Apparitions of Men still alive, to other living Men, absent, and very distant from each other

 [This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010.  Copyright as such.]

Mirandola

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued


 

       

 

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