[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850.]
As soon as we admit it as a principle that angels and demons are purely spiritual substances, we must consider, not only as chimerical but also as impossible, all personal intercourse between a demon and a man, or a woman, and consequently regard as the effect of a depraved or deranged imagination all that is related of demons, whether incubi or succubi, and of the ephialtes of which such strange tales are told.
The author of the Book of Enoch, which is cited by the fathers, and regarded as canonical Scripture by some ancient writers, has taken occasion, from these words of Moses, "The children of God, seeing the daughters of men, who were of extraordinary beauty, took them for wives, and begat the giants of them," of setting forth that the angels, smitten with love for the daughters of men, wedded them, and had by them children, which are those giants so famous in antiquity. Some of the ancient fathers have thought that this irregular love of the angels was the cause of their fall, and that till then they had remained in the just and due subordination which they owed to their Creator.
It appears from Josephus that the Jews of his day seriously believed that the angels were subject to these weaknesses like men. St. Justin Martyr thought that the demons were the fruit of this commerce of the angels with the daughters of men.
But these ideas are now almost entirely given up, especially since the belief in the spirituality of angels and demons has been adopted. Commentators and the fathers have generally explained the passage in Genesis which we have quoted as relating to the children of Seth, to whom the Scripture gives the name of children of God, to distinguish them from the sons of Cain, who were the fathers of those here called the daughters of men. The race of Seth having then formed alliances with the race of Cain, by means of those marriages before alluded to, there proceeded from these unions powerful, violent, and impious men, who drew down upon the earth the terrible effects of God's wrath, which burst forth at the universal deluge.
Thus, then, these marriages between the children of God and the daughters of men have no relation to the question we are here treating; what we have to examine is—if the demon can have personal commerce with man or woman, and if what is said on that subject can be connected with the apparitions of evil spirits amongst mankind, which is the principal object of this dissertation.
I will give some instances of those persons who have believed that they held such intercourse with the demon. Torquemada relates, in a detailed manner, what happened in his time, and to his knowledge, in the town of Cagliari, in Sardinia, to a young lady, who suffered herself to be corrupted by the demon; and having been arrested by the Inquisition, she suffered the penalty of the flames, in the mad hope that her pretended lover would come and deliver her.
In the same place he speaks of a young girl who was sought in marriage by a gentleman of good family; when the devil assumed the form of this young man, associated with the young lady for several months, made her promises of marriage, and took advantage of her. She was only undeceived when the young lord who sought her in marriage informed her that he was absent from town, and more than fifty leagues off, the day that the promise in question had been given, and that he never had the slightest knowledge of it. The young girl, thus disabused, retired into a convent, and did penance for her double crime.
We read in the life of St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, that a woman of Nantes, in Brittany, saw, or thought she saw the demon every night, even when lying by her husband. She remained six years in this state; at the end of that period, having her disorderly life in horror, she confessed herself to a priest, and by his advice began to perform several acts of piety, as much to obtain pardon for her crime as to deliver herself from her abominable lover. But when the husband of this woman was informed of the circumstance, he left her, and would never see her again.
This unhappy woman was informed by the devil himself that St. Bernard would soon come to Nantes, but she must mind not to speak to him, for this abbot could by no means assist her; and if she did speak to him, it would be a great misfortune to her; and that from being her lover, he who warned her of it would become her most ardent persecutor.
The saint reassured this woman, and desired her to make the sign of the cross on herself on going to bed, and to place next her in the bed the staff which he gave her. "If the demon comes," said he, "let him do what he can." The demon came; but, without daring to approach the bed, he threatened the woman greatly, and told her that after the departure of St. Bernard he would come again to torment her.
On the following Sunday, St. Bernard repaired to the Cathedral church, with the Bishop of Nantes and the Bishop of Chartres, and having caused lighted tapers to be given to all the people, who had assembled in a great crowd, the saint, after having publicly related the abominable action of the demon, exorcised and anathematized the evil spirit, and forbade him, by the authority of Jesus Christ, ever again to approach that woman, or any other. Everybody extinguished their tapers, and the power of the demon was annihilated.
This example and the two preceding ones, related in so circumstantial a manner, might make us believe that there is some reality in what is said of demons incubi and succubi; but if we deeply examine the facts, we shall find that an imagination strongly possessed, and violent prejudice, may produce all that we have just repeated.
St. Bernard begins by curing the woman's mind, by giving her a stick, which she was to place by her side in the bed. This staff sufficed for the first impression; but to dispose her for a complete cure, he exorcises the demon, and then anathematizes him, with all the éclat he possibly could: the bishops are assembled in the cathedral, the people repair thither in crowds; the circumstance is recounted in pompous terms; the evil spirit is threatened; the tapers are extinguished—all of them striking ceremonies: the woman is moved by them, and her imagination is restored to a healthy tone.
Jerome Cardan relates two singular examples of the power of imagination in this way; he had them from Francis Pico de Mirandola. "I know," says the latter, "a priest, seventy-five years of age, who lived with a pretended woman, whom he called Hermeline, with whom he slept, conversed, and conducted in the streets as if she had been his wife. He alone saw her, or thought he saw her, so that he was looked upon as a man who had lost his senses. This priest was named Benedict Beïna. He had been arrested by the Inquisition, and punished for his crimes; for he owned that in the sacrifice of the mass he did not pronounce the sacramental words, and that he had given the consecrated wafer to women to make use of in sorcery. He avowed all this while undergoing the question.
Another, named Pineto, held converse with a demon, whom he kept as his wife, and with whom he had relations for more than forty years. This man was still living in the time of Pico de Mirandola.
Devotion and spirituality, when too contracted and carried to excess, have also their derangements of imagination. Persons so affected often believe they see, hear, and feel, what passes only in their brain, and which takes all its reality from their prejudices and self-love. This is less mistrusted, because the object of it is holy and pious; but error and excess, even in matters of devotion, are subject to very great inconveniences, and it is very important to undeceive all those who give way to this kind of mental derangement.
For instance, we have seen persons eminent for their devotion, who believed they saw the Holy Virgin, St. Joseph, the Savior, and their guardian angel, who spoke to them, conversed with them, touched the wounds of the Lord, and tasted the blood which flowed from his side and his wounds. Others thought they were in company with the Holy Virgin and the Infant Jesus, who spoke to them and conversed with them; in idea, however, and without reality.
In order to cure the two ecclesiastics of whom we have spoken, gentler and perhaps more efficacious means might have been made use of than those employed by the tribunal of the Inquisition. Every day hypochondriacs, or maniacs, with fevered imaginations, diseased brains, or with the viscera too much heated, are cured by simple and natural remedies, either by cooling the blood, and creating a diversion in the humors thereof, or by striking the imagination through some new device, or by giving so much exercise of body and mind to those who are afflicted with such maladies of the brain that they may have something else to do or to think of, than to nourish such fancies, and strengthen them by reflections daily recurring, and having always the same end and object.
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