Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

monks, nuns, &c., we find a resemblance between that which we may perceive and such tales. A man is influenced by the second judgment, and he takes what he has perceived for a true apparition. Imagination then heats him ; intense and terrible images present themselves to his mind; the circulation of the blood is deranged, and he is affected with a frightful agitation. It is impossible to resist a fancy which, when it begins to wander, gives to simple ideas such a degree of force and clearness, that we take them for real sensations. A man may thus

persuade himself that he has seen and heard things which have only existed in his own head.”*

* This opinion is adverted to in M. Meyer's Treatise, to which I have in another place alluded.

CHAPTER IX.

THE DEVIL SUPPOSED TO BE A CAUSE OF GHOSTS.

Movet phantasiam et ita cbfirmat vanis conceptibus.

AUSTIN. DE VIT. BEAT.

All metaphysical, all physiological, and all chemical opinions, having been, by various philosophers, considered as perfectly inadequate to the explanation of ghosts, it was asked, why the existence of them should not arise from the direct agency of the devil himself?

Some pneumatologists maintained that the devil was a slender and an incomprehensible spirit, who reigned in a thousand shapes, and, consequently, might assume, if such were his pleasure, the form of an angel. They taught that unclean spirits insinuating themselves in the body, and mingling in its humours, sported there with as much glee as if they had been inhaling the brightest region of the stars ;that they go in and out of the body as bees do in a hive ;--and hence that melancholy persons are most subject to diabolical temptations. To this doctrine, taught by the learned clerkes of the 16th and 17th century, Hamlet evidently alludes, when he conceives that it might have been "a damned ghost" which he

had seen, or the result of some diabolical art operating through the medium of his fantasie or imagination

-“ The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape ; yea, and, perhaps,
Out of my weakness, and my melancholy,
(As he is very potent with such spirits,)
Abuses me to damn me.”

Accordingly the regular plot of the drama turns upon the test to which the veracity of the apparition is submitted. The trial is satisfactory, and Hamlet declares that he will “ take the ghost's word for a thousand pound.”

Such were the views which never failed at one time to excite the suspicion of persons labouring under spectral impressions; and it is painful to contemplate them as they arose in the minds of many eminent individuals, among whom was Martin Luther. This astonishing man was evidently affected by some organic disease, owing to which, as well as to the extraordinary intellectual exertions to which his mind was stimulated during the progress of his wonderful work of reform, the usual state of his thought appears to have been at intervals materially disturbed. In the true spirit of the times, he contemplated his zealous labours as opposed to the works of the devil, and was particularly inclined to attribute the illusions under which he laboured to the machinations of evil spirits. One anecdote to this effect I find thus stated : “ Luther has related of himself, that being

D

at prayer, contemplating how Christ hung on the cross and suffered for his sins, there appeared suddenly on the wall a bright shining vision, and therein appeared also a glorious form of our Saviour Christ, with his five wounds, steadfastly looking upon him, as if it had been Christ himself corporally. Now at the first sight he thought it had been some good revelation, yet presently recollected himself, and apprehending some juggling of the devil, (for Christ, as Luther says, appeareth unto us in his word, and in a meaner and more humble form, even as he was humbled on the cross for us,) therefore, said he, I spake to the vision in this manner : ' Away, thou unfounded devil, I know no other Christ than he that was crucified, and who, in his word, is pictured and preached to me;" whereupon the image vanished, which was the very devil himself.”

The devil was also supposed to occasionally induce illusion by self-transformation, as the following curious story, to be found in Captain Bell's Table-talk of Luther, sufficiently shews :

A gentleman had a fine young wife, who died, and was also buried. Not long after, the gentleman and his servant lying together in one chamber, his dead wife, in the night-time, approached into the chamber, and leaned herself upon the gentleman's bed, like as if she had been desirous to speak with him. The servant (seeing the same two or three nights, one after another), asked his master whether he knew, that every night a woman in white apparel came into his bed ? The gentleman said, “No, I sleep soundly (said he), and see nothing. When

night approached, the gentleman, considering the same, laid waking in bed. Then the woman appeared unto him, and came hard to his bed-side. The gentleman demanded who she was ? She answered, 'I am your wife.' He said, “My wife is dead and buried.' She said, 'True, by reason of your swearing and sins I died; but if you would take me again, and would also abstain from swearing one particular oath, which commonly you use, then would I be your wife again.' He said, 'I am content to perform whåt you

desire.' Whereupon his dead wife remained with him, ruled his house, laid with him, ate and drank with him, and had children together. Now it fell out, that on a time the gentleman had guests, and his wife, after supper, was to fetch out of his chest some banquetingstuff; she staying somewhat long, her husband (forgetting himself), was moved thereby to swear his accustomed oath ; whereupon the woman vanished that instant. Now seeing she returned not again, they went up unto the chamber to see what was become of her. There they found the gown which she wore, half lying within the chest, and half without

; but she was never seen afterwards. " This did the devil,' said Luther): he can transform himself into the shape of a man or woman.'

King James conceived, that the wraiths or simulacra of the Scottish Highlands were attributable to the devil. The following dialogue appears in his Demonology

Phi. And what meane these kind of spirits, when they appeare in the shadow of a person newly dead, or to die, to his friends ?

Epi. When they appeare upon that occasion, they are called

« AnteriorContinuar »