[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
We cannot reasonably dispute the truth of these ecstatic trances, the elevations of the body of some saints to a certain distance from the ground, since these circumstances are supported by so many witnesses. To apply this to the matter we here treat of, might it not be said that sorcerers and witches, by the operation of the demon, and with God's permission, by the help of a lively and subtle temperament, are rendered light and rise into the air, where their heated imagination and prepossessed mind lead them to believe that they have done, seen, and heard, what has no reality except in their own brain?
I shall be told that the parallel I make between the actions of saints, which can only be attributed to angels and the operation of the Holy Spirit, or to the fervor of their charity and devotion, with what happens to wizards and witches, is injurious and odious. I know how to make a proper distinction between them: do not the books of the Old and New Testament place in parallel lines the true miracles of Moses with those of the magicians of Pharaoh; those of antichrist and his subordinates with those of the saints and apostles; and does not St. Paul inform us that the angel of darkness often transforms himself into an angel of light?
In the first edition of this work, we spoke very fully of certain persons, who boast of having what they call "the garter," and by that means are able to perform with extraordinary quickness, in a very few hours, what would naturally take them several days journeying. Almost incredible things are related on that subject; nevertheless, the details are so circumstantial, that it is hardly possible there should not be some foundation for them; and the demon may transport these people in a forced and violent manner which causes them a fatigue similar to what they would have suffered, had they really performed the journey with more than ordinary rapidity.
For instance, the two circumstances related by Torquemada: the first of a poor scholar of his acquaintance, a clever man, who at last rose to be physician to Charles V.; when studying at Guadeloupe, was invited by a traveler who wore the garb of a monk, and to whom he had rendered some little service, to mount up behind him on his horse, which seemed a sorry animal and much tired; he got up and rode all night, without perceiving that he went at an extraordinary pace, but in the morning he found himself near the city of Granada; the young man went into the town, but the conductor passed onwards.
Another time, the father of a young man, known to the same Torquemada, and the young man himself, were going together to Granada, and passing through the village of Almeda, met a man on horseback like themselves and going the same way; after having traveled two or three leagues together, they halted, and the cavalier spread his cloak on the grass, so that there was no crease in the mantle; they all placed what provisions they had with them on this extended cloak, and let their horses graze. They drank and ate very leisurely, and having told their servants to bring their horses, the cavalier said to them, "Gentlemen, do not hurry, you will reach the town early"—at the same time he showed them Granada, at not a quarter of an hour's distance from thence.
Something equally marvelous is said of a canon of the cathedral of Beauvais. The chapter of that church had been charged for a long time to acquit itself of a certain personal duty to the Church of Rome; the canons having chosen one of their brethren to repair to Rome for this purpose, the canon deferred his departure from day to day, and set off after matins on Christmas day—arrived that same day at Rome, acquitted himself there of his commission, and came back from thence with the same dispatch, bringing with him the original of the bond, which obliged the canons to send one of their body to make this offering in person. However fabulous and incredible this story may appear, it is asserted that there are authentic proofs of it in the archives of the cathedral; and that upon the tomb of the canon in question may still be seen the figures of demons engraved at the four corners in memory of this event. They even affirm that the celebrated Father Mabillon saw the authentic voucher.
Now, if this circumstance and the others like it are not absolutely fabulous, we cannot deny that they are the effects of magic, and the work of the evil spirit.
Peter, the venerable Abbot of Cluny, relates so extraordinary a thing which happened in his time, that I should not repeat it here, had it not been seen by the whole town of Mâcon. The count of that town, a very violent man, exercised a kind of tyranny over the ecclesiastics, and against whatever belonged to them, without troubling himself either to conceal his violence, or to find a pretext for it; he carried it on with a high hand and gloried in it. One day, when he was sitting in his palace in company with several nobles and others, they beheld an unknown person enter on horseback, who advanced to the count and desired him to follow him. The count rose and followed him, and having reached the door, he found there a horse ready caparisoned; he mounts it, and is immediately carried up into the air, crying out, in a terrible tone to those who were present, "Here, help me!" All the town ran out at the noise, but they soon lost sight of him; and no doubt was entertained that the devil had flown away with him to be the companion of his tortures, and to bear the pain of his excesses and his violence.
It is, then, not absolutely impossible that a person may be raised into the air and transported to some very high and distant place, by order or by permission of God, by good or evil spirits; but we must own that the thing is of rare occurrence, and that in all that is related of sorcerers and witches, and their assembling at the witches' sabbath, there is an infinity of stories, which are false, absurd, ridiculous, and even destitute of probability. M. Remi, attorney-general of Lorraine, author of a celebrated work entitled Demonology, who tried a great number of sorcerers and sorceresses, with which Lorraine was then infested, produces hardly any proof whence we can infer the truth and reality of witchcraft, and of wizards and witches being transported to the sabbath.
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