Reply to the Objections to the Reality of Magic

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


I allow that there is indeed very often a great deal of illusion, prepossession, and imagination in all that is termed magic and sorcery; and sometimes the devil by false appearances combines with them to deceive the simple; but oftener, without the evil spirit being any otherwise a party to it, wicked, corrupt, and interested men, artful and deceptive, abuse the simplicity both of men and women, so far as to persuade them that they possess supernatural secrets for interpreting dreams and foretelling things to come, for curing maladies, and discovering secrets unknown to any one. I can easily agree to all that. All kinds of histories are full of facts which demonstrate what I have just said. The devil has a thousand things imputed to him in which he has no share; they give him the honor of predictions, revelations, secrets, and discoveries, which are by no means the effect of his power, or penetration; as in the same manner he is accused of having caused all sorts of evils, tempests, and maladies, which are purely the effect of natural but unknown causes.

It is very true that there are really many persons who are persuaded of the power of the devil, of his influence over an infinite number of things, and of the effects which they attribute to him; that they have consulted him to learn future events, or to discover hidden things; that they have addressed themselves to him for success in their projects, for money, or favor, or to enjoy their criminal pleasures. All this is very real. Magic, then, is not a simple chimera, since so many persons are infatuated with the power of charms and convicted of holding commerce with the devil, to procure a number of effects which pass for supernatural. Now it is the folly, the vain credulity, the prepossession of such people that the law of God interdicts, that Moses condemns to death, and that the Christian Church punishes by its censures, and which the secular judges repress with the greatest rigor. If in all these things there was nothing but a diseased imagination, weakness of the brain, or popular prejudices, would they be treated with so much severity? Do we put to death hypochondriacs, maniacs, or those who imagine themselves ill? No; they are treated with compassion, and every effort is made to cure them. But in the other case it is impiety, or superstition, or vice in those who consult, or believe they consult, the devil, and place their confidence in him, against which the laws are put in force and ordain chastisement.

Even if we could deny and contest the reality of augurs, diviners, and magicians, and look on all these kind of persons as seducers, who abuse the simplicity of those who betake themselves to them, could we deny the reality of the magicians of Pharaoh, that of Simon, of Bar-Jesus, of the Pythoness of the Acts of the Apostles? Did not the first-mentioned perform many wonders before Pharaoh? Did not Simon the magician rise into the air by means of the devil? Did not St. Paul impose silence on the Pythoness of the city of Philippi in Macedonia? Will it be said that there was any collusion between St. Paul and the Pythoness? Nothing of the kind can be maintained by any reasonable argument.

A small volume was published at Paris, in 1732, by a new author, who conceals himself under the two initials M. D.; it is entitled, Treatise on Magic, Witchcraft, Possessions, Obsessions and Charms; in which their truth and reality are demonstrated. He shows that he believes there are magicians; he shows by Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, and by the authority of the ancient fathers, some passages from whose works are cited in that of Father Debrio, entitled Disquisitiones Magicæ. He proves it by the rituals of all the dioceses, and by the examinations which are found in the printed "Hours," wherein they suppose the existence of sorcerers and magicians.

The civil laws of the emperors, whether pagan or Christian, those of the kings of France, both ancient and modern, jurisconsult, physicians, historians both sacred and profane, concur in maintaining this truth. In all kinds of writers we may remark an infinity of stories of magic, spells and sorcery. The Parliaments of France, and the tribunals of justice in other nations, have recognized magicians, the pernicious effects of their art, and condemned them personally to the most rigorous punishments.

He relates at full length the remonstrances made to King Louis XIV., in 1670, by the Parliament at Rouen, to prove to that monarch that it was not only the Parliament of Rouen, but also all the other Parliaments of the kingdom, which followed the same rules of jurisprudence in what concerns magic and sorcery; that they acknowledged the existence of such things and condemn them. This author cites several facts, and several sentences given on this matter in the Parliaments of Paris, Aix, Toulouse, Rennes, Dijon, &c. &c.; and it was upon these remonstrances that the same king, in 1682, made his declaration concerning the punishment of various crimes, and in particular of sorcery, diviners or soothsayers, magicians, and similar crimes.

He also cites the treaty of M. de la Marre, commissary at the châtelet of Paris, who speaks largely of magic, and proves its reality, origin, progress, and effects. Would it be possible that the sacred authors, laws divine and human, the greatest men of antiquity, jurisconsults, the most enlightened historians, bishops in their councils, the Church in her decisions, her practices and prayers, should have conspired to deceive us, and to condemn those who practice magic, sorcery, spells, and crimes of the same nature, to death, and the most rigorous punishments, if they were merely illusive, and the effect only of a diseased and prejudiced imagination? Father le Brun, of the Oratoire, who has written so well upon the subject of superstitions, substantiates the fact that the Parliament of Paris recognizes that there are sorcerers, and that it punishes them severely when they are convicted. He proves it by a decree issued in 1601 against some inhabitants of Campagne accused of witchcraft. The decree wills that they shall be sent to the Conciergerie by the subaltern judges on pain of being deprived of their charge. It supposes that they must be rigorously punished, but it desires that the proceedings against them for their discovery and punishment may be exact and regular.

M. Servin, advocate-general and councilor of state, fully proves from the Old and New Testament, from tradition, laws and history, that there are diviners, enchanters, and sorcerers, and refutes those who would maintain the contrary. He shows that magicians and those who make use of charms, ought to be punished and held in execration; but he adds that no punishment must be inflicted till after certain and evident proofs have been obtained; and this is what must be strictly attended to by the Parliament of Paris, for fear of punishing madmen for guilty persons, and taking illusions for realities.

The Parliament leaves it to the Church to inflict excommunication, both on men and women who have recourse to charms, and who believe they go in the night to nocturnal assemblies, there to pay homage to the devil. The Capitularies of the kings recommend the pastors to instruct the faithful on the subject of what is termed the Sabbath; at any rate they do not command that these persons should receive corporeal punishment, but only that they should be undeceived and prevented from misleading others in the same manner.

And there the Parliament stops, so long as the case goes no farther than simply misleading; but when it goes so far as to injure others, the kings have often commanded the judges to punish these persons with fines and banishment. The Ordinances of Charles VIII. in 1490, and of Charles IX. in the States of Orleans in 1560, express themselves formally on this point, and they were renewed by King Louis XIV. in 1682. The third article of these Ordinances bears, that if it should happen "there were persons to be found wicked enough to add impiety and sacrilege to superstition, those who shall be convicted of these crimes shall be punished with death."

When, therefore, it is evident that some person has inflicted injury on his neighbor by malpractices, the Parliament punishes them rigorously, even to the pain of death, conformably to the ancient Capitularies of the kingdom, and the royal Ordinances. Bodin, who wrote in 1680, has collected a great number of decrees, to which may be added those which the reverend Father le Brun reports, given since that time.

He afterwards relates a remarkable instance of a man named Hocque, who was condemned to the galleys, the 2d of September, 1687, by sentence of the High Court of Justice at Passy, for having made use of malpractices towards animals, and having thus killed a great number in Champagne. Hocque died suddenly, miserably, and in despair, after having discovered, when drunken with wine, to a person named Beatrice, the secret which he made use of to kill the cattle; he was not ignorant that the demon would cause his death to revenge the discovery which he had made of this spell.

Some of the accomplices of this wretched man were condemned to the galleys by divers decrees; others were condemned to be hanged and burnt, by order of the Baillé of Passy, the 26th of October, 1691, which sentence was confirmed by decree of the Parliament of Paris, the 18th of December, 1691. From all which we deduce that the Parliament of Paris acknowledges that the spells by which people do injury to their neighbors ought to be rigorously punished; that the devil has very extensive power, which he too often exercises over men and animals, and that he would exercise it oftener, and with greater extension and fury, if he were not limited and hindered by the power of God, and that of good angels, who set bounds to his malice. St Paul warns us to put on the armor of God, to be able to resist the snares of the devil: for, adds he, "we have not to war against flesh and blood: but against princes and powers, against the bad spirits who govern this dark world, against the spirits of malice who reign in the air."




©  D J McAdam.  Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission. 



DJ McAdam

Home | Book Collecting | Folklore / Myth | Philately | Playing Cards | Literature | Contents