of birds whereby
approaching changes in the weather may be foretold. Probably, also, this
fact has much to do with the extraordinary homing instinct of pigeons.
But, of course, in the days when meteorological science had yet to be
born, no such explanation as this could be known. The ancients observed
that birds by their migrations or by other peculiarities in their
behaviour prognosticated coming changes in the seasons of the year and
other changes connected with the weather (such as storms, _etc_.); they
saw, too, in the homing instincts of pigeons an apparent exhibition of
intelligence exceeding that of man. What more natural, then, for them
to attribute foresight to birds, and to suppose that all sorts of coming
events (other than those of an atmospheric nature) might be foretold by
careful observation of their flight and song?

Augury--that is, the art of divination by observing the behaviour of
birds--was extensively cultivated by the Etrurians and Romans.(1) It
is still used, I believe, by the natives of Samoa. The Romans had an
official college of augurs, the members of which were originally three
patricians. About 300 B.C. the number of patrician augurs was increased
by one, and five plebeian augurs were added. Later the number was again
increased to fifteen. The object of augury was not so much to foretell
the future as to indicate what line of action should be followed, in
any given circumstances, by the nation. The augurs were consulted on all
matters of importance, and the position of augur was thus one of great
consequence. In what appears to be the oldest method, the augur, arrayed
in a special costume, and carrying a staff with which to mark out the
visible heavens into houses, proceeded to an elevated piece of ground,
where a sacrifice was made and a prayer repeated. Then, gazing towards
the sky, he waited until a bird appeared. The point in the heavens where
it first made its appearance was carefully noted, also the manner and
direction of its flight, and the point where it was lost sight of. From
these particulars an augury was derived, but, in order to be of effect,
it had to be confirmed by a further one.

(1) This is not quite an accurate definition, as "auguries" were
also obtained from other animals and from celestial phenomena (_e.g_.
lightning), _etc_.

Auguries were also drawn from the notes of birds, birds being divided by
the augurs into two classes: (i) _oscines_, "those which give omens by
their note," and (ii) _alites_, "those which afford presages by their
flight."(1) Another method of augury was performed by the feeding of
chickens specially kept for this purpose. This was done just before
sunrise by the _pullarius_ or feeder, strict silence being observed. If
the birds manifested no desire for their food, the omen was of a
most direful nature. On the other hand, if from the greediness of the
chickens the grain fell from their beaks and rebounded from the
ground, the augury was most favourable. This latter augury was known as
_tripudium solistimum_. "Any fraud practiced by the 'pullarius'," writes
the Rev. EDWARD SMEDLEY, "reverted to his own head. Of this we have a
memorable instance in the great battle between Papirius Cursor and the
Samnites in the year of Rome 459. So anxious were the troops for battle,
that the 'pullarius' dared to announce to the consul a 'tripudium
solistimum,' although the chickens refused to eat. Papirius
unhesitatingly gave the signal for fight, when his son, having
discovered the false augury, hastened to communicate it to his father.
'Do thy part well,' was his reply, 'and let the deceit of the augur fall
on himself. The "tripudium" has been announced to me, and no omen could
be better for the Roman army and people!' As the troops advanced, a
javelin thrown at random struck the 'pullatius' dead. 'The hand of
heaven is in the battle,' cried Papirius; 'the guilty is punished!' and
he advanced and conquered."(1b) A coincidence of this sort, if it really
occurred, would very greatly strengthen the popular belief in auguries.

(1) PLINY: _Natural History_, bk. x. chap. xxii. (BOSTOCK and RILEY'S
trans., vol. ii., 1855, p. 495).

(1b) Rev. EDWARD SMEDLEY, M.A.: _The Occult Sciences_ (_Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana_), ed. by ELIHU RICH (1855), p. 144.

The _cock_ has always been reckoned a bird possessed of magic power. At
its crowing, we are told, all unquiet spirits who roam the earth
depart to their dismal abodes, and the orgies of the Witches' Sabbath
terminate. A cock is the favourite sacrifice offered to evil spirits
in Ceylon and elsewhere. Alectromancy(2) was an ancient and peculiarly
senseless method of divination (so called) in which a cock was employed.
The bird had to be young and quite white. Its feet were cut off and
crammed down its throat with a piece of parchment on which were written
certain Hebrew words. The cock, after the repetition of a prayer by the
operator, was placed in a circle divided into parts corresponding to the
letters of the alphabet, in each of which a grain of wheat was placed.
A certain psalm was recited, and then the letters were noted from which
the cock picked up the grains, a fresh grain being put down for each
one picked up. These letters, properly arranged, were said to give the
answer to the inquiry for which divination was made. I am not sure what
one was supposed to do if, as seems likely, the cock refused to act in
the required manner.

(2) Cf. ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE: _The Occult Sciences_ (1891), pp. 124 and

The _owl_ was reckoned a bird of evil omen with the Romans, who derived
this opinion from the Etrurians, along with much else of their so-called
science of augury. It was particularly dreaded if seen in a city, or,
indeed, anywhere by day. PLINY (Caius Plinius Secundus, A.D. 61-before
115) informs us that on one occasion "a horned owl entered the very
sanctuary of the Capitol;... in consequence of which, Rome was purified
on the nones of March in that year."(1)

(1) PLINY: _Natural History_, bk. x. chap. xvi. (BOSTOCK and RILEY'S
trans., vol. ii., 1855, p. 492).

The folk-lore of the British Isles abounds with quaint beliefs and
stories concerning birds. There is a charming Welsh legend concerning
the _robin_, which the Rev. T. F. T. DYER quotes from _Notes and
Queries_:--"Far, far away, is a land of woe, darkness, spirits of evil,
and fire. Day by day does this little bird bear in his bill a drop of
water to quench the flame. So near the burning stream does he fly,
that his dear little feathers are SCORCHED; and hence he is named
Brou-rhuddyn (Breast-burnt). To serve little children, the robin
dares approach the infernal pit. No good child will hurt the devoted
benefactor of man. The robin returns from the land of fire, and
therefore he feels the cold of winter far more than his brother birds.
He shivers in the brumal blast; hungry, he chirps before your door."(2)

(2) T. F. THISELTON DYER, M.A.: _English Folk-Lore_ (1878), pp. 65 and

Another legend accounts for the robin's red breast by supposing this
bird to have tried to pluck a thorn from the crown encircling the brow
of the crucified CHRIST, in order to alleviate His sufferings. No doubt
it is on account of these legends that it is considered a crime, which
will be punished with great misfortune, to kill a robin. In some places
the same prohibition extends to the _wren_, which is popularly believed
to be the wife of the robin. In other parts, however, the wren is (or
at least was) cruelly hunted on certain days. In the Isle of Man the
wren-hunt took place on Christmas Eve and St Stephen's Day, and is
accounted for by a legend concerning an evil fairy who lured many men to
destruction, but had to assume the form of a wren to escape punishment
at the hands of an ingenious knight-errant.

For several centuries there was prevalent over the whole of civilised
Europe a most extraordinary superstition concerning the small Arctic
bird resembling, but not so large as, the common wild goose, known as
the _barnacle_ or _bernicle goose_. MAX MUELLER(1) has suggested that
this word was really derived from _Hibernicula_, the name thus referring
to Ireland, where the birds were caught; but common opinion associated
the barnacle goose with the shell-fish known as the barnacle (which
is found on timber exposed to the sea), supposing that the former was
generated out of the latter. Thus in one old medical writer we find:
"There are founde in the north parts of Scotland, and the Ilands
adjacent, called Orchades (Orkney Islands), certain trees, whereon
doe growe certaine shell fishes, of a white colour tending to russet;
wherein are conteined little liuing creatures: which shells in time of
maturitie doe open, and out of them grow those little living things;
which falling into the water, doe become foules, whom we call
Barnakles... but the other that do fall vpon the land, perish and come
to nothing: this much by the writings of others, and also from the
mouths of the people of those parts...."(1b)

(1) See F. MAX MUELLER'S _Lectures on the Science of Language_ (1885),
where a very full account of the tradition concerning the origin of the
barnacle goose will be found.

(1b) JOHN GERARDE: _The Herball; or, Generall Historie of Plantes_
(1597). 1391.

The writer, however, who was a well-known surgeon and botanist of
his day, adds that he had personally examined certain shell-fish from
Lancashire, and on opening the shells had observed within birds in
various stages of development. No doubt he was deceived by some purely
superficial resemblances--for example, the feet of the barnacle fish
resemble somewhat the feathers of a bird. He gives an imaginative
illustration of the barnacle fowl escaping from its shell, which is
reproduced in fig. 12.

Turning now from superstitions concerning actual birds to legends of
those that are purely mythical, passing reference must be made to the
_roc_, a bird existing in Arabian legend, which we meet in the _Arabian
Nights_, and which is chiefly remarkable for its size and strength.

The _phoenix_, perhaps, is of more interest. Of "that famous bird of
Arabia," PLINY writes as follows, prefixing his description of it with
the cautious remark, "I am not quite sure that its existence is not all
a fable." "It is said that there is only one in existence in the whole
world, and that that one has not been seen very often. We are told that
this bird is of the size of an eagle, and has a brilliant golden plumage
around the neck, while the rest of the body is of a purple colour;
except the tail, which is azure, with long feathers intermingled of a
roseate hue; the throat is adorned with a crest, and the head with a
tuft of feathers. The first Roman who described this bird... was the
senator Manilius.... He tells us that no person has ever seen this bird
eat, that in Arabia it is looked upon as sacred to the sun, that it
lives five hundred and forty years, that when it becomes old it builds a
nest of cassia and sprigs of incense, which it fills with perfumes, and
then lays its body down upon them to die; that from its bones and marrow
there springs at first a sort of small worm, which in time changes
into a little bird; that the first thing that it does is to perform the
obsequies of its predecessor, and to carry the nest entire to the city
of the Sun near Panchaia, and there deposit it upon the altar of that

"The same Manilius states also, that the revolution of the great year
is completed with the life of this bird, and that then a new cycle comes
round again with the same characteristics as the former one, in the
seasons and the appearance of the stars. ... This bird was brought to
Rome in the censorship of the Emperor Claudius... and was exposed to
public view.... This fact is attested by the public Annals, but there is
no one that doubts that it was a fictitious phoenix only."(1)

(1) PLINY: _Natural History_, bk. x. chap. ii. (BOSTOCK and RILEY'S
trans., vol. ii., 1855, PP. 479-481).

The description of the plumage, _etc_., of this bird applies fairly
well, as CUVIER has pointed out,(2) to the golden pheasant, and a
specimen of the latter may have been the "fictitious phoenix"
referred to above. That this bird should have been credited with the
extraordinary and wholly fabulous properties related by PLINY and others
is not, however, easy to understand. The phoenix was frequently used
to illustrate the doctrine of the immortality of the soul (_e.g_. in
CLEMENT'S _First Epistle to the Corinthians_), and it is not impossible
that originally it was nothing more than a symbol of immortality which
in time became to be believed in as a really existing bird. The fact,
however, that there was supposed to be only one phoenix, and also that
the length of each of its lives coincided with what the ancients
termed a "great year," may indicate that the phoenix was a symbol
of cosmological periodicity. On the other hand, some ancient writers
(e_.g_. TACITUS, A.D. 55-120) explicitly refer to the phoenix as a
symbol of the sun, and in the minds of the ancients the sun was closely
connected with the idea of immortality. Certainly the accounts of
the gorgeous colours of the plumage of the phoenix might well be
descriptions of the rising sun. It appears, moreover, that the Egyptian
hieroglyphic _benu_, {glyph}, which is a figure of a heron or crane (and
thus akin to the phoenix), was employed to designate the rising sun.

(2) See CUVIER'S _The Animal Kingdom_, GRIFFITH'S trans., vol. viii.
(1829), p. 23.

There are some curious Jewish legends to account for the supposed
immortality of the phoenix. According to one, it was the sole animal
that refused to eat of the forbidden tree when tempted by EVE. According
to another, its immortality was conferred on it by NOAH because of its
considerate behaviour in the Ark, the phoenix not clamouring for food
like the other animals.(1)

(1) The existence of such fables as these shows how grossly the real
meanings of the Sacred Writings have been misunderstood.

There is a celebrated bird in Chinese tradition, the _Fung Hwang_, which
some sinologues identify with the phoenix of the West.(2) According to
a commentator on the '_Rh Ya_, this "felicitous and perfect bird has a
cock's head, a snake's neck, a swallow's beak, a tortoise's back, is of
five different colours and more than six feet high."

(2) Mr CHAS. GOULD, B.A., to whose book _Mythical Monsters_ (1886) I am
very largely indebted for my account of this bird, and from which I have
culled extracts from the Chinese, is not of this opinion. Certainly the
fact that we read of Fung Hwangs in the plural, whilst tradition asserts
that there is only one phoenix, seems to point to a difference in

Another account (that in the _Lun Yu Tseh Shwai Shing_) tells us that
"its head resembles heaven, its eye the sun, its back the moon,
its wings the wind, its foot the ground, and its tail the woof."
Furthermore, "its mouth contains commands, its heart is conformable to
regulations, its ear is thoroughly acute in hearing, its tongue utters
sincerity, its colour is luminous, its comb resembles uprightness, its
spur is sharp and curved, its voice is sonorous, and its belly is the
treasure of literature." Like the dragon, tortoise, and unicorn, it was
considered to be a spiritual creature; but, unlike the Western phoenix,
more than one Fung Hwang was, as I have pointed out, believed to exist.
The birds were not always to be seen, but, according to Chinese records,
they made their appearance during the reigns of certain sovereigns. The
Fung Hwang is regarded by the Chinese as an omen of great happiness and
prosperity, and its likeness is embroidered on the robes of empresses
to ensure success. Probably, if the bird is not to be regarded as purely
mythological and symbolic in origin, we have in the stories of it no
more than exaggerated accounts of some species of pheasant. Japanese
literature contains similar stories.

Of other fabulous bird-forms mention may be made of the _griffin_ and
the _harpy_. The former was a creature half eagle, half lion, popularly
supposed to be the progeny of the union of these two latter. It is
described in the so-called _Voiage and Travaile of Sir_ JOHN MAUNDEVILLE
in the following terms(1): "Sum men seyn, that thei ben the Body upward,
as an Egle, and benethe as a Lyoun: and treuly thei seyn sothe, that
thei ben of that schapp. But o Griffoun hathe the body more gret and
is more strong thanne 8 Lyouns, of suche Lyouns as ben o this half; and
more gret and strongere, than an 100 Egles, suche as we ben amonges us.
For o Griffoun there will bere, fleynge to his Nest, a gret Hors, or
2 Oxen zoked to gidere, as thei gon at the Plowghe. For he hathe his
Talouns so longe and so large and grete, upon his Feet, as thoughe thei
weren Hornes of grete Oxen or of Bugles or of Kyzn; so that men maken
Cuppes of hem, to drynken of: and of hire Ribbes and of the Pennes of
hire Wenges, men maken Bowes fulle strong, to schote with Arwes
and Quarelle." The special characteristic of the griffin was its
watchfulness, its chief function being thought to be that of guarding
secret treasure. This characteristic, no doubt, accounts for its
frequent use in heraldry as a supporter to the arms. It was sacred to
APOLLO, the sun-god, whose chariot was, according to early sculptures,
drawn by griffins. PLINY, who speaks of it as a bird having long ears
and a hooked beak, regarded it as fabulous.

(1) _The Voiage and Travaile of Sir_ JOHN MAUNDEVILLE, _Kt. Which
treateth of the Way to Hierusalem; and of Marvayles of Inde, with other
Ilands and Countryes. Now Publish'd entire from an Original MS. in The
Cotton Library_ (London, 1727), cap. xxvi. pp. 325 and 326.

"This work is mainly a compilation from the writings of William of
Boldensele, Friar Odoric of Pordenone, Hetoum of Armenia, Vincent de
Beauvais, and other geographers. It is probable that the name John de
Mandeville should be regarded as a pseudonym concealing the identity
of Jean de Bourgogne, a physician at Liege, mentioned under the name of
Joannes ad Barbam in the vulgate Latin version of the Travels." (Note in
British Museum Catalogue). The work, which was first published in French
during the latter part of the fourteenth century, achieved an immense
popularity, the marvels that it relates being readily received by the
credulous folk of that and many a succeeding day.

The harpies (_i.e_. snatchers) in Greek mythology are creatures like
vultures as to their bodies, but with the faces of women, and armed with
sharp claws.

"Of Monsters all, most Monstrous this; no greater Wrath God sends
'mongst Men; it comes from depth of pitchy Hell: And Virgin's Face, but
Womb like Gulf unsatiate hath, Her Hands are griping Claws, her Colour
pale and fell."(1)

(1) Quoted from VERGIL by JOHN GUILLIM in his _A Display of Heraldry_
(sixth edition, 1724), p. 271.

We meet with the harpies in the story of PHINEUS, a son of AGENOR,
King of Thrace. At the bidding of his jealous wife, IDAEA, daughter of
DARDANUS, PHINEUS put out the sight of his children by his former wife,
CLEOPATRA, daughter of BOREAS. To punish this cruelty, the gods caused
him to become blind, and the harpies were sent continually to harass
and affright him, and to snatch away his food or defile it by their
presence. They were afterwards driven away by his brothers-in-law,
ZETES and CALAIS. It has been suggested that originally the harpies were
nothing more than personifications of the swift storm-winds; and few
of the old naturalists, credulous as they were, regarded them as real
creatures, though this cannot be said of all. Some other fabulous
bird-forms are to be met with in Greek and Arabian mythologies, _etc_.,
but they are not of any particular interest. And it is time for us to
conclude our present excursion, and to seek for other byways.


OUT of the superstitions of the past the science of the present has
gradually evolved. In the Middle Ages, what by courtesy we may term
medical science was, as we have seen, little better than a heterogeneous
collection of superstitions, and although various reforms were
instituted with the passing of time, superstition still continued for
long to play a prominent part in medical practice.

One of the most curious of these old medical (or perhaps I should say
surgical) superstitions was that relating to the Powder of Sympathy, a
remedy (?) chiefly remembered in connection with the name of Sir KENELM
DIGBY (1603-1665), though he was probably not the first to employ it.
The Powder itself, which was used as a cure for wounds, was, in fact,
nothing else than common vitriol,(1) though an improved and more elegant
form (if one may so describe it) was composed of vitriol desiccated by
the sun's rays, mixed with _gum tragacanth_. It was in the application
of the Powder that the remedy was peculiar. It was not, as one might
expect, applied to the wound itself, but any article that might have
blood from the wound upon it was either sprinkled with the Powder or
else placed in a basin of water in which the Powder had been dissolved,
and maintained at a temperate heat. Meanwhile, the wound was kept clean
and cool.

(1) Green vitriol, ferrous sulphate heptahydrate, a compound of iron,
sulphur, and oxygen, crystallised with seven molecules of water,
represented by the formula FeSO4<.>7H2O. On exposure to the air it loses
water, and is gradually converted into basic ferric sulphate. For long,
green vitriol was confused with blue vitriol, which generally occurs
as an impurity in crude green vitriol. Blue vitriol is copper sulphate
pentahydrate, CuSO4<.>5H2O.

Sir KENELM DIGBY appears to have delivered a discourse dealing with the
famous Powder before a learned assembly at Montpellier in France; at
least a work purporting to be a translation of such a discourse was
published in 1658,(1) and further editions appeared in 1660 and 1664.
KENELM was a son of the Sir EVERARD DIGBY (1578-1606) who was executed
for his share in the Gunpowder Plot. In spite of this fact, however,
JAMES I. appears to have regarded him with favour. He was a man of
romantic temperament, possessed of charming manners, considerable
learning, and even greater credulity. His contemporaries seem to have
differed in their opinions concerning him. EVELYN (1620-1706), the
diarist, after inspecting his chemical laboratory, rather harshly speaks
of him as "an errant mountebank". Elsewhere he well refers to him as "a
teller of strange things"--this was on the occasion of DIGBY'S relating
a story of a lady who had such an aversion to roses that one laid on her
cheek produced a blister!

(1) _A late Discourse... by Sir_ KENELM DIGBY, _Kt.&c. Touching the Cure
of Wounds by the Powder of Sympathy...rendered... out of French into
English by_ R. WHITE, Gent. (1658). This is entitled the second edition,
but appears to have been the first.

To return to the _Late Discourse_: after some preliminary remarks, Sir
KENELM records a cure which he claims to have effected by means of
the Powder. It appears that JAMES HOWELL (1594-1666, afterwards
historiographer royal to CHARLES II.), had, in the attempt to separate
two friends engaged in a duel, received two serious wounds in the hand.
To proceed in the writer's own words:--"It was my chance to be lodged
hard by him; and four or five days after, as I was making myself ready,
he (Mr Howell) came to my House, and prayed me to view his wounds; for
I understand, said he, that you have extraordinary remedies upon such
occasions, and my Surgeons apprehend some fear, that it may grow to a
Gangrene, and so the hand must be cut off....

"I asked him then for any thing that had the blood upon it, so he
presently sent for his Garter, wherewith his hand was first bound: and
having called for a Bason of water, as if I would wash my hands; I took
an handfull of Powder of Vitrol, which I had in my study, and presently
dissolved it. As soon as the bloody garter was brought me, I put it
within the Bason, observing in the interim what Mr _Howel_ did,
who stood talking with a Gentleman in the corner of my Chamber, not
regarding at all what I was doing: but he started suddenly, as if he had
found some strange alteration in himself; I asked him what he ailed? I
know not what ailes me, but I find that I feel no more pain, methinks
that a pleasing kind of freshnesse, as it were a wet cold Napkin
did spread over my hand, which hath taken away the inflammation that
tormented me before; I replied, since that you feel already so good an
effect of my medicament, I advise you to cast away all your Plaisters,
onely keep the wound clean, and in a moderate temper 'twixt heat and
cold. This was presently reported to the Duke of _Buckingham_, and a
little after to the King (James I.), who were both very curious to know
the issue of the businesse, which was, that after dinner I took the
garter out of the water, and put it to dry before a great fire; it was
scarce dry, but Mr _Howels_ servant came running (and told me), that his
Master felt as much burning as ever he had done, if not more, for the
heat was such, as if his hand were betwixt coales of fire: I answered,
that although that had happened at present, yet he should find ease in
a short time; for I knew the reason of this new accident, and I
would provide accordingly, for his Master should be free from that
inflammation, it may be, before he could possibly return unto him: but
in case he found no ease, I wished him to come presently back again, if
not he might forbear coming. Thereupon he went, and at the instant I
did put again the garter into the water; thereupon he found his Master
without any pain at all. To be brief, there was no sense of pain
afterward: but within five or six dayes the wounds were cicatrized, and
entirely healed."(1)

(1) _Ibid_., pp. 7-11.

Sir KENELM proceeds, in this discourse, to relate that he obtained the
secret of the Powder from a Carmelite who had learnt it in the East.
Sir KENELM says that he told it only to King JAMES and his celebrated
physician, Sir THEODORE MAYERNE (1573-1655). The latter disclosed it to
the Duke of MAYERNE, whose surgeon sold the secret to various persons,
until ultimately, as Sir KENELM remarks, it became known to every
country barber. However, DIGBY'S real connection with the Powder has
been questioned. In an Appendix to Dr NATHANAEL HIGHMORE'S (1613-1685)
_The History of Generation_, published in 1651, entitled _A Discourse
of the Cure of Wounds by Sympathy_, the Powder is referred to as Sir
GILBERT TALBOT'S Powder; nor does it appear to have been DIGBY who
brought the claims of the Sympathetic Powder before the notice of
the then recently-formed Royal Society, although he was a by no means
inactive member of the Society. HIGHMORE, however, in the Appendix
to the work referred to above, does refer to DIGBY'S reputed cure of
HOWELL'S wounds already mentioned; and after the publication of DIGBY'S
_Discourse_ the Powder became generally known as Sir KENELM DIGBY'S
Sympathetic Powder. As such it is referred to in an advertisement
appended to _Wit and Drollery_ (1661) by the bookseller, NATHANAEL

(1) This advertisement is as follows: "These are to give notice, that
Sir _Kenelme Digbies_ Sympathetical Powder prepar'd by Promethean fire,
curing all green wounds that come within the compass of a Remedy; and
likewise the Tooth-ache infallibly in a very short time: Is to be had at
Mr _Nathanael Brook's_ at the Angel in _Cornhil_."

The belief in cure by sympathy, however, is much older than DIGBY'S or
TALBOT'S Sympathetic Powder. PARACELSUS described an ointment consisting
essentially of the moss on the skull of a man who had died a violent
death, combined with boar's and bear's fat, burnt worms, dried boar's
brain, red sandal-wood and mummy, which was used to cure (?) wounds in a
similar manner, being applied to the weapon with which the hurt had been
inflicted. With reference to this ointment, readers will probably recall
the passage in SCOTT'S _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ (canto 3, stanza 23),
respecting the magical cure of WILLIAM of DELORAINE'S wound by "the
Ladye of Branksome":--

  "She drew the splinter from the wound
  And with a charm she stanch'd the blood;
  She bade the gash be cleans'd and bound:
  No longer by his couch she stood;
  But she had ta'en the broken lance,
  And washed it from the clotted gore
  And salved the splinter o'er and o'er.
  William of Deloraine, in trance,
  Whene'er she turned it round and round,
  Twisted as if she gall'd his wound.
  Then to her maidens she did say
  That he should be whole man and sound
  Within the course of a night and day.
  Full long she toil'd; for she did rue
  Mishap to friend so stout and true."

FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626) writes of sympathetic cures as follows:--"It
is constantly Received, and Avouched, that the _Anointing_ of the
_Weapon_, that maketh the _Wound_, wil heale the _Wound_ it selfe. In
this _Experiment_, upon the Relation of _Men of Credit_, (though my
selfe, as yet, am not fully inclined to beleeve it,) you shal note
the _Points_ following; First, the _Ointment_... is made of Divers
_ingredients_; whereof the Strangest and Hardest to come by, are the
Mosse upon the _Skull_ of a _dead Man, Vnburied_; And the _Fats_ of a
_Boare_, and a _Beare_, killed in the _Act of Generation_. These Two
last I could easily suspect to be prescribed as a Starting Hole; That if
the _Experiment_ proved not, it mought be pretended, that the _Beasts_
were not killed in due Time; For as for the _Mosse_, it is certain
there is great Quantity of it in _Ireland_, upon _Slain Bodies_, laid
on _Heaps, Vnburied_. The other _Ingredients_ are, the _Bloud-Stone_
in _Powder_, and some other _Things_, which seeme to have a _Vertue_ to
_Stanch Bloud_; As also the _Mosse_ hath.... Secondly, the same _kind_
of _Ointment_, applied to the Hurt it selfe, worketh not the _Effect_;
but onely applied to the _Weapon_..... Fourthly, it may be applied to
the _Weapon_, though the Party Hurt be at a great Distance. Fifthly, it
seemeth the _Imagination_ of the Party, to be _Cured_, is not needfull
to Concurre; For it may be done without the knowledge of the _Party
Wounded_; And thus much hath been tried, that the _Ointment_ (for
_Experiments_ sake,) hath been wiped off the _Weapon_, without the
knowledge of the _Party Hurt_, and presently the _Party Hurt_, hath been
in great _Rage of Paine_, till the _Weapon_ was _Reannointed_. Sixthly,
it is affirmed, that if you cannot get the _Weapon_, yet if you put an
_Instrument_ of _Iron_, or _Wood_, resembling the _Weapon_, into the
_Wound_, whereby it bleedeth, the _Annointing_ of that _Instrument_ will
serve, and work the _Effect_. This I doubt should be a Device, to keep
this strange _Forme of Cure_, in Request, and Use; Because many times
you cannot come by the _Weapon_ it selve. Seventhly, the _Wound_ be at
first _Washed clean_ with _White Wine_ or the _Parties_ own _Water_; And
then bound up close in _Fine Linen_ and no more _Dressing_ renewed, till
it be _whole_."(1)

(1) FRANCIS BACON: _Sylva Sylvarum: or, A Natural History... Published
after the Authors death... The sixt Edition_ ù.. (1651), p. 217.

Owing to the demand for making this ointment, quite a considerable trade
was done in skulls from Ireland upon which moss had grown owing to
their exposure to the atmosphere, high prices being obtained for fine

The idea underlying the belief in the efficacy of sympathetic remedies,
namely, that by acting on part of a thing or on a symbol of it, one
thereby acts magically on the whole or the thing symbolised, is the
root-idea of all magic, and is of extreme antiquity. DIGBY and others,
however, tried to give a natural explanation to the supposed efficacy
of the Powder. They argued that particles of the blood would ascend from
the bloody cloth or weapon, only coming to rest when they had reached
their natural home in the wound from which they had originally issued.
These particles would carry with them the more volatile part of the
vitriol, which would effect a cure more readily than when combined with
the grosser part of the vitriol. In the days when there was hardly any
knowledge of chemistry and physics, this theory no doubt bore every
semblance of truth. In passing, however, it is interesting to note
that DIGBY'S _Discourse_ called forth a reply from J. F. HELVETIUS
(or SCHWETTZER, 1625-1709), physician to the Prince of Orange, who
afterwards became celebrated as an alchemist who had achieved the magnum

(1) See my _Alchemy: Ancient and Modern_ (1911), SESE 63-67.

Writing of the Sympathetic Powder, Professor DE MORGAN wittily argues
that it must have been quite efficacious. He says: "The directions were
to keep the wound clean and cool, and to take care of diet, rubbing the
salve on the knife or sword. If we remember the dreadful notions upon
drugs which prevailed, both as to quantity and quality, we shall readily
see that any way of NOT dressing the wound would have been useful. If
the physicians had taken the hint, had been careful of diet, _etc_.,
and had poured the little barrels of medicine down the throat of a
practicable doll, THEY would have had their magical cures as well as the
surgeons."(2) As Dr PETTIGREW has pointed out,(3) Nature exhibits very
remarkable powers in effecting the healing of wounds by adhesion, when
her processes are not impeded. In fact, many cases have been recorded in
which noses, ears, and fingers severed from the body have been rejoined
thereto, merely by washing the parts, placing them in close continuity,
and allowing the natural powers of the body to effect the healing.
Moreover, in spite of BACON'S remarks on this point, the effect of
the imagination of the patient, who was usually not ignorant that a
sympathetic cure was to be attempted, must be taken into account; for,
without going to the excesses of "Christian Science" in this respect,
the fact must be recognised that the state of the mind exercises a
powerful effect on the natural forces of the body, and a firm faith is
undoubtedly helpful in effecting the cure of any sort of ill.

(2) Professor AUGUSTUS DE MORGAN: _A Budget of Paradoxes_ (1872), p 66.

(3) THOMAS JOSEPH PETTIGREW, F.R.S.: _On Superstitions connected with
the History and Practice of Medicine and Surgery_ (1844), pp. 164-167.


THE word "talisman" is derived from the Arabic "tilsam," "a magical
image," through the plural form "tilsamen." This Arabic word is itself
probably derived from the Greek telesma in its late meaning of "a
religious mystery" or "consecrated object". The term is often employed
to designate amulets in general, but, correctly speaking, it has a more
restricted and special significance. A talisman may be defined briefly
as an astrological or other symbol expressive of the influence and power
of one of the planets, engraved on a sympathetic stone or metal (or
inscribed on specially prepared parchment) under the auspices of this

Before proceeding to an account of the preparation of talismans proper,
it will not be out of place to notice some of the more interesting and
curious of other amulets. All sorts of substances have been employed
as charms, sometimes of a very unpleasant nature, such as dried toads.
Generally, however, amulets consist of stones, herbs, or passages from
Sacred Writings written on paper. This latter class are sometimes
called "characts," as an example of which may be mentioned the Jewish

Every precious stone was supposed to exercise its own peculiar virtue;
for instance, amber was regarded as a good remedy for throat troubles,
and agate was thought to preserve from snake-bites. ELIHU RICH(1) gives
a very full list of stones and their supposed virtues. Each sign of the
zodiac was supposed to have its own particular stone(2) (as shown in the
annexed table), and hence the superstitious though not inartistic custom
of wearing one's birth-

                                  Month (com-
 Astrological                     mencing 21st
 Sign of the Zodiac.              of preceding
                        Symbol.   month).        Stone.

  Aries, the Ram     .    {}        April       Sardonyx.
  Taurus the Bull    .    {}        May         Cornelian.
  Gemini the Twins .      {}        June        Topaz.
  Cancer, the Crab .      {}        July        Chalcedony.
  Leo, the Lion . .       {}        August      Jasper.
  Virgo, the Virgin .     {}        September   Emerald.
  Libra, the Balance .    {}        October     Beryl.
  Scorpio, the Scorpion   {}        November    Amethyst.
  Sagittarius, the Archer {}        December    Hyacinth (=Sapphire).
  Capricorn, the Goat .   {}        January     Chrysoprase.
  Aquarius, the Water-    {}        February    Crystal.
  Pisces, the Fishes .    {}        March       Sapphire.(=Lapis lazuli).

stone for "luck". The belief in the occult powers of certain stones
is by no means non-existent at the present day; for even in these
enlightened times there are not wanting those who fear the beautiful
opal, and put their faith in the virtues of New Zealand green-stone.

(1) ELIHU RICH: _The Occult Sciences (Encyclopaedia Metropolitana_,
1855), pp. 348 _et seq_.

(2) With regard to these stones, however, there is much confusion and
difference of opinion. The arrangement adopted in the table here
given is that of CORNELIUS AGRIPPA (_Occult Philosophy_, bk. ii.). A
comparatively recent work, esteemed by modern occultists, namely, _The
Light of Egypt, or the Science of the Soul and the Stars_ (1889), gives
the following scheme:--

{}=Amethyst. {}=Emerald. {}=Diamond. {}=Onyx (Chalcedony).

{}=Agate. {}=Ruby. {}=Topaz. {}=Sapphire (skyblue).

{}=Beryl. {}=Jasper. {}=Carbuncle. {}=Chrysolite.

Common superstitious opinion regarding birth-stones, as reflected, for
example, in the "lucky birth charms" exhibited in the windows of the
jewellers' shops, considerably diverges in this matter from the views of
both these authorities. The usual scheme is as follows:--

 Jan.=Garnet.       May =Emerald.    Sept.=Sapphire,
 Feb.=Amethyst.     June=Agate.      Oct. =Opal.
 Mar.=Bloodstone.   July=Ruby.       Nov. =Topaz.
 Apr.=Diamond.      Aug.=Sardonyx.   Dec. =Turquoise.

The bloodstone is frequently assigned either to Aries or Scorpio, owing
to its symbolical connection with Mars; and the opal to Cancer, which in
astrology is the constellation of the moon.

Confusion is rendered still worse by the fact that the ancients whilst
in some cases using the same names as ourselves, applied them to
different stones; thus their "hyacinth" is our "sapphire," whilst their
"sapphire" is our "lapis lazuli".

Certain herbs, culled at favourable conjunctions of the planets and worn
as amulets, were held to be very efficacious against various diseases.
Precious stones and metals were also taken internally for the same
purpose--"remedies" which in certain cases must have proved exceedingly
harmful. One theory put forward for the supposed medical value of
amulets was the Doctrine of Effluvia. This theory supposes the amulets
to give off vapours or effluvia which penetrate into the body and effect
a cure. It is, of course, true that certain herbs, _etc_., might, under
the heat of the body, give off such effluvia, but the theory on the
whole is manifestly absurd. The Doctrine of Signatures, which we have
already encountered in our excursions,(1) may also be mentioned in this
connection as a complementary and equally untenable hypothesis.

According to ELIHU RICH,(2) the following were the commonest Egyptian

1. Those inscribed with the figure of _Serapis_, used to preserve
against evils inflicted by earth.

2. Figure of _Canopus_, against evil by water.

3. Figure of a _hawk_, against evil from the air.

4. Figure of an _asp_, against evil by fire.

PARACELSUS believed there to be much occult virtue in an alloy of
the seven chief metals, which he called _Electrum_. Certain definite
proportions of these metals had to be taken, and each was to be added
during a favourable conjunction of the planets. From this electrum he
supposed that valuable amulets and magic mirrors could be prepared.

(1) See "Medicine and Magic." (2) _Op. Cit_., p. 343

A curious and ancient amulet for the cure of various diseases,
particularly the ague, was a triangle formed of the letters of the word
"Abracadabra." The usual form was that shown in fig. 19, and that shown
in fig. 20 was also known. The origin of this magical word is lost in

The belief in the horn as a powerful amulet, especially prevalent in
Italy, where is it the custom of the common people to make the sign of
the _mano cornuto_ to avoid the consequence of the dreaded _jettatore_
or evil eye, can be traced to the fact that the horn was the symbol
of the Goddess of the Moon. Probably the belief in the powers of the
horse-shoe had a similar origin. Indeed, it seems likely that not only
this, but most other amulets, like talismans proper--as will appear
below,--were originally designed as appeals to gods and other powerful
spiritual beings.

     \ ABRACADABRA          /      \ ABRACADABRA |
      \ ABRACADABR         /        \ BRACADABRA |
       \ ABRACADAB        /          \ RACADABRA |
        \ ABRACADA       /            \ ACADABRA |
         \ ABRACAD      /              \ CADABRA |
          \ ABRACA     /                \ ADABRA |
           \ ABRAC    /                  \ DABRA |
            \ ABRA   /                    \ ABRA |
             \ ABR  /                      \ BRA |
              \ AB /                        \ RA |
               \ A/                          \ A |
                \/                            \  |

(1) See FREDERICK T. ELWORTHY'S _Horns of Honour_ (1900), especially pp.
56 _et seq_.

To turn our attention, however, to the art of preparing talismans
proper: I may remark at the outset that it was necessary for the
talisman to be prepared by one's own self--a task by no means easy as
a rule. Indeed, the right mental attitude of the occultist was insisted
upon as essential to the operation.

As to the various signs to be engraver on the talismans, various
authorities differ, though there are certain points connected with the
art of talismanic magic on which they all agree. It so happened that the
ancients were acquainted with seven metals and seven planets (including
the sun and moon as planets), and the days of the week are also seven.
It was concluded, therefore, that there was some occult connection
between the planets, metals, and days of the week. Each of the seven
days of the week was supposed to be under the auspices of the spirits of
one of the planets; so also was the generation in the womb of Nature of
each of the seven chief metals.

In the following table are shown these particulars in detail:--

     Planet.  Symbol.   Day of    Metal.       Colour.

     Sun.    {}        Sunday    Gold         Gold or yellow.
     Moon.   {}        Monday    Silver       Silver or white.
     Mars.   {}        Tuesday   Iron         Red.
     Mercury  {}        Wednesday (1)Mercury   Mixed colours or purple.
     Jupiter  {}        Thursday  Tin          Violet or blue.
     Venus    {}        Friday    Copper       Turquoise or green.
     Saturn.  {}        Saturday  Lead         Black.

(1) Used in the form of a solid amalgam for talismans.

Consequently, the metal of which a talisman was to be made, and also the
time of its preparation, had to be chosen with due regard to the planet
under which it was to be prepared.(1) The power of such a talisman was
thought to be due to the genie of this planet--a talisman, was, in fact,
a silent evocation of an astral spirit. Examples of the belief that a
genie can be bound up in an amulet in some way are afforded by the story
of ALADDIN'S lamp and ring and other stories in the _Thousand and
One Nights_. Sometimes the talismanic signs were engraved on precious
stones, sometimes they were inscribed on parchment; in both cases the
same principle held good, the nature of the stone chosen, or the colour
of the ink employed, being that in correspondence with the planet under
whose auspices the talisman was prepared.

(1) In this connection a rather surprising discovery made by Mr W.
GORNOLD (see his _A Manual of Occultism_, 1911, pp. 7 and 8) must be
mentioned. The ancient Chaldeans appear invariably to have enumerated
the planets in the following order: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus,
Mercury, Moon--which order was adopted by the mediaeval astrologers.
Let us commence with the Sun in the above sequence, and write down every
third planet; we then have--          Sun .   .   .   . Sunday.
          Moon.   .   .   . Monday.
          Mars.   .   .   . Tuesday.
          Mercury. .   .   . Wednesday.
          Jupiter..   .   . Thursday.
          Venus.  .   .   . Friday.
          Saturn. .   .   . Saturday.

That is to say, we have the planets in the order in which they were
supposed to rule over the days of the week. This is perhaps, not so
surprising, because it seems probable that, each day being first divided
into twenty-four hours, it was assumed that the planets ruled for one
hour in turn, in the order first mentioned above. Each day was then
named after the planet which ruled during its first hour. It will be
found that if we start with the Sun and write down every twenty-fourth
planet, the result is exactly the same as if we write down every third.
But Mr OLD points out further, doing so by means of a diagram which
seems to be rather cumbersome that if we start with Saturn in the first
place, and write down every fifth planet, and then for each planet
substitute the metal over which it was supposed to rule, we then have
these metals arranged in descending order of atomic weights, thus:--

     Saturn   .   .   . Lead (=207).
     Mercury  .   .   . Mercury (=200).
     Sun.    .   .   . Gold (=197).
     Jupiter  .   .   . Tin (=119).
     Moon.   .   .   . Silver (=108).
     Venus         .   . Copper (=64).
     Mars.   .   .   . Iron (=56).

Similarly we can, starting from any one of these orders, pass to the
other two. The fact is a very surprising one, because the ancients could
not possibly have been acquainted with the atomic weights of the metals,
and, it is important to note, the order of the densities of these
metals, which might possibly have been known to them, is by no means the
same as the order of their atomic weights. Whether the fact indicates a
real relationship between the planets and the metals, or whether there
is some other explanation, I am not prepared to say. Certainly some
explanation is needed: to say that the fact is mere coincidence is
unsatisfactory, seeing that the odds against, not merely this, but any
such regularity occurring by chance--as 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 follows:--

     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 manner.(1)

(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 breathed.

(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.

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 neglected.

(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

(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

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 at
 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

(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

"_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

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 CHRIST.(2)

(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.

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 significant.

"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 doctrines.

(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.

(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

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

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 importance.

(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 culture?

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

(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

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
a stone (_i.e_. it contains no outward sulphur, but only inward, fixed
sulphur), but its appearance is that of a very fine powder, impalpable
to the touch, sweet to the taste, fragrant to the smell, in potency a
most penetrative spirit, apparently dry and yet unctuous, and easily
capable of tingeing a plate of metal.... If we say that its nature is
spiritual, it would be no more than the truth; if we described it as
corporeal the expression would be equally correct; for it is subtle,
penetrative, glorified, spiritual gold. It is the noblest of all created
things after the rational soul, and has virtue to repair all defects
both in animal and metallic bodies, by restoring them to the most exact
and perfect temper; wherefore is it a spirit or 'quintessence.'"(1c)

(1a) BASIL VALENTINE: _The Twelve Keys_. (See _The Hermetic Museum_,
vol. i. pp. 333 and 334.)

(2a) From the "Smaragdine Table," attributed to HERMES TRISMEGISTOS
(_ie_. MERCURY or THOTH).

(1b) _The Book of the Revelation of_ HERMES, _interpreted by_
THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS, _concerning the Supreme Secret of the World_.
(See BENEDICTUS FIGULUS, _A Golden and Blessed Casket of Nature's
Marvels_, trans. by A. E. WAITE, 1893, pp. 36, 37, and 41.)

(1c) EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _A Brief Guide to the Celestial Ruby_. (See
_The Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 246 and 249.)

In other accounts the Philosopher's Stone, or at least the _materia
prima_ of which it is compounded, is spoken of as a despised substance,
reckoned to be of no value. Thus, according to one curious alchemistic
work, "This matter, so precious by the excellent Gifts, wherewith Nature
has enriched it, is truly mean, with regard to the Substances from
whence it derives its Original. Their price is not above the Ability of
the Poor. Ten Pence is more than sufficient to purchase the Matter of
the Stone.... The matter therefore is mean, considering the Foundation
of the Art because it costs very little; it is no less mean, if one
considers exteriourly that which gives it Perfection, since in that
regard it costs nothing at all, in as much as _all the World has it in
its Power_... so that... it is a constant Truth, that the Stone is a
Thing mean in one Sense, but that in another it is most precious, and
that there are none but Fools that despise it, by a just Judgment of
God."(1) And JACOB BOEHME (1575--1624) writes: "The _philosopher's
stone_ is a very dark, disesteemed stone, of a grey colour, but therein
lieth the highest tincture."(2) In these passages there is probably some
reference to the ubiquity of the Spirit of the World, already referred
to in a former quotation. But this fact is not, in itself, sufficient
to account for them. I suggest that their origin is to be found in the
religious doctrine that God's Grace, the Spirit of CHRIST that is the
means of the transmutation of man's soul into spiritual gold, is free to
all; that it is, at once, the meanest and the most precious thing in the
whole Universe. Indeed, I think it quite probable that the alchemists
who penned the above-quoted passages had in mind the words of ISAIAH,
"He was despised and we esteemed him not." And if further evidence
is required that the alchemists believed in a correspondence between
CHRIST--"the Stone which the builders rejected"--and the Philosopher's
Stone, reference may be made to the alchemical work called _The Sophic
Hydrolith: or Water Stone of the Wise_, a tract included in _The
Hermetic Museum_, in which this supposed correspondence is explicitly
asserted and dealt with in some detail.

(1) _A Discourse between Eudoxus and Pyrophilus, upon the Ancient War
of the Knights_. See _The Hermetical Triumph: or, the Victorious
Philosophical Stone_ (1723), pp. 101 and 102.

(2) JACOB BOEHME: _Epistles_ (trans. by J. E., 1649, reprinted 1886),
Ep. iv., SE III.

Apart from the alchemists' belief in the analogy between natural and
spiritual things, it is, I think, incredible that any such theories of
the metals and the possibility of their transmutation or "regeneration"
by such an extraordinary agent as the Philosopher's Stone would have
occurred to the ancient investigators of Nature's secrets. When they
had started to formulate these theories, facts(1) were discovered which
appeared to support them; but it is, I suggest, practically impossible
to suppose that any or all of these facts would, in themselves, have
been sufficient to give rise to such wonderfully fantastic theories as
these: it is only from the standpoint of the theory that alchemy was
a direct offspring of mysticism that its origin seems to be capable of

(1) One of those facts, amongst many others, that appeared to confirm
the alchemical doctrines, was the ease with which iron could apparently
be transmuted into copper. It was early observed that iron vessels
placed in contact with a solution of blue vitriol became converted (at
least, so far as their surfaces were concerned) into copper. This we now
know to be due to the fact that the copper originally contained in the
vitriol is thrown out of solution, whilst the iron takes its place. And
we know, also, that no more copper can be obtained in this way from the
blue vitriol than is actually used up in preparing it; and, further,
that all the iron which is apparently converted into copper can be got
out of the residual solution by appropriate methods, if such be desired;
so that the facts really support DALTON'S theory rather than the
alchemical doctrines. But to the alchemist it looked like a real
transmutation of iron into copper, confirmation of his fond belief that
iron and other base metals could be transmuted into silver and gold by
the aid of the Great Arcanum of Nature.

In all the alchemical doctrines mystical connections are evident, and
mystical origins can generally be traced. I shall content myself here
with giving a couple of further examples. Consider, in the first place,
the alchemical doctrine of purification by putrefaction, that the metals
must die before they can be resurrected and truly live, that through
death alone are they purified--in the more prosaic language of modern
chemistry, death becomes oxidation, and rebirth becomes reduction. In
many alchemical books there are to be found pictorial symbols of the
putrefaction and death of metals and their new birth in the state of
silver or gold, or as the Stone itself, together with descriptions of
these processes. The alchemists sought to kill or destroy the body
or outward form of the metals, in the hope that they might get at and
utilise the living essence they believed to be immanent within. As
PARACELSUS put it: "Nothing of true value is located in the body of a
substance, but in the virtue... the less there is of body, the more in
proportion is the virtue." It seems to me quite obvious that in such
ideas as these we have the application to metallurgy of the mystic
doctrine of self-renunciation--that the soul must die to self before it
can live to God; that the body must be sacrificed to the spirit, and the
individual will bowed down utterly to the One Divine Will, before it can
become one therewith.

In the second place, consider the directions as to the colours that
must be obtained in the preparation of the Philosopher's Stone, if
a successful issue to the Great Work is desired. Such directions are
frequently given in considerable detail in alchemical works; and,
without asserting any exact uniformity, I think that I may state that
practically all the alchemists agree that three great colour-stages are
necessary--(i.) an inky blackness, which is termed the "Crow's Head" and
is indicative of putrefaction; (ii.) a white colour indicating that
the Stone is now capable of converting "base" metals into silver; this
passes through orange into (iii.) a red colour, which shows that the
Stone is now perfect, and will transmute "base" metals into gold. Now,
what was the reason for the belief in these three colour-stages, and
for their occurrence in the above order? I suggest that no alchemist
actually obtained these colours in this order in his chemical
experiments, and that we must look for a speculative origin for the
belief in them. We have, I think, only to turn to religious mysticism
for this origin. For the exponents of religious mysticism unanimously
agree to a threefold division of the life of the mystic. The first stage
is called "the dark night of the soul," wherein it seems as if the soul
were deserted by God, although He is very near. It is the time of trial,
when self is sacrificed as a duty and not as a delight. Afterwards,
however, comes the morning light of a new intelligence, which marks the
commencement of that stage of the soul's upward progress that is called
the "illuminative life". All the mental powers are now concentrated on
God, and the struggle is transferred from without to the inner man, good
works being now done, as it were, spontaneously. The disciple, in this
stage, not only does unselfish deeds, but does them from unselfish
motives, being guided by the light of Divine Truth. The third stage,
which is the consummation of the process, is termed "the contemplative
life". It is barely describable. The disciple is wrapped about with the
Divine Love, and is united thereby with his Divine Source. It is the
life of love, as the illuminative life is that of wisdom. I suggest that
the alchemists, believing in this threefold division of the regenerative
process, argued that there must be three similar stages in the
preparation of the Stone, which was the pattern of all metallic
perfection; and that they derived their beliefs concerning the
colours, and other peculiarities of each stage in the supposed chemical
process, from the characteristics of each stage in the psychological
process according to mystical theology.

Moreover, in the course of the latter process many flitting thoughts and
affections arise and deeds are half-wittingly done which are not of the
soul's true character; and in entire agreement with this, we read of
the alchemical process, in the highly esteemed "Canons" of D'ESPAGNET:
"Besides these decretory signs (_i.e_. the black, white, orange, and
red colours) which firmly inhere in the matter, and shew its essential
mutations, almost infinite colours appear, and shew themselves in
vapours, as the Rainbow in the clouds, which quickly pass away and are
expelled by those that succeed, more affecting the air than the earth:
the operator must have a gentle care of them, because they are not
permanent, and proceed not from the intrinsic disposition of the matter,
but from the fire painting and fashioning everything after its pleasure,
or casually by heat in slight moisture."(1) That D'ESPAGNET is arguing,
not so much from actual chemical experiments, as from analogy with
psychological processes in man, is, I think, evident.

(1) JEAN D'ESPAGNET: _Hermetic Arcanum_, canon 65. (See _Collectanea
Hermetica_, ed. by W. WYNN WESTCOTT, vol. i., 1893, pp. 28 and 29.)

As well as a metallic, the alchemists believed in a physiological,
application of the fundamental doctrines of mysticism: their physiology
was analogically connected with their metallurgy, the same principles
holding good in each case. PARACELSUS, as we have seen, taught that
man is a microcosm, a world in miniature; his spirit, the Divine Spark
within, is from God; his soul is from the Stars, extracted from the
Spirit of the World; and his body is from the earth, extracted from the
elements of which all things material are made. This view of man was
shared by many other alchemists. The Philosopher's Stone, therefore (or,
rather, a solution of it in alcohol) was also regarded as the Elixir of
Life; which, thought the alchemists, would not endow man with physical
immortality, as is sometimes supposed, but restore him again to the
flower of youth, "regenerating" him physiologically. Failing this, of
course, they regarded gold in a potable form as the next most powerful
medicine--a belief which probably led to injurious effects in some

Such are the facts from which I think we are justified in concluding,
as I have said, "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."(1)

(1) In the following excursion we will wander again in the alchemical
bypaths of thought, and certain objections to this view of the origin
and nature of alchemy will be dealt with and, I hope, satisfactorily

It seems to follow, _ex hypothesi_, that every alchemical work ought to
permit of two interpretations, one physical, the other transcendental.
But I would not venture to assert this, because, as I think, many of
the lesser alchemists knew little of the origin of their theories,
nor realised their significance. They were concerned merely with
these theories in their strictly metallurgical applications, and any
transcendental meaning we can extract from their works was not intended
by the writers themselves. However, many alchemists, I conceive,
especially the better sort, realised more or less clearly the dual
nature of their subject, and their books are to some extent intended to
permit of a double interpretation, although the emphasis is laid upon
the physical and chemical application of mystical doctrine. And there
are a few writers who adopted alchemical terminology on the principle
that, if the language of theology is competent to describe chemical
processes, then, conversely, the language of alchemy must be competent
to describe psychological processes: this is certainly and entirely true
of JACOB BOEHME, and, to some extent also, I think, of HENRY KHUNRATH
(1560-1605) and THOMAS VAUGHAN (1622-1666).

As may be easily understood, many of the alchemists led most romantic
lives, often running the risk of torture and death at the hands
of avaricious princes who believed them to be in possession of the
Philosopher's Stone, and adopted such pleasant methods of extorting (or,
at least, of trying to extort) their secrets. A brief sketch, which I
quote from my _Alchemy: Ancient and Modern_ (1911), SE 54, of the lives
of ALEXANDER SETHON and MICHAEL SENDIVOGIUS, will serve as an example:--

"The date and birthplace of ALEXANDER SETHON, a Scottish alchemist, do
not appear to have been recorded, but MICHAEL SENDIVOGIUS was probably
born in Moravia about 1566. Sethon, we are told, was in possession of
the arch-secrets of Alchemy. He visited Holland in 1602, proceeded after
a time to Italy, and passed through Basle to Germany; meanwhile he
is said to have performed many transmutations. Ultimately arriving
at Dresden, however, he fell into the clutches of the young Elector,
Christian II., who, in order to extort his secret, cast him into prison
and put him to the torture, but without avail. Now it so happened that
Sendivogius, who was in quest of the Philosopher's Stone, was staying
at Dresden, and hearing of Sethon's imprisonment obtained permission to
visit him. Sendivogius offered to effect Sethon's escape in return
for assistance in his alchemistic pursuits, to which arrangement the
Scottish alchemist willingly agreed. After some considerable outlay of
money in bribery, Sendivogius's plan of escape was successfully carried
out, and Sethon found himself a free man; but he refused to betray the
high secrets of Hermetic philosophy to his rescuer. However, before his
death, which occurred shortly afterwards, he presented him with an ounce
of the transmutative powder. Sendivogius soon used up this powder, we
are told, in effecting transmutations and cures, and, being fond of
expensive living, he married Sethon's widow, in the hope that she was
in the possession of the transmutative secret. In this, however, he was
disappointed; she knew nothing of the matter, but she had the manuscript
of an alchemistic work written by her late husband. Shortly afterwards
Sendivogius printed at Prague a book entitled _The New Chemical Light_
under the name of 'Cosmopolita,' which is said to have been this work of
Sethon's, but which Sendivogius claimed for his own by the insertion
of his name on the title page, in the form of an anagram. The tract _On
Sulphur_ which was printed at the end of the book in later editions,
however, is said to have been the genuine work of the Moravian. Whilst
his powder lasted, Sendivogius travelled about, performing, we are told,
many transmutations. He was twice imprisoned in order to extort the
secrets of alchemy from him, on one occasion escaping, and on the other
occasion obtaining his release from the Emperor Rudolph. Afterwards, he
appears to have degenerated into an impostor, but this is said to have
been a _finesse_ to hide his true character as an alchemistic adept. He
died in 1646."

However, all the alchemists were not of the apparent character of
SENDIVOGIUS--many of them leading holy and serviceable lives. The
alchemist-physician J. B. VAN HELMONT (1577-1644), who was a man of
extraordinary benevolence, going about treating the sick poor freely,
may be particularly mentioned. He, too, claimed to have performed the
transmutation of "base" metal into gold, as did also HELVETIUS (whom we
have already met), physician to the Prince of Orange, with a wonderful
preparation given to him by a stranger. The testimony of these two
latter men is very difficult either to explain or to explain away, but
I cannot deal with this question here, but must refer the reader to a
paper on the subject by Mr GASTON DE MENGEL, and the discussion thereon,
published in vol. i. of _The Journal of the Alchemical Society_.

In conclusion, I will venture one remark dealing with a matter outside
of the present inquiry. Alchemy ended its days in failure and fraud;
charlatans and fools were attracted to it by purely mercenary objects,
who knew nothing of the high aims of the genuine alchemists, and
scientific men looked elsewhere for solutions of Nature's problems.
Why did alchemy fail? Was it because its fundamental theorems were
erroneous? I think not. I consider the failure of the alchemical theory
of Nature to be due rather to the misapplication of these fundamental
concepts, to the erroneous use of _a priori_ methods of reasoning, to a
lack of a sufficiently wide knowledge of natural phenomena to which
to apply these concepts, to a lack of adequate apparatus with which to
investigate such phenomena experimentally, and to a lack of mathematical
organons of thought with which to interpret such experimental results
had they been obtained. As for the basic concepts of alchemy themselves,
such as the fundamental unity of the Cosmos and the evolution of the
elements, in a word, the applicability of the principles of mysticism to
natural phenomena: these seem to me to contain a very valuable element
of truth--a statement which, I think, modern scientific research
justifies me in making,--though the alchemists distorted this truth and
expressed it in a fantastic form. I think, indeed, that in the modern
theories of energy and the all-pervading ether, the etheric and
electrical origin and nature of matter and the evolution of the
elements, we may witness the triumphs of mysticism as applied to the
interpretation of Nature. Whether or not we shall ever transmute lead
into gold, I believe there is a very true sense in which we may say
that alchemy, purified by its death, has been proved true, whilst the
materialistic view of Nature has been proved false.


THE problem of alchemy presents many aspects to our view, but, to my
mind, the most fundamental of these is psychological, or, perhaps I
should say, epistemological. It has been said that the proper study of
mankind is man; and to study man we must study the beliefs of man. Now
so long as we neglect great tracts of such beliefs, because they have
been, or appear to have been, superseded, so long will our study be
incomplete and ineffectual. And this, let me add, is no mere excuse for
the study of alchemy, no mere afterthought put forward in justification
of a predilection, but a plain statement of fact that renders this study
an imperative need. There are other questions of interest--of very great
interest--concerning alchemy: questions, for instance, as to the
scope and validity of its doctrines; but we ought not to allow their
fascination and promise to distract our attention from the fundamental
problem, whose solution is essential to their elucidation.

In the preceding essay on "The Quest of the Philosopher's Stone," which
was written from the standpoint I have sketched in the foregoing words,
my thesis was "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." Now, I wish to treat my
present thesis, which is concerned with a further source from which the
alchemists derived certain of their views and modes of expression by
means of _a priori_ reasoning, in connection with, and, in a sense,
as complementary to, my former thesis. I propose in the first place,
therefore, briefly to deal with certain possible objections to this view
of alchemy.

It has, for instance, been maintained(1) that the assimilation of
alchemical doctrines concerning the metals to those of mysticism
concerning the soul was an event late in the history of alchemy, and was
undertaken in the interests of the latter doctrines. Now we know that
certain mystics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did borrow
from the alchemists much of their terminology with which to discourse
of spiritual mysteries--JACOB BOEHME, HENRY KHUNRATH, and perhaps THOMAS
VAUGHAN, may be mentioned as the most prominent cases in point. But how
was this possible if it were not, as I have suggested, the repayment, in
a sense, of a sort of philological debt? Transmutation was an admirable
vehicle of language for describing the soul's regeneration, just because
the doctrine of transmutation was the result of an attempt to apply
the doctrine of regeneration in the sphere of metallurgy; and similar
remarks hold of the other prominent doctrines of alchemy.

(1) See, for example, Mr A. E. WAITE'S paper, "The Canon of Criticism
in respect of Alchemical Literature," _The Journal of the Alchemical
Society_, vol. i. (1913), pp. 17-30.

The wonderful fabric of alchemical doctrine was not woven in a day, and
as it passed from loom to loom, from Byzantium to Syria, from Syria to
Arabia, from Arabia to Spain and Latin Europe, so its pattern changed;
but it was always woven _a priori_, in the belief that that which is
below is as that which is above. In its final form, I think, it is
distinctly Christian.

In the _Turba Philosophorum_, the oldest known work of Latin alchemy--a
work which, claiming to be of Greek origin, whilst not that, is
certainly Greek in spirit,--we frequently come across statements of a
decidedly mystical character. "The regimen," we read, "is greater than
is perceived by reason, except through divine inspiration."(1) Copper,
it is insisted upon again and again, has a soul as well as a body; and
the Art, we are told, is to be defined as "the liquefaction of the body
and the separation of the soul from the body, seeing that copper, like
a man, has a soul and a body."(2) Moreover, other doctrines are here
propounded which, although not so obviously of a mystical character,
have been traced to mystical sources in the preceding excursion. There
is, for instance, the doctrine of purification by means of putrefaction,
this process being likened to that of the resurrection of man. "These
things being done," we read, "God will restore unto it (the matter
operated on) both the soul and the spirit thereof, and the weakness
being taken away, that matter will be made strong, and after corruption
will be improved, even as a man becomes stronger after resurrection
and younger than he was in this world."(1b) The three stages in the
alchemical work--black, white, and red--corresponding to, and, as I
maintain, based on the three stages in the life of the mystic, are also
more than once mentioned. "Cook them (the king and his wife), therefore,
until they become black, then white, afterwards red, and finally until a
tingeing venom is produced."(2b)

(1) _The Turba Philosophorum, or Assembly of the Sages_ (trans. by A. E.
WAITE, 1896), p. 128.

(2) _Ibid_., p. 193, _cf_. pp. 102 and 152.

(1b) _The Turba Philosophorum, or Assembly of the Sages_ (trans. by A.
E. WAITE), p. 101, _cf_. pp. 27 and 197.

(2b) _Ibid_., p. 98, _cf_. p. 29.

In view of these quotations, the alliance (shall I say?) between alchemy
and mysticism cannot be asserted to be of late origin. And we shall
find similar statements if we go further back in time. To give but one
example: "Among the earliest authorities," writes Mr WAITE, "the _Book
of Crates_ says that copper, like man, has a spirit, soul, and body,"
the term "copper" being symbolical and applying to a stage in the
alchemical work. But nowhere in the _Turba_ do we meet with the concept
of the Philosopher's Stone as the medicine of the metals, a concept
characteristic of Latin alchemy, and, to quote Mr WAITE again, "it does
not appear that the conception of the Philosopher's Stone as a medicine
of metals and of men was familiar to Greek alchemy;"(3)

(3) _Ibid_., p. 71.

All this seems to me very strongly to support my view of the origin of
alchemy, which requires a specifically Christian mysticism only for this
specific concept of the Philosopher's Stone in its fully-fledged form.
At any rate, the development of alchemical doctrine can be seen to have
proceeded concomitantly with the development of mystical philosophy and
theology. Those who are not prepared here to see effect and cause may be
asked not only to formulate some other hypothesis in explanation of
the origin of alchemy, but also to explain this fact of concomitant

From the standpoint of the transcendental theory of alchemy it has been
urged "that the language of mystical theology seemed to be hardly so
suitable to the exposition (as I maintain) or concealment of chemical
theories, as the language of a definite and generally credited branch of
science was suited to the expression of a veiled and symbolical process
such as the regeneration of man."(1) But such a statement is only
possible with respect to the latest days of alchemy, when there WAS a
science of chemistry, definite and generally credited. The science of
chemistry, it must be remembered, had no growth separate from alchemy,
but evolved therefrom. Of the days before this evolution had been
accomplished, it would be in closer accord with the facts to say that
theology, including the doctrine of man's regeneration, was in the
position of "a definite and generally credited branch of science,"
whereas chemical phenomena were veiled in deepest mystery and tinged
with the dangers appertaining to magic. As concerns the origin of
alchemy, therefore, the argument as to suitability of language
appears to support my own theory; it being open to assume that after
formulation--that is, in alchemy's latter days--chemical nomenclature
and theories were employed by certain writers to veil heterodox
religious doctrine.

(1) PHILIP S. WELLBY, M.A., in _The Journal of the Alchemical Society_,
vol. ii. (1914), p. 104.

Another recent writer on the subject, my friend the late Mr ABDUL-ALI,
has remarked that "he thought that, in the mind of the alchemist at
least, there was something more than analogy between metallic and
psychic transformations, and that the whole subject might well be
assigned to the doctrinal category of ineffable and transcendent
Oneness. This Oneness comprehended all--soul and body, spirit and
matter, mystic visions and waking life--and the sharp metaphysical
distinction between the mental and the non-mental realms, so prominent
during the history of philosophy, was not regarded by these early
investigators in the sphere of nature. There was the sentiment, perhaps
only dimly experienced, that not only the law, but the substance of
the Universe, was one; that mind was everywhere in contact with its own
kindred; and that metallic transmutation would, somehow, so to speak,
signalise and seal a hidden transmutation of the soul."(1)

(1) SIJIL ABDUL-ALI, in _The Journal of the Alchemical Society_, vol.
ii. (1914), p. 102.

I am to a large extent in agreement with this view. Mr ABDUL-ALI
quarrels with the term "analogy," and, if it is held to imply any merely
superficial resemblance, it certainly is not adequate to my own
needs, though I know not what other word to use. SWEDENBORG'S term
"correspondence" would be better for my purpose, as standing for an
essential connection between spirit and matter, arising out of the
causal relationship of the one to the other. But if SWEDENBORG believed
that matter and spirit were most intimately related, he nevertheless had
a very precise idea of their distinctness, which he formulated in his
Doctrine of Degrees--a very exact metaphysical doctrine indeed. The
alchemists, on the other hand, had no such clear ideas on the subject.
It would be even more absurd to attribute to them a Cartesian dualism.
To their ways of thinking, it was by no means impossible to grasp
the spiritual essences of things by what we should now call chemical
manipulations. For them a gas was still a ghost and air a spirit. One
could quote pages in support of this, but I will content myself with a
few words from the _Turba_--the antiquity of the book makes it of value,
and anyway it is near at hand. "Permanent water," whatever that may be,
being pounded with the body, we are told, "by the will of God it
turns that body into spirit." And in another place we read that "the
Philosophers have said: Except ye turn bodies into not-bodies, and
incorporeal things into bodies, ye have not yet discovered the rule of
operation."(1a) No one who could write like this, and believe it, could
hold matter and spirit as altogether distinct. But it is equally obvious
that the injunction to convert body into spirit is meaningless if spirit
and body are held to be identical. I have been criticised for crediting
the alchemists "with the philosophic acumen of Hegel,"(1b) but that is
just what I think one ought to avoid doing. At the same time, however,
it is extremely difficult to give a precise account of views which are
very far from being precise themselves. But I think it may be said,
without fear of error, that the alchemist who could say, "As above, so
below," _ipso facto_ recognised both a very close connection between
spirit and matter, and a distinction between them. Moreover, the
division thus implied corresponded, on the whole, to that between the
realms of the known (or what was thought to be known) and the unknown.
The Church, whether Christian or pre-Christian, had very precise
(comparatively speaking) doctrine concerning the soul's origin,
duties, and destiny, backed up by tremendous authority, and speculative
philosophy had advanced very far by the time PLATO began to concern
himself with its problems. Nature, on the other hand, was a mysterious
world of magical happenings, and there was nothing deserving of the
name of natural science until alchemy was becoming decadent. It is not
surprising, therefore, that the alchemists--these men who wished to
probe Nature's hidden mysteries--should reason from above to
below; indeed, unless they had started _de novo_--as babes knowing
nothing,--there was no other course open to them. And that they did
adopt the obvious course is all that my former thesis amounts to. In
passing, it is interesting to note that a sixteenth-century alchemist,
who had exceptional opportunities and leisure to study the works of the
old masters of alchemy, seems to have come to a similar conclusion as
to the nature of their reasoning. He writes: "The Sages... after having
conceived in their minds a Divine idea of the relations of the whole
universe... selected from among the rest a certain substance, from which
they sought to elicit the elements, to separate and purify them,
and then again put them together in a manner suggested by a keen and
profound observation of Nature."(1c)

(1a) _op cit_., pp,. 65 and 110, _cf_. p. 154.

(1b) _Vide_ a rather frivolous review of my _Alchemy: Ancient and
Modern_ in _The Outlook_ for 14th January 1911.

(1c) EDWARD KELLY: _The Humid Path_. (See _The Alchemical Writings_ of
EDWARD KELLY, edited by A. E. WAITE, 1893, pp. 59-60.)

In describing the realm of spirit as _ex hypothesi_ known, that of
Nature unknown, to the alchemists, I have made one important omission,
and that, if I may use the name of a science to denominate a complex of
crude facts, is the realm of physiology, which, falling within that of
Nature, must yet be classed as _ex hypothesi_ known. But to elucidate
this point some further considerations are necessary touching the
general nature of knowledge. Now, facts may be roughly classed,
according to their obviousness and frequency of occurrence, into four
groups. There are, first of all, facts which are so obvious, to put
it paradoxically, that they escape notice; and these facts are the
commonest and most frequent in their occurrence. I think it is Mr
CHESTERTON who has said that, looking at a forest one cannot see the
trees because of the forest; and, in _The Innocence of Father Brown_, he
has a good story ("The Invisible Man") illustrating the point, in which
a man renders himself invisible by dressing up in a postman's uniform.
At any rate, we know that when a phenomenon becomes persistent it tends
to escape observation; thus, continuous motion can only be appreciated
with reference to a stationary body, and a noise, continually repeated,
becomes at last inaudible. The tendency of often-repeated actions to
become habitual, and at last automatic, that is to say, carried
out without consciousness, is a closely related phenomenon. We
can understand, therefore, why a knowledge of the existence of the
atmosphere, as distinct from the wind, came late in the history of
primitive man, as, also, many other curious gaps in his knowledge. In
the second group we may put those facts which are common, that is, of
frequent occurrence, and are classed as obvious. Such facts are accepted
at face-value by the primitive mind, and are used as the basis of
explanation of facts in the two remaining groups, namely, those facts
which, though common, are apt to escape the attention owing to their
inconspicuousness, and those which are of infrequent occurrence. When
the mind takes the trouble to observe a fact of the third group, or
is confronted by one of the fourth, it feels a sense of surprise. Such
facts wear an air of strangeness, and the mind can only rest satisfied
when it has shown them to itself as in some way cases of the second
group of facts, or, at least, brought them into relation therewith. That
is what the mind--at least the primitive mind--means by "explanation".
"It is obvious," we say, commencing an argument, thereby proclaiming
our intention to bring that which is at first in the category of the
not-obvious, into the category of the obvious. It remains for a more
sceptical type of mind--a later product of human evolution--to question
obvious facts, to explain them, either, as in science, by establishing
deeper and more far-reaching correlations between phenomena, or in
philosophy, by seeking for the source and purpose of such facts, or,
better still, by both methods.

Of the second class of facts--those common and obvious facts which
the primitive mind accepts at face-value and uses as the basis of
its explanations of such things as seem to it to stand in need of
explanation--one could hardly find a better instance than sex. The
universality of sex, and the intermittent character of its phenomena,
are both responsible for this. Indeed, the attitude of mind I have
referred to is not restricted to primitive man; how many people
to-day, for instance, just accept sex as a fact, pleasant or unpleasant
according to their predilections, never querying, or feeling the need
to query, its why and wherefore? It is by no means surprising, that when
man first felt the need of satisfying himself as to the origin of the
universe, he should have done so by a theory founded on what he knew
of his own generation. Indeed, as I queried on a former occasion, what
other source of explanation was open to him? Of what other form of
origin was he aware? Seeing Nature springing to life at the kiss of the
sun, what more natural than that she should be regarded as the divine
Mother, who bears fruits because impregnated by the Sun-God? It is
not difficult to understand, therefore, why primitive man paid divine
honours to the organs of sex in man and woman, or to such things as
he considered symbolical of them--that is to say, to understand the
extensiveness of those religions which are grouped under the term
"phallicism". Nor, to my mind, is the symbol of sex a wholly inadequate
one under which to conceive of the origin of things. And, as I have
said before, that phallicism usually appears to have degenerated into
immorality of a very pronounced type is to be deplored, but an immoral
view of human relations is by no means a necessary corollary to a sexual
theory of the universe.(1)

(1) "The reverence as well as the worship paid to the phallus, in early
and primitive days, had nothing in it which partook of indecency; all
ideas connected with it were of a reverential and religious kind....

"The indecent ideas attached to the representation of the phallus were,
though it seems a paradox to say so, the results of a more advanced
civilization verging towards its decline, as we have evidence at Rome
and Pompeii....

"To the primitive man (the reproductive force which pervades all nature)
was the most mysterious of all manifestations. The visible physical
powers of nature--the sun, the sky, the storm--naturally claimed his
reverence, but to him the generative power was the most mysterious of
all powers. In the vegetable world, the live seed placed in the ground,
and hence germinating, sprouting up, and becoming a beautiful and
umbrageous tree, was a mystery. In the animal world, as the cause of all
life, by which all beings came into existence, this power was a mystery.
In the view of primitive man generation was the action of the Deity
itself. It was the mode in which He brought all things into existence,
the sun, the moon, the stars, the world, man were generated by Him.
To the productive power man was deeply indebted, for to it he owed the
harvests and the flocks which supported his life; hence it naturally
became an object of reverence and worship.

"Primitive man wants some object to worship, for an abstract idea
is beyond his comprehension, hence a visible representation of the
generative Deity was made, with the organs contributing to generation
most prominent, and hence the organ itself became a symbol of the
power."--H, M. WESTROPP: _Primitive Symbolism as Illustrated in Phallic
Worship, or the Reproductive Principle_ (1885), pp. 47, 48, and 57. {End
of long footnote}

The Aruntas of Australia, I believe, when discovered by Europeans, had
not yet observed the connection between sexual intercourse and birth.
They believed that conception was occasioned by the woman passing near
a _churinga_--a peculiarly shaped piece of wood or stone, in which a
spirit-child was concealed, which entered into her. But archaeological
research having established the fact that phallicism has, at one time
or another, been common to nearly all races, it seems probable that
the Arunta tribe represents a deviation from the normal line of mental
evolution. At any rate, an isolated phenomenon, such as this, cannot be
held to controvert the view that regards phallicism as in this normal
line. Nor was the attitude of mind that not only accepts sex at
face-value as an obvious fact, but uses the concept of it to explain
other facts, a merely transitory one. We may, indeed, not difficultly
trace it throughout the history of alchemy, giving rise to what I may
term "The Phallic Element in Alchemical Doctrine".

In aiming to establish this, I may be thought to be endeavouring to
establish a counter-thesis to that of the preceding essay on alchemy,
but, in virtue of the alchemists' belief in the mystical unity of all
things, in the analogical or correspondential relationship of all parts
of the universe to each other, the mystical and the phallic views of
the origin of alchemy are complementary, not antagonistic. Indeed, the
assumption that the metals are the symbols of man almost necessitates
the working out of physiological as well as mystical analogies, and
these two series of analogies are themselves connected, because the
principle "As above, so below" was held to be true of man himself. We
might, therefore, expect to find a more or less complete harmony between
the two series of symbols, though, as a matter of fact, contradictions
will be encountered when we come to consider points of detail. The
undoubtable antiquity of the phallic element in alchemical doctrine
precludes the idea that this element was an adventitious one, that
it was in any sense an afterthought; notwithstanding, however, the
evidence, as will, I hope, become apparent as we proceed, indicates that
mystical ideas played a much more fundamental part in the genesis of
alchemical doctrine than purely phallic ones--mystical interpretations
fit alchemical processes and theories far better than do sexual
interpretations; in fact, sex has to be interpreted somewhat mystically
in order to work out the analogies fully and satisfactorily.

As concerns Greek alchemy, I shall content myself with a passage from
a work _On the Sacred Art_, attributed to OLYMPIODORUS (sixth century
A.D.), followed by some quotations from and references to the _Turba_.
In the former work it is stated on the authority of HORUS that "The
proper end of the whole art is to obtain the semen of the male secretly,
seeing that all things are male and female. Hence (we read further)
Horus says in a certain place: Join the male and the female, and you
will find that which is sought; as a fact, without this process of
re-union, nothing can succeed, for Nature charms Nature," _etc_. The
_Turba_ insistently commands those who would succeed in the Art, to
conjoin the male with the female,(1) and, in one place, the male is said
to be lead and the female orpiment.(2) We also find the alchemical work
symbolised by the growth of the embryo in the womb. "Know," we are
told, "... that out of the elect things nothing becomes useful without
conjunction and regimen, because sperma is generated out of blood and
desire. For the man mingling with the woman, the sperm is nourished by
the humour of the womb, and by the moistening blood, and by heat,
and when forty nights have elapsed the sperm is formed.... God has
constituted that heat and blood for the nourishment of the sperm until
the foetus is brought forth. So long as it is little, it is nourished
with milk, and in proportion as the vital heat is maintained, the bones
are strengthened. Thus it behoves you also to act in this Art."(3)

(1) _Vide_ pp. 60 92, 96 97, 134, 135 and elsewhere in Mr WAITE'S

(2) _Ibid_., p. 57

(3) _Ibid_., pp. 179-181 (second recension); _cf_. pp. 103-104.

The use of the mystical symbols of death (putrefaction) and resurrection
or rebirth to represent the consummation of the alchemical work, and
that of the phallic symbols of the conjunction of the sexes and the
development of the foetus, both of which we have found in the _Turba_,
are current throughout the course of Latin alchemy. In _The Chymical
Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz_, that extraordinary document of what
is called "Rosicrucianism"--a symbolic romance of considerable ability,
whoever its author was,(1)--an attempt is made to weld the two sets of
symbols--the one of marriage, the other of death and resurrection unto
glory--into one allegorical narrative; and it is to this fusion of
seemingly disparate concepts that much of its fantasticality is due. Yet
the concepts are not really disparate; for not only is the second
birth like unto the first, and not only is the resurrection unto glory
described as the Bridal Feast of the Lamb, but marriage is, in a manner,
a form of death and rebirth. To justify this in a crude sense, I might
say that, from the male standpoint at least, it is a giving of the
life-substance to the beloved that life may be born anew and increase.
But in a deeper sense it is, or rather should be, as an ideal, a mutual
sacrifice of self for each other's good--a death of the self that it may
arise with an enriched personality.

(1) See Mr WAITE'S _The Real History of the Rosicrucians_ (1887) for
translation and discussion as to origin and significance. The work was
first published (in German) at Strassburg in 1616.

It is when we come to an examination of the ideas at the root of, and
associated with, the alchemical concept of "principles," that we find
some difficulty in harmonising the two series of symbols--the mystical
and the phallic. In one place in the _Turba_ we are directed "to take
quicksilver, in which is the male potency or strength";(2a) and this
concept of mercury as male is quite in accord with the mystical origin
I have assigned in the preceding excursion to the doctrine of the
alchemical principles. I have shown, I think, that salt, sulphur, and
mercury are the analogues _ex hypothesi_ of the body, soul (affection
and volition), and spirit (intelligence or understanding) in man; and
the affections are invariably regarded as especially feminine, the
understanding as especially masculine. But it seems that the more common
opinion, amongst Latin alchemists at any rate, was that sulphur was
male and mercury female. Writes BERNARD of TREVISAN: "For the Matter
suffereth, and the Form acteth assimulating the Matter to itself, and
according to this manner the Matter naturally thirsteth after a Form,
as a Woman desireth an Husband, and a Vile thing a precious one, and
an impure a pure one, so also _Argent-vive_ coveteth a Sulphur, as that
which should make perfect which is imperfect: So also a Body
freely desireth a Spirit, whereby it may at length arrive at its
perfection."(1b) At the same time, however, Mercury was regarded as
containing in itself both male and female potencies--it was the product
of male and female, and, thus, the seed of all the metals. "Nothing in
the World can be generated," to repeat a quotation from BERNARD,
without these two Substances, to wit a Male and Female: From whence it
appeareth, that although these two substances are not of one and the
same species, yet one Stone doth thence arise, and although they appear
and are said to be two Substances, yet in truth it is but one, to wit,
_Argent-vive_. But of this _Argent-vive_ a certain part is fixed and
digested, Masculine, hot, dry and secretly informing. But the other,
which is the Female, is volatile, crude, cold, and moyst."(2b) EDWARD
KELLY (1555-1595), who is valuable because he summarises authoritative
opinion, says somewhat the same thing, though in clearer words: "The
active elements... these are water and fire... may be called male,
while the passive elements... earth and air... represent the female
principle.... Only two elements, water and earth, are visible, and earth
is called the hiding-place of fire, water the abode of air. In these two
elements we have the broad law of limitation which divides the male from
the female. ... The first matter of minerals is a kind of viscous water,
mingled with pure and impure earth... Of this viscous water and fusible
earth, or sulphur, is composed that which is called quicksilver, the
first matter of the metals. Metals are nothing but Mercury digested
by different degrees of heat."(1c) There is one difference, however,
between these two writers, inasmuch as BERNARD says that "the Male and
Female abide together in closed Natures; the Female truly as it were
Earth and Water, the Male as Air and Fire." Mercury for him arises
from the two former elements, sulphur from the two latter.(2c) And the
difference is important as showing beyond question the _a priori_ nature
of alchemical reasoning. The idea at the back of the alchemists' minds
was undoubtedly that of the ardour of the male in the act of coition and
the alleged, or perhaps I should say apparent, passivity of the female.
Consequently, sulphur, the fiery principle of combustion, and such
elements as were reckoned to be active, were denominated "male," whilst
mercury, the principle acted on by sulphur, and such elements as were
reckoned to be passive, were denominated "female". As to the question
of origin, I do not think that the palm can be denied to the mystical
as distinguished from the phallic theory. And in its final form
the doctrine of principles is incapable of a sexual interpretation.
Mystically understood, man is capable of analysis into two
principles--since "body" may be neglected as unimportant (a false view,
I think, by the way) or "soul" and "spirit" may be united under one
head--OR into three; whereas the postulation of THREE principles on
a sexual basis is impossible. JOANNES ISAACUS HOLLANDUS (fifteenth
century) is the earliest author in whose works I have observed explicit
mention of THREE principles, though he refers to them in a manner
seeming to indicate that the doctrine was no new one in his day. I have
only read one little tract of his; there is nothing sexual in it, and
the author's mental character may be judged from his remarks concerning
"the three flying spirits"--taste, smell, and colour. These, he writes,
"are the life, soule, and quintessence of every thing, neither can these
three spirits be one without the other, as the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Ghost are one, yet three Persons, and one is not without the

(2a) Mr WAITE's translation, p. 79.

(1b) BERNARD, Earl of TREVISAN: _A Treatise of the Philosopher's Stone_,
1683. (See _Collectanea Chymica: A Collection of Ten Several Treatises
in Chymistry_, 1684, p. 92.)

(2b) _Ibid_., p. 91.

(1c) EDWARD KELLY: _The Stone of the Philosophers_. (See _The Alchemical
Writings of_ EDWARD KELLY, edited by A. E. WAITE, 1893, pp. 9 and 11 to

(2c) _The Answer of_ BERNARDUS TREVISANUS, _to the Epistle of Thomas
of Bononira, Physician to K. Charles the 8th_. (See JOHN FREDERICK
HOUPREGHT: _Aurifontina Chymica_, 1680, p. 208.)

(1d) _One Hundred and Fourteen Experiments and Cures of the Famous
Physitian_ THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS. _Whereunto is added... certain
Secrets of_ ISAAC HOLLANDUS, _concerning the Vegetall and Animall Work_
(1652), pp. 29 and 30.

When the alchemists described an element or principle as male or female,
they meant what they said, as I have already intimated, to the extent,
at least, of firmly believing that seed was produced by the two metallic
sexes. By their union metals were thought to be produced in the womb of
the earth; and mines were shut in order that by the birth and growth of
new metal the impoverished veins might be replenished. In this way, too,
was the _magnum opus_, the generation of the Philosopher's Stone--in
species gold, but purer than the purest--to be accomplished. To conjoin
that which Nature supplied, to foster the growth and development of that
which was thereby produced; such was the task of the alchemist. "For
there are Vegetables," says BERNARD of TREVISAN in his _Answer to Thomas
of Bononia_, "but Sensitives more especially, which for the most part
beget their like, by the Seeds of the Male and Female for the most
part concurring and conmixt by copulation; which work of Nature the
Philosophick Art imitates in the generation of gold."(1)

(1) _Op. cit_., p. 216.

Mercury, as I have said, was commonly regarded as the seed of the
metals, or as especially the female seed, there being two seeds, one the
male, according to BERNARD, more ripe, perfect and active, the other the
female. "more immature and in a sort passive(2) "... our Philosophick
Art," he says in another place, following a description of the
generation of man, "... is like this procreation of Man; for as in
_Mercury_ (of which Gold is by Nature generated in Mineral Vessels) a
natural conjunction

(2) _Ibid_., p. 217; _cf_. p. 236

is made of both the Seeds, Male and Female, so by our artifice, an
artificial and like conjunction is made of Agents and Patients."(1) "All
teaching," says KELLY, "that changes Mercury is false and vain, for this
is the original sperm of metals, and its moisture must not be dried
up, for otherwise it will not dissolve,"(2) and quotes ARNOLD (_ob. c_.
1310) to a similar effect.(3) One wonders how far the fact that human
and animal seed is fluid influenced the alchemists in their choice of
mercury, the only metal liquid at ordinary temperatures, as the seed of
the metals. There are, indeed, other good reasons for this choice, but
that this idea played some part in it, and, at least, was present at the
back of the alchemists' minds, I have little doubt.

The most philosophic account of metallic seed is that, perhaps, of the
mysterious adept "EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES," who distinguishes between
it and mercury in a rather interesting manner. He writes: "Seed is the
means of generic propagation given to all perfect things here below;
it is the perfection of each body; and anybody that has no seed must be
regarded as imperfect. Hence there can be no doubt that there is such
a thing as metallic seed.... All metallic seed is the seed of gold; for
gold is the intention of Nature in regard to all metals. If the base
metals are not gold, it is only through some accidental hindrance; they
are-all potentially gold. But, of course, this seed of gold is most
easily obtainable from well-matured gold itself.... Remember that I am
now speaking of metallic seed, and not of Mercury.... The seed of metals
is hidden out of sight still more completely than that of animals;
nevertheless, it is within the compass of our Art to extract it. The
seed of animals and vegetables is something separate, and may be cut
out, or otherwise separately exhibited; but metallic seed is diffused
throughout the metal, and contained in all its smallest parts; neither
can it be discerned from its body: its extraction is therefore a task
which may well tax the ingenuity of the most experienced philosopher;
the virtues of the whole metal have to be intensified, so as to convert
it into the sperm of our seed, which, by circulation, receives the
virtues of superiors and inferiors, then next becomes wholly form, or
heavenly virtue, which can communicate this to others related to it
by homogeneity of matter. ... The place in which the seed resides
is--approximately speaking--water; for, to speak properly and exactly,
the seed is the smallest part of the metal, and is invisible; but as
this invisible presence is diffused throughout the water of its kind,
and exerts its virtue therein, nothing being visible to the eye but
water, we are left to conclude from rational induction that this inward
agent (which is, properly speaking, the seed) is really there. Hence we
call the whole of the water seed, just as we call the whole of the
grain seed, though the germ of life is only a smallest particle of the

(1) _The Answer of_ BERNARDUS TREVISANUS, _etc_. _Op. cit_. p. 218.

(2) _op. cit_., p. 22.

(3) _Ibid_., p. 16.

(1b) EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _The Metamorphosis of Metals_. (See _The
Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 238-240.)

To say that "PHILALETHES'" seed resembles the modern electron is,
perhaps, to draw a rather fanciful analogy, since the electron is a
very precise idea, the result of the mathematical interpretation of the
results of exact experimentation. But though it would be absurd to speak
of this concept of the one seed of all metals as an anticipation of the
electron, to apply the expression "metallic seed" to the electron, now
that the concept of it has been reached, does not seem so absurd.

According to "PHILALETHES," the extraction of the seed is a very
difficult process, accomplishable, however, by the aid of mercury--the
water homogeneous therewith. Mercury, again, is the form of the seed
thereby obtained. He writes: "When the sperm hidden in the body of
gold is brought out by means of our Art, it appears under the form
of Mercury, whence it is exalted into the quintessence which is first
white, and then, by means of continuous coction, becomes red." And
again: "There is a womb into which the gold (if placed therein) will, of
its own accord, emit its seed, until it is debilitated and dies, and
by its death is renewed into a most glorious King, who thenceforward
receives power to deliver all his brethren from the fear of death."(1)

(1) EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _The Metamorphosis of Metals_. (See _The
Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 241 and 244.)

The fifteenth-century alchemist THOMAS NORTON was peculiar in his views,
inasmuch as he denied that metals have seed. He writes: "Nature never
multiplies anything, except in either one or the other of these two
ways: either by decay, which we call putrefaction, or, in the case of
animate creatures, by propagation. In the case of metals there can be no
propagation, though our Stone exhibits something like it.... Nothing
can be multiplied by inward action unless it belong to the vegetable
kingdom, or the family of sensitive creatures. But the metals are
elementary objects, and possess neither seed nor sensation."(1)

(1) THOMAS NORTON: _The Ordinal of Alchemy_. (See _The Hermetic Museum_,
vol. ii. pp. 15 and 16.)

His theory of the origin of the metals is astral rather than phallic.
"The only efficient cause of metals," he says, "is the mineral virtue,
which is not found in every kind of earth, but only in certain places
and chosen mines, into which the celestial sphere pours its rays in a
straight direction year by year, and according to the arrangement of
the metallic substance in these places, this or that metal is gradually

(2) _Ibid_., pp. 15 and 16.

In view of the astrological symbolism of these metals, that gold should
be masculine, silver feminine, does not surprise us, because the idea
of the masculinity of the sun and the femininity of the moon is a bit
of phallicism that still remains with us. It was by the marriage of gold
and silver that very many alchemists considered that the _magnum opus_
was to be achieved. Writes BERNARD of TREVISAN: "The subject of this
admired Science (alchemy) is _Sol_ and _Luna_, or rather Male and
Female, the Male is hot and dry, the Female cold and moyst." The aim of
the work, he tells us, is the extraction of the spirit of gold, which
alone can enter into bodies and tinge them. Both _Sol_ and _Luna_ are
absolutely necessary, and "whoever...shall think that a Tincture can be
made without these two Bodyes,... he proceedeth to the Practice like one
that is blind."(1)

(1) BERNARD, Earl of TREVISAN: _A Treatise, etc., Op. cit_. pp. 83 and

KELLY has teaching to the same effect, the Mercury of the Philosophers
being for him the menstruum or medium wherein the copulation of Gold
with Silver is to be accomplished. Mercury, in fact, seems to have been
everything and to have been capable of effecting everything in the eyes
of the alchemists. Concerning gold and silver, KELLY writes: "Only one
metal, viz. gold, is absolutely perfect and mature. Hence it is called
the perfect male body... Silver is less bounded by aqueous immaturity
than the rest of the metals, though it may indeed be regarded as to
a certain extent impure, still its water is already covered with the
congealing vesture of its earth, and it thus tends to perfection. This
condition is the reason why silver is everywhere called by the Sages
the perfect female body." And later he writes: "In short, our whole
Magistery consists in the union of the male and female, or active and
passive, elements through the mediation of our metallic water and a
proper degree of heat. Now, the male and female are two metallic bodies,
and this I will again prove by irrefragable quotations from the Sages."
Some of the quotations will be given: "Avicenna: 'Purify husband and
wife separately, in order that they may unite more intimately; for if
you do not purify them, they cannot love each other. By conjunction
of the two natures you get a clear and lucid nature, which, when it
ascends, becomes bright and serviceable.'... Senior: 'I, the Sun, am
hot and dry, and thou, the Moon, are cold and moist; when we are wedded
together in a closed chamber, I will gently steal away thy soul.'...
Rosinus: 'When the Sun, my brother, for the love of me (silver) pours
his sperm (_i.e_. his solar fatness) into the chamber (_i.e_. my Lunar
body), namely, when we become one in a strong and complete complexion
and union, the child of our wedded love will be born.... 'Rosary': 'The
ferment of the Sun is the sperm of the man, the ferment of the Moon,
the sperm of the woman. Of both we get a chaste union and a true
generation.'... Aristotle: 'Take your beloved son, and wed him to his
sister, his white sister, in equal marriage, and give them the cup of
love, for it is a food which prompts to union.' "(1a) KELLY, of course,
accepts the traditional authorship of the works from which he quotes,
though in many cases such authorship is doubtful, to say the least. The
alchemical works ascribed to ARISTOTLE (384-322 B.C.), for instance, are
beyond question forgeries. Indeed, the symbol of a union between brother
and sister, here quoted, could hardly be held as acceptable to Greek
thought, to which incest was the most abominable and unforgiveable sin.
It seems likelier that it originated with the Egyptians, to whom such
unions were tolerable in fact. The symbol is often met with in Latin
alchemy. MICHAEL MAIER (1568-1622) also says: "_conjunge fratrem cum
sorore et propina illis poculum amoris_," the words forming a motto to
a picture of a man and woman clasped in each other's arms, to whom an
older man offers a goblet. This symbolic picture occurs in his _Atalanta
Fugiens, hoc est, Emblemata nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, etc_.
(Oppenheim, 1617). This work is an exceedingly curious one. It consists
of a number of carefully executed pictures, each accompanied by a motto,
a verse of poetry set to music, with a prose text. Many of the
pictures are phallic in conception, and practically all of them are
anthropomorphic. Not only the primary function of sex, but especially
its secondary one of lactation, is made use of. The most curious of
these emblematic pictures, perhaps, is one symbolising the conjunction
of gold and silver. It shows on the right a man and woman, representing
the sun and moon, in the act of coition, standing up to the thighs in a
lake. On the left, on a hill above the lake, a woman (with the moon as
halo) gives birth to a child. A boy is coming out of the water towards
her. The verse informs us that: "The bath glows red at the conception
of the boy, the air at his birth." We learn also that "there is a stone,
and yet there is not, which is the noble gift of God. If God grants it,
fortunate will be he who shall receive it."(1)

(1a) EDWARD KELLY: _The Stone of the Philosophers, Op. cit_., pp 13, 14,
33, 35, 36, 38-40, and 47.

(1) _Op. Cit_., p. 145

Concerning the nature of gold, there is a discussion in _The Answer of_
BERNARDUS TREVISANUS _to the Epistle of Thomas of Bononia_, with which
I shall close my consideration of the present aspect of the subject.
Its interest for us lies in the arguments which are used and held to be
valid. "Besides, you say that Gold, as most think, is nothing else than
_Quick-silver_ coagulated naturally by the force of _Sulphur_; yet so,
that nothing of the _Sulphur_ which generated the Gold, doth remain
in the substance of the Gold: as in an humane _Embryo_, when it is
conceived in the Womb, there remains nothing of the Father's Seed,
according to _Aristotle's_ opinion, but the Seed of the Man doth only
coagulate the _menstrual_ blood of the Woman: in the same manner you
say, that after _Quick-silver_ is so coagulated, the form of Gold is
perfected in it, by virtue of the Heavenly Bodies, and especially of the
Sun."(1) BERNARD, however, decides against this view, holding that gold
contains both mercury and sulphur, for "we must not imagine, according
to their mistake who say, that the Male Agent himself approaches the
Female in the coagulation, and departs afterwards; because, as is known
in every generation, the conception is active and passive: Both the
active and the passive, that is, all the four Elements, must always
abide together, otherwise there would be no mixture, and the hope of
generating an off-spring would be extinguished."(2)

(1) _Op. cit_., pp. 206 and 207.

(2) _Ibid_., pp. 212 and 213.

In conclusion, I wish to say something of the role of sex in spiritual
alchemy. But in doing this I am venturing outside the original field of
inquiry of this essay and making a by no means necessary addition to my
thesis; and I am anxious that what follows should be understood as such,
so that no confusion as to the issues may arise.

In the great alchemical collection of J. J. MANGET, there is a curious
work (originally published in 1677), entitled _Mutus Liber_, which
consists entirely of plates, without letterpress. Its interest for us in
our present concern is that the alchemist, from the commencement of
the work until its achievement, is shown working in conjunction with a
woman. We are reminded of NICOLAS FLAMEL (1330-1418), who is reputed to
have achieved the _magnum opus_ together with his wife PERNELLE, as well
as of the many other women workers in the Art of whom we read. It would
be of interest in this connection to know exactly what association of
ideas was present in the mind of MICHAEL MAIER when he commanded the
alchemist: "Perform a work of women on the molten white lead, that is,
cook,"(1a) and illustrated his behest with a picture of a pregnant woman
watching a fire over which is suspended a cauldron and on which are
three jars. There is a cat in the background, and a tub containing two
fish in the foreground, the whole forming a very curious collection of
emblems. Mr WAITE, who has dealt with some of these matters, luminously,
though briefly, says: "The evidences with which we have been dealing
concern solely the physical work of alchemy and there is nothing of its
mystical aspects. The _Mutus Liber_ is undoubtedly on the literal side
of metallic transmutation; the memorials of Nicholas Flamel are also
on that side," _etc_. He adds, however, that "It is on record that an
unknown master testified to his possession of the mystery, but he added
that he had not proceeded to the work because he had failed to meet
with an elect woman who was necessary thereto"; and proceeds to say: "I
suppose that the statement will awaken in most minds only a vague sense
of wonder, and I can merely indicate in a few general words that which
I see behind it. Those Hermetic texts which bear a spiritual
interpretation and are as if a record of spiritual experience present,
like the literature of physical alchemy, the following aspects of
symbolism: (_a_) the marriage of sun and moon; (_b_) of a mystical king
and queen; (_c_) an union between natures which are one at the root but
diverse in manifestation; (_d_) a transmutation which follows this union
and an abiding glory therein. It is ever a conjunction between male and
female in a mystical sense; it is ever the bringing together by art
of things separated by an imperfect order of things; it is ever the
perfection of natures by means of this conjunction. But if the mystical
work of alchemy is an inward work in consciousness, then the union
between male and female is an union in consciousness; and if we remember
the traditions of a state when male and female had not as yet been
divided, it may dawn upon us that the higher alchemy was a practice for
the return into this ineffable mode of being. The traditional doctrine
is set forth in the _Zohar_ and it is found in writers like Jacob
Boehme; it is intimated in the early chapters of Genesis and, according
to an apocryphal saying of Christ, the kingdom of heaven will be
manifested when two shall be as one, or when that state has been once
again attained. In the light of this construction we can understand why
the mystical adept went in search of a wise woman with whom the work
could be performed; but few there be that find her, and he confessed to
his own failure. The part of woman in the physical practice of alchemy
is like a reflection at a distance of this more exalted process, and
there is evidence that those who worked in metals and sought for a
material elixir knew that there were other and greater aspects of the
Hermetic mystery."(1b)

(1a) MICHAEL MATER: _Atalanta Fugiens_ (1617), p. 97.

(1b) A E. WAITE: "Woman and the Hermetic Mystery," _The Occult Review_
(June 1912), vol. xv. pp. 325 and 326.

So far Mr WAITE, whose impressive words I have quoted at some length;
and he has given us a fuller account of the theory as found in the
_Zohar_ in his valuable work on _The Secret Doctrine in Israel_ (1913).
The _Zohar_ regards marriage and the performance of the sexual function
in marriage as of supreme importance, and this not merely because
marriage symbolises a divine union, unless that expression is held to
include all that logically follows from the fact, but because, as it
seems, the sexual act in marriage may, in fact, become a ritual of
transcendental magic.

At least three varieties of opinion can be traced from the view of sex
we have under consideration, as to the nature of the perfect man, and
hence of the most adequate symbol for transmutation. According to one,
and this appears to have been JACOB BOEHME'S view, the perfect man is
conceived of as non-sexual, the male and female elements united in him
having, as it were, neutralised each other. According to another, he is
pictured as a hermaphroditic being, a concept we frequently come across
in alchemical literature. It plays a prominent part in MAIER'S book
_Atalanta Fugiens_, to which reference has already been made. MAIER'S
hermaphrodite has two heads, one male, one female, but only one body,
one pair of arms, and one pair of legs. The two sexual organs, which
are placed side by side, are delineated in the illustrations with
considerable care, showing the importance MAIER attached to the idea.
This concept seems to me not only crude, but unnatural and repellent.
But it may be said of both the opinions I have mentioned, that they
confuse between union and identity. It is the old mistake, with respect
to a lesser goal, of those who hope for absorption in the Divine Nature
and consequent loss of personality. It seems to be forgotten that
a certain degree of distinction is necessary to the joy of union.
"Distinction" and "separation," it should be remembered, have different
connotations. If the supreme joy is that of self-sacrifice, then the
self must be such that it can be continually sacrificed, else the joy
is a purely transitory one, or rather, is destroyed at the moment of
its consummation. Hence, though sacrificed, the self must still remain

The third view of perfection, to which these remarks naturally lead,
is that which sees it typified in marriage. The mystic-philosopher
SWEDENBORG has some exceedingly suggestive things to say on the matter
in his extraordinary work on _Conjugial Love_, which, curiously enough,
seem largely to have escaped the notice of students of these high

SWEDENBORG'S heaven is a sexual heaven, because for him sex is primarily
a spiritual fact, and only secondarily, and because of what it is
primarily, a physical fact; and salvation is hardly possible, according
to him, apart from a genuine marriage (whether achieved here or
hereafter). Man and woman are considered as complementary beings, and
it is only through the union of one man with one woman that the perfect
angel results. The altruistic tendency of such a theory as contrasted
with the egotism of one in which perfection is regarded as obtainable
by each personality of itself alone, is a point worth emphasising. As
to the nature of this union, it is, to use SWEDENBORG'S own terms, a
conjunction of the will of the wife with the understanding of the man,
and reciprocally of the understanding of the man with the will of the
wife. It is thus a manifestation of that fundamental marriage between
the good and the true which is at the root of all existence; and it is
because of this fundamental marriage that all men and women are born
into the desire to complete themselves by conjunction. The symbol
of sexual intercourse is a legitimate one to use in speaking of this
heavenly union; indeed, we may describe the highest bliss attainable
by the soul, or conceivable by the mind, as a spiritual orgasm. Into
conjugal love "are collected," says SWEDENBORG, "all the blessednesses,
blissfulnesses, delightsomenesses, pleasantnesses, and pleasures, which
could possibly be conferred upon man by the Lord the Creator."(1) In
another place he writes: "Married partners (in heaven) enjoy similar
intercourse with each other as in the world, but more delightful and
blessed; yet without prolification, for which, or in place of which,
they have spiritual prolification, which is that of love and wisdom."
"The reason," he adds, "why the intercourse then is more delightful and
blessed is, that when conjugial love becomes of the spirit, it becomes
more interior and pure, and consequently more perceptible; and every
delightsomeness grows according to the perception, and grows even until
its blessedness is discernible in its delightsomeness."(1b) Such love,
however, he says, is rarely to be found on earth.

(1) EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: _The Delights of Wisdom relating to Conjugial
Love_ (trans. by A. H. SEARLE, 1891), SE 68.

(1b) EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: _Op. cit_., SE 51.

A learned Japanese speaks with approval of Idealism as a "dream where
sensuousness and spirituality find themselves to be blood brothers or
sisters."(2) It is a statement which involves either the grossest
and most dangerous error, or the profoundest truth, according to the
understanding of it. Woman is a road whereby man travels either to God
or the devil. The problem of sex is a far deeper problem than appears at
first sight, involving mysteries both the direst and most holy. It is
by no means a fantastic hypothesis that the inmost mystery of what a
certain school of mystics calls "the Secret Tradition" was a sexual
one. At any rate, the fact that some of those, at least, to whom alchemy
connoted a mystical process, were alive to the profound spiritual
significance of sex, renders of double interest what they have to
intimate of the achievement of the _Magnum Opus_ in man.

(2) YONE NOGUCHI: _The Spirit of Japanese Art_ (1915), p. 37.


IT has been said that "a prophet is not without honour, save in his own
country." Thereto might be added, "and in his own time"; for, whilst
there is continuity in time, there is also evolution, and England of
to-day, for instance, is not the same country as England of the Middle
Ages. In his own day ROGER BACON was accounted a magician, whose
heretical views called for suppression by the Church. And for many a
long day afterwards was he mainly remembered as a co-worker in the black
art with Friar BUNGAY, who together with him constructed, by the aid of
the devil and diabolical rites, a brazen head which should possess the
power of speech--the experiment only failing through the negligence of
an assistant.(1) Such was ROGER BACON in the memory of the later Middle
Ages and many succeeding years; he was the typical alchemist, where that
term carries with it the depth of disrepute, though indeed alchemy was
for him but one, and that not the greatest, of many interests.

(1) The story, of course, is entirely fictitious. For further
particulars see Sir J. E. SANDYS' essay on "Roger Bacon in English
Literature," in _Roger Bacon Essays_ (1914), referred to below.

Ilchester, in Somerset, claims the honour of being the place of ROGER
BACON'S birth, which interesting and important event occurred, probably,
in 1214. Young BACON studied theology, philosophy, and what then passed
under the name of "science," first at Oxford, then the centre of liberal
thought, and afterwards at Paris, in the rigid orthodoxy of whose
professors he found more to criticise than to admire. Whilst at Oxford
he joined the Franciscan Order, and at Paris he is said, though this
is probably an error, to have graduated as Doctor of Theology. During
1250-1256 we find him back in England, no doubt engaged in study and
teaching. About the latter year, however, he is said to have been
banished--on a charge of holding heterodox views and indulging in
magical practices--to Paris, where he was kept in close confinement and
forbidden to write. Mr LITTLE,(1) however, believes this to be an error,
based on a misreading of a passage in one of BACON'S works, and that
ROGER was not imprisoned, but stricken with sickness. At any rate it is
not improbable that some restrictions as to his writing were placed on
him by his superiors of the Franciscan Order. In 1266 BACON received a
letter from Pope CLEMENT asking him to send His Holiness his works in
writing without delay. This letter came as a most pleasant surprise to
BACON; but he had nothing of importance written, and in great haste
and excitement, therefore, he composed three works explicating his
philosophy, the _Opus Majus_, the _Opus Minus_, and the _Opus Tertium_,
which were completed and dispatched to the Pope by the end of the
following year. This, as Mr ROWBOTTOM remarks, is "surely one of the
literary feats of history, perhaps only surpassed by Swedenborg when he
wrote six theological and philosophical treatises in one year."(1b)

(1) See his contribution, "On Roger Bacon's Life and Works," to _Roger
Bacon Essays_.

(1b) B. R. ROWBOTTOM: "Roger Bacon," _The Journal of the Alchemical
Society_, vol. ii. (1914), p. 77.

The works appear to have been well received. We next find BACON at
Oxford writing his _Compendium Studii Philosophiae_, in which work he
indulged in some by no means unjust criticisms of the clergy, for which
he fell under the condemnation of his order, and was imprisoned in
1277 on a charge of teaching "suspected novelties". In those days any
knowledge of natural phenomena beyond that of the quasi-science of
the times was regarded as magic, and no doubt some of ROGER BACON'S
"suspected novelties" were of this nature; his recognition of the
value of the writings of non-Christian moralists was, no doubt, another
"suspected novelty". Appeals for his release directed to the Pope
proved fruitless, being frustrated by JEROME D'ASCOLI, General of the
Franciscan Order, who shortly afterwards succeeded to the Holy See under
the title of NICHOLAS IV. The latter died in 1292, whereupon RAYMOND
GAUFREDI, who had been elected General of the Franciscan Order, and
who, it is thought, was well disposed towards BACON, because of certain
alchemical secrets the latter had revealed to him, ordered his release.
BACON returned to Oxford, where he wrote his last work, the _Compendium
Studii Theologiae_. He died either in this year or in 1294.(1)

(1) For further details concerning BACON'S life, EMILE CHARLES: _Roger
Bacon, sa Vie, ses Ouvrages, ses Doctrines_ (1861); J. H. BRIDGES: _The
Life & Work of Roger Bacon, an Introduction to the Opus Majus_ (edited
by H. G. JONES, 1914); and Mr A. G. LITTLE'S essay in _Roger Bacon
Essays_, may be consulted.

It was not until the publication by Dr SAMUEL JEBB, in 1733, of the
greater part of BACON'S _Opus Majus_, nearly four and a half centuries
after his death, that anything like his rightful position in the history
of philosophy began to be assigned to him. But let his spirit be no
longer troubled, if it were ever troubled by neglect or slander, for the
world, and first and foremost his own country, has paid him due honour.
His septcentenary was duly celebrated in 1914 at his _alma mater_,
Oxford, his statue has there been raised as a memorial to his greatness,
and savants have meted out praise to him in no grudging tones.(2)
Indeed, a voice has here and there been heard depreciating his
better-known namesake FRANCIS,(3) so that the later luminary should not,
standing in the way, obscure the light of the earlier; though, for my
part, I would suggest that one need not be so one-eyed as to fail to see
both lights at once.

(2) See _Roger Bacon, Essays contributed by various Writers on the
Occasion of the Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of his Birth_.
Collected and edited by A. G. LITTLE (1914); also Sir J. E. SANDYS'
_Roger Bacon_ (from _The Proceedings of the British Association_, vol.
vi., 1914).

(3) For example, that of ERNST DUHRING. See an article entitled "The Two
Bacons," translated from his _Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie_ in
_The Open Court_ for August 1914.

To those who like to observe coincidences, it may be of interest that
the septcentenary of the discoverer of gunpowder should have coincided
with the outbreak of the greatest war under which the world has yet
groaned, even though gunpowder is no longer employed as a military

BACON'S reference to gunpowder occurs in his _Epistola de Secretis
Operibus Artis et Naturae, et de Nullitate Magiae_ (Hamburg, 1618) a
little tract written against magic, in which he endeavours to show, and
succeeds very well in the first eight chapters, that Nature and art can
perform far more extraordinary feats than are claimed by the workers
in the black art. The last three chapters are written in an alchemical
jargon of which even one versed in the symbolic language of alchemy can
make no sense. They are evidently cryptogramic, and probably deal with
the preparation and purification of saltpetre, which had only recently
been discovered as a distinct body.(1) In chapter xi. there is reference
to an explosive body, which can only be gunpowder; by means of it, says
BACON, you may, "if you know the trick, produce a bright flash and a
thundering noise." He mentions two of the ingredients, saltpetre and
sulphur, but conceals the third (_i.e_. charcoal) under an anagram.
Claims have, indeed, been put forth for the Greek, Arab, Hindu, and
Chinese origins of gunpowder, but a close examination of the original
ancient accounts purporting to contain references to gunpowder, shows
that only incendiary and not explosive bodies are really dealt with. But
whilst ROGER BACON knew of the explosive property of a mixture in right
proportions of sulphur, charcoal, and pure saltpetre (which he no doubt
accidentally hit upon whilst experimenting with the last-named body), he
was unaware of its projective power. That discovery, so detrimental
to the happiness of man ever since, was, in all probability, due to

(1) For an attempted explanation of this cryptogram, and evidence that
BACON was the discoverer of gunpowder, see Lieut.-Col. H. W. L. HIME'S
_Gunpowder and Ammunition: their Origin and Progress_ (1904).

ROGER BACON has been credited(1) with many other discoveries. In the
work already referred to he allows his imagination freely to speculate
as to the wonders that might be accomplished by a scientific utilisation
of Nature's forces--marvellous things with lenses, in bringing distant
objects near and so forth, carriages propelled by mechanical means,
flying machines...--but in no case is the word "discovery" in any
sense applicable, for not even in the case of the telescope does BACON
describe means by which his speculations might be realised.

(1) For instance by Mr M. M. P. MUIR. See his contribution, on "Roger
Bacon: His Relations to Alchemy and Chemistry," to _Roger Bacon Essays_.

On the other hand, ROGER BACON has often been maligned for his beliefs
in astrology and alchemy, but, as the late Dr BRIDGES (who was quite
sceptical of the claims of both) pointed out, not to have believed
in them in BACON'S day would have been rather an evidence of mental
weakness than otherwise. What relevant facts were known supported
alchemical and astrological hypotheses. Astrology, Dr BRIDGES writes,
"conformed to the first law of Comte's _philosophia prima_, as being the
best hypothesis of which ascertained phenomena admitted."(1) And in his
alchemical speculations BACON was much in advance of his contemporaries,
and stated problems which are amongst those of modern chemistry.

(1) _Op. cit_., p.84.

ROGER BACON'S greatness does not lie in the fact that he discovered
gunpowder, nor in the further fact that his speculations have been
validated by other men. His greatness lies in his secure grip of
scientific method as a combination of mathematical reasoning and
experiment. Men before him had experimented, but none seemed to have
realised the importance of the experimental method. Nor was he, of
course, by any means the first mathematician--there was a long line of
Greek and Arabian mathematicians behind him, men whose knowledge of the
science was in many cases much greater than his--or the most learned
mathematician of his day; but none realised the importance of
mathematics as an organon of scientific research as he did; and he was
assuredly the priest who joined mathematics to experiment in the bonds
of sacred matrimony. We must not, indeed, look for precise rules of
inductive reasoning in the works of this pioneer writer on scientific
method. Nor do we find really satisfactory rules of induction even in
the works of FRANCIS BACON. Moreover, the latter despised mathematics,
and it was not until in quite recent years that the scientific world
came to realise that ROGER'S method is the more fruitful--witness the
modern revolution in chemistry produced by the adoption of mathematical

ROGER BACON, it may be said, was many centuries in advance of his time;
but it is equally true that he was the child of his time; this may
account for his defects judged by modern standards. He owed not a little
to his contemporaries: for his knowledge and high estimate of philosophy
he was largely indebted to his Oxford master GROSSETESTE (_c_.
1175-1253), whilst PETER PEREGRINUS, his friend at Paris, fostered his
love of experiment, and the Arab mathematicians, whose works he knew,
inclined his mind to mathematical studies. He was violently opposed to
the scholastic views current in Paris at his time, and attacked great
thinkers like THOMAS AQUINAS (_c_. 1225-1274) and ALBERTUS MAGNUS
(1193-1280), as well as obscurantists, such as ALEXANDER of HALES (_ob_.
1245). But he himself was a scholastic philosopher, though of no servile
type, taking part in scholastic arguments. If he declared that he would
have all the works of ARISTOTLE burned, it was not because he hated
the Peripatetic's philosophy--though he could criticise as well as
appreciate at times,--but because of the rottenness of the translations
that were then used. It seems commonplace now, but it was a truly
wonderful thing then: ROGER BACON believed in accuracy, and was by no
means destitute of literary ethics. He believed in correct translation,
correct quotation, and the acknowledgment of the sources of one's
quotations--unheard-of things, almost, in those days. But even he was
not free from all the vices of his age: in spite of his insistence upon
experimental verification of the conclusions of deductive reasoning,
in one place, at least, he adopts a view concerning lenses from another
writer, of which the simplest attempt at such verification would have
revealed the falsity. For such lapses, however, we can make allowances.

Another and undeniable claim to greatness rests on ROGER BACON'S
broad-mindedness. He could actually value at their true worth the moral
philosophies of non-Christian writers--SENECA (_c_. 5 B.C.-A.D. 65) and
AL GHAZZALI (1058-1111), for instance. But if he was catholic in the
original meaning of that term, he was also catholic in its restricted
sense. He was no heretic: the Pope for him was the Vicar of CHRIST, whom
he wished to see reign over the whole world, not by force of arms,
but by the assimilation of all that was worthy in that world. To his
mind--and here he was certainly a child of his age, in its best sense,
perhaps--all other sciences were handmaidens to theology, queen of
them all. All were to be subservient to her aims: the Church he called
"Catholic" was to embrace in her arms all that was worthy in the works
of "profane" writers--true prophets of God, he held, in so far as
writing worthily they unconsciously bore testimony to the truth of
Christianity,--and all that Nature might yield by patient experiment and
speculation guided by mathematics. Some minds see in this a defect in
his system, which limited his aims and outlook; others see it as the
unifying principle giving coherence to the whole. At any rate, the
Church, as we have seen, regarded his views as dangerous, and restrained
his pen for at least a considerable portion of his life.

ROGER BACON may seem egotistic in argument, but his mind was humble to
learn. He was not superstitious, but he would listen to common folk who
worked with their hands, to astrologers, and even magicians, denying
nothing which seemed to him to have some evidence in experience: if he
denied much of magical belief, it was because he found it lacking in
such evidence. He often went astray in his views; he sometimes failed
to apply his own method, and that method was, in any case, primitive and
crude. But it was the RIGHT method, in embryo at least, and ROGER BACON,
in spite of tremendous opposition, greater than that under which any man
of science may now suffer, persisted in that method to the end, calling
upon his contemporaries to adopt it as the only one which results in
right knowledge. Across the centuries--or, rather, across the gulf that
divides this world from the next--let us salute this great and noble


THERE is an opinion, unfortunately very common, that religious mysticism
is a product of the emotional temperament, and is diametrically opposed
to the spirit of rationalism. No doubt this opinion is not without some
element of justification, and one could quote the works of not a few
religious mystics to the effect that self-surrender to God implies, not
merely a giving up of will, but also of reason. But that this teaching
is not an essential element in mysticism, that it is, indeed, rather its
perversion, there is adequate evidence to demonstrate. SWEDENBORG is,
I suppose, the outstanding instance of an intellectual mystic; but the
essential unity of mysticism and rationalism is almost as forcibly made
evident in the case of the Cambridge Platonists. That little band of
"Latitude men," as their contemporaries called them, constitutes one of
the finest schools of philosophy that England has produced; yet their
works are rarely read, I am afraid, save by specialists. Possibly,
however, if it were more commonly known what a wealth of sound
philosophy and true spiritual teaching they contain, the case would be

CULVERWEL, RALPH CUDWORTH, and HENRY MORE are the more outstanding
names--were educated as Puritans; but they clearly realised the
fundamental error of Puritanism, which tended to make a man's eternal
salvation depend upon the accuracy and extent of his beliefs; nor could
they approve of the exaggerated import given by the High Church party to
matters of Church polity. The term "Cambridge Platonists" is, perhaps,
less appropriate than that of "Latitudinarians," which latter name
emphasises their broad-mindedness (even if it carries with it something
of disapproval). For although they owed much to PTATO, and, perhaps,
more to PLOTINUS (_c_. A.D. 203-262), they were Christians first and
Platonists afterwards, and, with the exception, perhaps, of MORE, they
took nothing from these philosophers which was not conformable to the

BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE was born in 1609, at Whichcote Hall, in the parish of
Stoke, Shropshire. In 1626 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
then regarded as the chief Puritan college of the University. Here his
college tutor was ANTHONY TUCKNEY (1599-1670), a man of rare character,
combining learning, wit, and piety. Between WHICHCOTE and TUCKNEY there
grew up a firm friendship, founded on mutual affection and esteem. But
TUCKNEY was unable to agree with all WHICHCOTE'S broad-minded views
concerning reason and authority; and in later years this gave rise to
a controversy between them, in which TUCKNEY sought to controvert
WHICHCOTE'S opinions: it was, however, carried on without acrimony, and
did not destroy their friendship.

WHICHCOTE became M.A., and was elected a fellow of his college, in 1633,
having obtained his B.A. four years previously. He was ordained by
JOHN WILLIAMS in 1636, and received the important appointment of Sunday
afternoon lecturer at Trinity Church. His lectures, which he gave with
the object of turning men's minds from polemics to the great moral and
spiritual realities at the basis of the Christian religion, from mere
formal discussions to a true searching into the reason of things, were
well attended and highly appreciated; and he held the appointment for
twenty years. In 1634 he became college tutor at Emmanuel. He possessed
all the characteristics that go to make up an efficient and well-beloved
tutor, and his personal influence was such as to inspire all his
pupils, amongst whom were both JOHN SMITH and NATHANAEL CULVERWEL, who
considerably amplified his philosophical and religious doctrines. In
1640 he became B.D., and nine years after was created D.D. The college
living of North Cadbury, in Somerset, was presented to him in 1643,
and shortly afterwards he married. In the next year, however, he was
recalled to Cambridge, and installed as Provost of King's College in
place of the ejected Dr SAMUEL COLLINS. But it was greatly against his
wish that he received the appointment, and he only consented to do so on
the condition that part of his stipend should be paid to COLLINS--an act
which gives us a good insight into the character of the man. In 1650 he
resigned North Cadbury, and the living was presented to CUDWORTH (see
below), and towards the end of this year he was elected Vice-Chancellor
of the University in succession to TUCKNEY. It was during his
Vice-Chancellorship that he preached the sermon that gave rise to the
controversy with the latter. About this time also he was presented
with the living of Milton, in Cambridgeshire. At the Restoration he
was ejected from the Provostship, but, having complied with the Act
of Uniformity, he was, in 1662, appointed to the cure of St Anne's,
Blackfriars. This church being destroyed in the Great Fire, WHICHCOTE
retired to Milton, where he showed great kindness to the poor. But some
years later he returned to London, having received the vicarage of St
Lawrence, Jewry. His friends at Cambridge, however, still saw him on
occasional visits, and it was on one such visit to CUDWORTH, in 1683,
that he caught the cold which caused his death.

JOHN SMITH was born at Achurch, near Oundle, in 1618. He entered
Emmanuel College in 1636, became B.A. in 1640, and proceeded to M.A. in
1644, in which year he was appointed a fellow of Queen's College. Here
he lectured on arithmetic with considerable success. He was noted for
his great learning, especially in theology and Oriental languages,
as well as for his justness, uprightness, and humility. He died of
consumption in 1652.

NATHANAEL CULVERWEL was probably born about the same year as SMITH. He
entered Emmanuel College in 1633, gained his B.A. in 1636, and became
M.A. in 1640. Soon afterwards he was elected a fellow of his college.
He died about 1651. Beyond these scant details, nothing is known of his
life. He was a man of very great erudition, as his posthumous treatise
on _The Light of Nature_ makes evident.

HENRY MORE was born at Grantham in 1614. From his earliest days he
was interested in theological problems, and his precociousness in this
respect appears to have brought down on him the wrath of an uncle.
His early education was conducted at Eton. In 1631 he entered Christ's
College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. in 1635, and received his M.A.
in 1639. In the latter year he was elected a fellow of Christ's and
received Holy Orders. He lived a very retired life, refusing all
preferment, though many valuable and honourable appointments were
offered to him. Indeed, he rarely left Christ's, except to visit
his "heroine pupil," Lady CONWAY, whose country seat, Ragley, was in
Warwickshire. Lady CONWAY (_ob_. 1679) appears to be remembered only for
the fact that, dying whilst her husband was away, her physician, F. M.
VAN HELMONT (1618-1699) (son of the famous alchemist, J. B. VAN HELMONT,
whom we have met already on these excursions), preserved her body in
spirits of wine, so that he could have the pleasure of beholding it on
his return. She seems to have been a woman of considerable learning,
though not free from fantastic ideas. Her ultimate conversion to
Quakerism was a severe blow to MORE, who, whilst admiring the holy lives
of the Friends, regarded them as enthusiasts. MORE died in 1687.

MORE'S earliest works were in verse, and exhibit fine feeling. The
following lines, quoted from a poem on "Charitie and Humilitie," are
full of charm, and well exhibit MORE'S character:--

     "Farre have I clambred in my mind
     But nought so great as love I find:
     Deep-searching wit, mount-moving might,
     Are nought compar'd to that great spright.
     Life of Delight and soul of blisse!
     Sure source of lasting happinesse!
     Higher than Heaven! lower than hell!
     What is thy tent? Where maist thou dwell?
         My mansion highs humilitie,
     Heaven's vastest capabilitie
     The further it doth downward tend
     The higher up it doth ascend;
     If it go down to utmost nought
     It shall return with that it sought."(1)

(1) See _The Life of the Learned and Pious Dr Henry More... by_ RICHARD
WARD, A.M., _to which are annexed Divers Philosophical Poems and Hymns_.
Edited by M. F. HOWARD (1911), pp. 250 and 251.

Later he took to prose, and it must be confessed that he wrote too much
and frequently descended to polemics (for example, his controversy
with the alchemist THOMAS VAUGHAN, in which both combatants freely used

Although in his main views MORE is thoroughly characteristic of the
school to which he belonged, many of his less important opinions are
more or less peculiar to himself.

The relation between MORE's and DESCARTES' (1596-1650) theories as to
the nature of spirit is interesting. When MORE first read DESCARTES'
works he was favourably impressed with his views, though without
entirely agreeing with him on all points; but later the difference
became accentuated. DESCARTES regarded extension as the chief
characteristic of matter, and asserted that spirit was extra-spatial. To
MORE this seemed like denying the existence of spirit, which he regarded
as extended, and he postulated divisibility and impenetrability as the
chief characteristics of matter. In order, however, to get over some of
the inherent difficulties of this view, he put forward the suggestion
that spirit is extended in four dimensions: thus, its apparent (_i.e_.
three-dimensional) extension can change, whilst its true (_i.e_.
four-dimensional) extension remains constant; just as the surface of a
piece of metal can be increased by hammering it out, without increasing
the volume of the metal. Here, I think, we have a not wholly inadequate
symbol of the truth; but it remained for BERKELEY  (1685-1753) to show
 position, by demonstrating that, since space and extension are
perceptions of the mind, and thus exist only in the mind as ideas, space
exists in spirit: not spirit in space.

MORE was a keen believer in witchcraft, and eagerly investigated all
cases of these and like marvels that came under his notice. In this
he was largely influenced by JOSEPH GLANVIL (1636-1680), whose book
on witchcraft, the well-known _Saducismus Triumphatus_, MORE largely
contributed to, and probably edited. MORE was wholly unsuited for
psychical research; free from guile himself, he was too inclined
to judge others to be of this nature also. But his common sense and
critical attitude towards enthusiasm saved him, no doubt, from many
falls into the mire of fantasy.

As Principal TULLOCH has pointed out, whilst MORE is the most
interesting personality amongst the Cambridge Platonists, his works
are the least interesting of those of his school. They are dull and
scholastic, and MORE'S retired existence prevented him from grasping in
their fulness some of the more acute problems of life. His attempt to
harmonise catastrophes with Providence, on the ground that the evil of
certain parts may be necessary for the good of the whole, just as dark
colours, as well as bright, are essential to the beauty of a
picture--a theory which is practically the same as that of modern
Absolutism,(1)--is a case in point. No doubt this harmony may be
accomplished, but in another key.

(1) Cf. BERNARD BOSANQUET, LL.D., D.C.L.: _The Principle of
Individuality and Value_ (1912).

RALPH CUDWORTH was born at Aller, in Somersetshire, in 1617. He entered
Emmanuel College in 1632, three years afterwards gained his B.A., and
became M.A. in 1639. In the latter year he was elected a fellow of his
college. Later he obtained the B.D. degree. In 1645 he was appointed
Master of Clare Hall, in place of the ejected Dr PASHE, and was elected
Regius Professor of Hebrew. On 31st March 1647 he preached a sermon
of remarkable eloquence and power before the House of Commons, which
admirably expresses the attitude of his school as concerns the nature
of true religion. I shall refer to it again later. In 1650 CUDWORTH was
presented with the college living of North Cadbury, which WHICHCOTE
had resigned, and was made D.D. in the following year. In 1654 he was
elected Master of Christ's College, with an improvement in his financial
position, there having been some difficulty in obtaining his stipend at
Clare Hall. In this year he married. In 1662 Bishop SHELDON presented
him with the rectory of Ashwell, in Hertfordshire. He died in 1688. He
was a pious man of fine intellect; but his character was marred by a
certain suspiciousness which caused him wrongfully to accuse MORE, in
1665, of attempting to forestall him in writing a work on ethics, which
should demonstrate that the principles of Christian morality are not
based on any arbitrary decrees of God, but are inherent in the nature
and reason of things. CUDWORTH'S great work--or, at least, the first
part, which alone was completed,--_The Intellectual System of the
World_, appeared in 1678. In it CUDWORTH deals with atheism on
the ground of reason, demonstrating its irrationality. The book is
remarkable for the fairness and fulness with which CUDWORTH states the
arguments in favour of atheism.

So much for the lives and individual characteristics of the Cambridge
Platonists: what were the great principles that animated both their
lives and their philosophy? These, I think, were two: first, the
essential unity of religion and morality; second, the essential unity of
revelation and reason.

With clearer perception of ethical truth than either Puritan or High
Churchman, the Cambridge Platonists saw that true Christianity is
neither a matter of mere belief, nor consists in the mere performance
of good works; but is rather a matter of character. To them Christianity
connoted regeneration. "Religion," says WHICHCOTE, "is the Frame and
TEMPER of our Minds, and the RULE of our Lives"; and again, "Heaven is
FIRST a Temper, and THEN a Place."(1) To the man of heavenly temper,
they taught, the performance of good works would be no irksome matter
imposed merely by a sense of duty, but would be done spontaneously as a
delight. To drudge in religion may very well be necessary as an initial
stage, but it is not its perfection.

(1) My quotations from WHICHCOTE and SMITH are taken from the selection
of their discourses edited by E. T. CAMPAGNAC, M.A. (1901).

In his sermon before the House of Commons, CUDWORTH well exposes
the error of those who made the mere holding of certain beliefs the
essential element in Christianity. There are many passages I should like
to quote from this eloquent discourse, but the following must suffice:
"We must not judge of our knowing of Christ, by our skill in Books
and Papers, but by our keeping of his Commandments... He is the best
Christian, whose heart beats with the truest pulse towards heaven; not
he whose head spinneth out the finest cobwebs. He that endeavours really
to mortifie his lusts, and to comply with that truth in his life, which
his Conscience is convinced of; is neerer a Christian, though he never
heard of Christ; then he that believes all the vulgar Articles of the
Christian faith, and plainly denyeth Christ in his life.... The great
Mysterie of the Gospel, it doth not lie only in CHRIST WITHOUT US,
(though we must know also what he hath done for us) but the very Pith
and Kernel of it, consists in _*Christ inwardly formed_ in our hearts.
Nothing is truly Ours, but what lives in our Spirits. SALVATION it self
cannot SAVE us, as long as it is onely without us; no more then HEALTH
can cure us, and make us sound, when it is not within us, but somewhere
at distance from us; no more than _Arts and Sciences_, whilst they lie
onely in Books and Papers without us; can make us learned."(1)

(1) RALPH CUDWORTH, B.D.: _A Sermon Preached before the Honourable House
of Commons at Westminster, Mar_. 31, 1647 (1st edn.), pp. 3, 14, 42, and

The Cambridge Platonists were not ascetics; their moral doctrine was one
of temperance. Their sound wisdom on this point is well evident in
the following passage from WHICHCOTE: "What can be alledged for
Intemperance; since Nature is content with very few things? Why should
any one over-do in this kind? A Man is better in Health and Strength, if
he be temperate. We enjoy ourselves more in a sober and temperate Use of

(2) BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE: _The Venerable Nature and Transcendant Benefit
of Christian Religion. Op. cit_., p. 40.

The other great principle animating their philosophy was, as I have
said, the essential unity of reason and revelation. To those who argued
that self-surrender implied a giving up of reason, they replied that "To
go against REASON, is to go against GOD: it is the self same thing, to
do that which the Reason of the Case doth require; and that which God
Himself doth appoint: Reason is the DIVINE Governor of Man's Life; it
is the very Voice of God."(3) Reason, Conscience, and the Scriptures,
these, taught the Cambridge Platonists, testify of one another and are
the true guides which alone a man should follow. All other authority
they repudiated. But true reason is not merely sensuous, and the only
way whereby it may be gained is by the purification of the self from the
desires that draw it away from the Source of all Reason. "God," writes
MORE, "reserves His choicest secrets for the purest Minds," adding his
conviction that "true Holiness (is) the only safe Entrance into Divine
Knowledge." Or as SMITH, who speaks of "a GOOD LIFE as the PROLEPSIS and
Fundamental principle of DIVINE SCIENCE," puts it, "... if... KNOWLEDGE
be not attended with HUMILITY and a deep sense of SELF-PENURY and
_*Self-emptiness_, we may easily fall short of that True Knowledge of
God which we seem to aspire after."(1b) Right Reason, however, they
taught, is the product of the sight of the soul, the true mystic vision.

(3) BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE: _Moral and Religious Aphorisms OP. cit_., p. 67.

(1b) JOHN SMITH: _A Discourse concerning the true Way or Method of
attaining to Divine Knowledge. Op. cit_., pp. 80 and 96.

In what respects, it may be asked in conclusion, is the philosophy of
the Cambridge Platonists open to criticism? They lacked, perhaps, a
sufficiently clear concept of the Church as a unity, and although they
clearly realised that Nature is a symbol which it is the function of
reason to interpret spiritually, they failed, I think, to appreciate
the value of symbols. Thus they have little to teach with respect to the
Sacraments of the Church, though, indeed, the highest view, perhaps,
is that which regards every act as potentially a sacrament; and, whilst
admiring his morality, they criticised BOEHME as an enthusiast. But,
although he spoke in a very different language, spiritually he had much
in common with them. Compared with what is of positive value in their
philosophy, however, the defects of the Cambridge Platonists are but
comparatively slight. I commend their works to lovers of spiritual

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