Monday, May 29, 2017
The Number Seven, article in Chambers's Journal 1905
HIPPOCRATES declared that the septenary number, by its occult virtues, 'lends to the accomplishment of all things, and is the dispenser of life and foundation of all its changes.'
Like the number three, seven has from time immemorial held a conspicuous and sacred place in the scheme of things. Just exactly why this should be so it is difficult to determine, because, although we find a definite reason in many cases, in others it would appear to be purely accidental.
Human nature, moreover, when keenly set on establishing a theory, is ever prone to look around in all directions, picking up everything that seems to fit the mosaic. That the ancients considered uneven numbers to have special force and efficacy there is abundant proof. Shepherds of ancient Greece were especially enjoined to see that the number of their sheep ‘be not even.’ That there were seven sages of ancient Greece and just seven wonders of the ancient world savours very much of chance or coincidence. Although three was considered most acceptable to the gods, Aristotle tells how, because weakly infants commonly died before this date, the seventh day was therefore honoured with the solemn festival of naming a child. Even in this twentieth century the luck in odd numbers— thirteen alone excepted—is largely believed in— seven as frequently as three; and as recently as last year a ‘wise woman’ of the Emerald Isle seriously asserted that there was no cure for a certain child’s complaint unless the seventh son of a seventh son could be discovered for the deed. But a curious old rhyme respecting magpies would seem to contradict this magic potency of seven:
One for the sorrow, two for the truth,
Three for a wedding, four for a birth,
Five for heaven, six for hell,
Seven for the deils' own sel'.
Mrs Hemans, in apostrophising ancient Rome, thus refers it will be remembered, to her unique position:
On the seven hills of yore
Thou sat'st a queen.
Another classic instance, similarly curious, may be recalled:
Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged for bread.
History records many more. One in evidence just now is that long secretly guarded Chapel of the Pyx, dedicated by Edward the Confessor to St Peter, and, on this account obviously, only entered, even in later years, by those stately officers of State when seven huge keys had fastened its heavy double door.
It is to be regretted that little now remains of the original locality 'where famed St Giles ancient limits spread,’ and where ‘an inrailed column reared its lofty head:’
Here to seven streets seven dials count the day,
And from each other catch the circling ray;
but the name of Seven Dials is in itself sufficient testimony to one more honour paid to this typical number.
That folks were in olden times occasionally ‘scared out of their seven senses’ clearly indicates the number of senses at one time recognised, supposedly under the influence of the seven planets. On this and other theories the ancient Hebrews, Egyptians, Persians, and Greeks founded their respect and reverence for the number seven. The seven bodies of alchemy may be appropriately referred to here.
One of the more prominent proofs of the original significance of seven in use at the present day is the ‘seven years’ lease,’ instituted because life was supposed to be in danger and to undergo a change every seven years. Hence we have Shakespeare following up this supposition, and affirming in those oft-repeated lines:
And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.
Closely allied, of course, is the ‘seven years apprenticeship,’ and that dreaded ‘seven years penal servitude’ —made so conspicuous in the case of Adolf Beck—which, when the sin merits such severity, becomes twice and three times seven.
It may be observed, in passing, that seven witnesses were required by the Hebrews to attest an oath. The one instance, probably, when seven judges were deputed to sit in judgment was that of those appointed by the justice-loving though unpardoning Maria-Caroline of Naples for the ‘Junta of State' over persons accused of treason. The ‘deadly’ sins of the Catholic Church were, strange to say, formerly eight, until, somewhere in the Middle Ages, there dawned a happier day, and the monks, in a lenient mood and with a leaning towards the mystical number, elected that there should be only seven.
Dumas, in his Isabel of Bavaria, refers to an ancient privilege which authorised the deputies of the six merchant bodies to accompany the kings and queens of France upon their entry into Paris from the gate of St Denis to the palace, followed on this occasion by the representatives of the different manufacturing bodies clothed to represent the ‘seven capital sins,’ and, by way of contrast the ‘seven Christian virtues.’ The recognised ‘sins’ and ‘virtues’ appear to have varied slightly at various periods of religious history, though in number usually ‘seven.’
Kingsley, it will be remembered, says, ‘Every duty which is hidden to wait returns with seven fresh duties at its back.’ The Mohammedans believe in an angel who, before recording man’s ill deeds, waits ‘seven hours, peradventure he may ask pardon.’
To be in the ‘seventh heaven of delight’ is a qualitative term still in use for superlative expression, and may be traced to the cabbalistic belief in seven heavens, although Ptolemy recognised only five, the Hebrews three, and other systems nine of these states. To refer again to Shakespeare, he on more than one occasion showed considerable preference for seven, convinced, seemingly, of the ‘divinity in odd numbers.’ He speaks of tears salted seven times. His prophetic wish that there shall be in England ‘seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny’ assuredly came from a kindly heart, as well as that thoughtful reflection of the potential good lurking in ‘seven hundred pounds and possibilities.’ In an age so greedy of gold as the present, the same could hardly be expressed in less than seven figures, while in the eyes of the extremest section of these money-minded mortals perhaps seven millions of pounds is barely adequate for their designation of bliss.
Space will not permit the enumeration of all the instances in which seven is pro-eminently set forth in the Scriptures. It is interwoven with almost every Biblical story. Beginning with the Creation, we find that the seventh day was consecrated to rest. Noah had seven days’ warning of the Flood, and, by command, took fowls of the air and ‘clean’ beasts by sevens. The ark touched ground on the seventh month; and after seven days a dove was sent out, and again after seven days more. On the seventh day of the seventh month a holy observance was ordained to the Children of Israel. The seventh year was a sabbath of rest for all things. At the end of seven times seven began the grand jubilee. Every seventh year the land lay fallow. Every seventh year saw a general release from all debts. Jacob served seven and yet seven years for Rachel. Pharaoh’s dream predicted seven years of plenty and seven of famine. When the sluggard is spoken of as wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason, the number would seem to be selected without any special purpose. The fiery furnace for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was heated seven times hotter than usual, with rather more significance; just as the old law bade man forgive his brother seven times seven, and the newer law seventy times seven. At the destruction of Jericho seven is curiously emphasised. Seven priests bore seven trumpets seven days, and on the seventh surrounded the walls seven times. Balaam when sacrificing prepared seven altars. Turning to Job, we see his friends sitting with him seven days and seven nights, and offering seven bullocks and seven rams as atonement. King Ahasuerus in the seventh year of his reign feasted seven days, and on the seventh directed seven chamberlains to find a queen, who was allowed seven maidens to attend her. For leprosy, seven dips in Jordan were enjoined upon Naaman. The lamps of the Tabernacle numbered seven. Seven different persons are brought back to life. Enoch was the seventh after Adam, and Christ (also ‘translated’) the seventy-seventh. From the Cross He spoke seven times. He appeared seven times. Another striking instance is when Christ cast out seven devils. Frequently seven appears to be typical of thoroughness and completeness.
The Apocalypse likewise revels in this revered number. It may also be noted that the apostles planted seven Churches in Asia, and that the sacred books or Bibles of the world are seven in number —namely, our Christian Bible, the Koran, the Eddas of the Scandinavians, the Five Kings of the Chinese, the Tripitaka of the Buddhists, the Vedas of the Hindus, and the Zend-Avesta of the Persians.
Continually as we contemplate the moon, seldom do we heed the fact that she has seven phases, and even sometimes forget that the rainbow, too, is septenary in character. Yet our ancestors gave serious, albeit possibly superstitious, regard to these circumstances. But in the mystic realm of music seven notes confront us far too constantly to be callously overlooked, and that dominant seventh is perpetually giving particular evidence of itself. Wynn Westcott points out that seven pipes are seen in the instrument played upon by the older deity Pan. Dice, though of ancient origin and found in very early Egyptian tombs, were not originally numbered. This evolution of a considerably later period obviously keeps the gambler also perpetually in mind of seven. Anciently, the symbol of the universe was a ship with seven pilots.
Conspicuous in the field of fiction is that attractive old Syrian legend which tells how those seven Christian youths of Ephesus fled from the rage of Decius and lived in a cave until discovered; then, when great stones were, by the enemy, rolled before its mouth, they fell asleep, the story says, for one hundred and ninety-six years, to woken once more living testimonies of a resurrection from the dead. The Island of the Seven Cities is another curious legend regarding a fabulous land of the Atlantic which gave refuge to a body of Christians in flight from the Saracen conquerors, who had, at the instigation of their seven bishops, committed themselves to It is somewhat singular, considering the pre-eminent position this number has for ages occupied, that the bishops who at a memorable epoch of English ecclesiastical history so stoutly stood on their trial for freedom should have numbered neither more nor less than seven. Was this one of those cases one ought to set down to coincidence? Whether or not, wherever one turns one stumbles on seven. One more instance will suffice, of the poet who advocates:
Seven hours to law,
To soothing slumber seven,
Ten to the world allot,
And all to Heaven.
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ONE of the most striking features of recent political life has been the appearance and growth of what is known as socialism. Those who profess the socialist creed assert that the poverty and misery of modern life arise from the inequality produced by the free play of competition. They propose to substitute for competition the regulation of industry by the State. In the socialist State there would be no money and no wages. The industry of the country would be organised and managed by the State, as the Post Office is now. The State would own all the land and all the instruments of production—farms, mines, mills, shops, railways, and ships. Goods of all kinds would be produced and distributed for use, and not for sale, in such quantities as were needed. Hours of labour would be fixed, and every citizen would take what he or she desired from the common stock. Food, clothing, lodging, fuel, transit, amusement, and everything else would be supplied by the State. The socialists assert that, if the socialist régime were established, the evils which attend modern life would disappear, inequality of condition would be largely abolished, and prosperity and happiness would be universally diffused.
The doctrines of socialism have been propagated with considerable energy and zeal. The confidence with which the socialists have asserted their dogmas has exercised a considerable influence on the public mind, and many people who do not accept their teaching feel in a vague kind of way that, sooner or later, socialism is inevitable. Confident assertion, however, is not a satisfactory substitute for proof, and it does not follow that because a creed is propagated with zeal it is necessarily true. There are many who dissent from the teaching of socialism, and distrust the claims which it puts forward. It is right that they should give expression to their views.
It is constantly asserted by socialists as a principal reason for advocating their creed that poverty and misery are growing, and that the social residuum is an increasing mass. The moment this assertion is examined it is found to be untrue. It is unnecessary to go beyond our own country. Wages are going up, while prices are coming down, and food is becoming cheaper. The steady lowering of the death-rate is itself a conclusive proof that the average life is much less trying than it was a hundred years ago, and that socialists are wrong when they say that poverty and misery are on the increase.
Mr. Herbert Spencer has called attention to the curious fact that the more things improve, the more people talk of their badness. A hundred years ago, when drunkenness was common, nobody said a word against it. Now, when it is steadily decreasing, people are crying out for measures of repressive legislation, instead of leaving it to disappear under the influences which have been working against it in the past. Formerly, when the condition of women was far inferior to that of men and they were the drudges of the family, no protest was made; now, when their claims are put before those of men and they are the objects of attention and consideration, we hear talk of the “new woman,” and of woman’s rights and woman’s grievances. In all departments of social life the same tendency appears.
There may be disadvantages attaching to a system of social life based on competition; but the question is whether the evils now suffered are not less than would be suffered under another system. The opponent of socialism maintains that efforts for mitigation along the lines followed thus far are more likely to succeed than efforts along lines long since abandoned. Under the feudal system life was carried on by compulsory co-operation. Society took a military form. The social grades corresponded with the ranks of an army, and the people were primarily soldiers. As in an army absolute submission to superiors and rigid performance of prescribed duties are strictly enforced, so under the feudal system life was carried on by compulsory co-operation. In the course of time, however, the system of compulsory co-operation was gradually replaced by one of voluntary co-operation. The part of the community devoted to war grew less and less. Towns sprang up, where life was not military, but industrial. Men grew out of the feudal system. Their labour, instead of being at the disposal of their feudal superiors, was left to their own disposal, to be employed in the way most advantageous to themselves. Services were bought and sold like corn or cattle. Competition replaced compulsory co-operation.
The improvement in social life, however, did not stop restlessness or silence complaints. Mr. Spencer has pointed out that, just as the best easy chair becomes wearisome after a time, so the restlessness generated by pressure against the conditions of existence perpetually prompts the desire to try a new position. It is the same with humanity. Having by long strides emancipated itself from the hard discipline of the ancient régime, and having discovered that the new regime into which it has grown, though relatively easy, is not without stresses and pains, its impatience with these prompts the wish to try another system, which other system is in principle, if not in appearance, the same as that which during past generations was escaped from with much rejoicing. Men forget that all permanent improvement of social conditions is very gradual. “One would have thought it sufficiently clear to everybody,” says Mr. Spencer, “that the great changes taking place in this world of ours are uniformly slow ..... ..Did it not require nearly the whole Christian era to abolish slavery and serfdom in Europe? Did not a hundred generations live and die while picture-writing grew into printing?” Nothing but the slow modification of human nature by the discipline of social life can produce permanently advantageous changes.
Under socialism there is to be no money. There will be a common stock of necessaries and conveniences. Men will be paid in certificates of social labour-time, which will entitle them to a certain proportion of the Common stock. Socialists say that it would be possible to fix the amount of the common stock by finding out how many hours a day for how many days in a year every working member of a given community would have to work, in order that every individual in such community should have exactly as much of everything as he or she wanted. How is the supply to be fixed? There is no article of consumption, not even bread itself, for which the demand does not so vary from day to day that it is impossible to say how much of it will be required. An instance may be taken. Let it be supposed that under socialism the State officials estimate that, under ordinary circumstances, the town of A requires 10,000 tons of coal during the month of October, which are supplied from the B coalpit. From some cause or other the demand of A for coal suddenly falls. Under the present system things adjust themselves at once. The miners work half time, or prices are lowered to induce people to buy. Under socialism full work must always be provided for the miners, and prices are never lowered. The socialist system gets out of gear at once.
If the citizens of the socialist State are to be paid in certificates of labour-time, how is the value of different kinds of labour to be fixed? What is the value of an hour of a sailor’s work as compared with an hour of a mason’s work? Professor Jevons says it is “impossible to compare a priori the productive powers of a navvy, a carpenter, an iron-puddler, a barrister, and a schoolmaster.” How is the value of an inventor’s labour to be fixed? “I will not ask,” says one writer, “what would have been the ‘social labour-value’ of James Watt’s time when he sat watching the lid of his mother’s tea-kettle being lifted up by the steam. But it is fair to ask what Boulton would have done if, instead of being a private capitalist, he had been a socialist industrial chief when Watt proposed to him to make experiments on the condensing steam-engine. Would he have had resources at his disposal? It is very doubtful. If he were paid his salary as overseer in labour certificates, we may certainly say not. Would he have felt justified in taking up the ‘social labour-time’ of the workmen under his supervision in making experiments of a costly nature, which, for all he could possibly foresee, might come to nothing?”
The whole conception that men are paid for labour is unsound. Labour has no value of its own. If a man spends his time in making articles which nobody wants, his labour is worthless. If a man cuts down a tree for a meal, the meal is given for the service, not for the labour expended in rendering the service. The owner of the tree pays the man because the tree which was formerly standing is now out down, not because the man has performed so much labour. Where two men are engaged in different kinds of work, the comparison is not between their labour, but between the things which have been respectively produced by their labour.
Under socialism life would be carried on under compulsion. Each man’s employment would be fixed for him by the State, and he would be compelled to accept the remuneration fixed for him by his superiors. There could be no voluntary exchange of labour and produce, as this would produce competition. If twelve men wanted to be physicians and the State did not want more than six, the State would refuse to allow the remaining six to follow the profession for which they felt themselves suited.
The State would groan under an intolerable load of officialdom. The more advanced the organisation, the greater is the development of the machinery required for regulating it. If the whole life of the people were regulated by the State, the administration needed would be enormous. Well may Schaffle ask “whether the commonwealth of the socialists would be able to cope with the enormous socialistic book-keeping, and to estimate heterogeneous labour correctly according to socialistic units of labour-time.” At present the distribution of the necessaries and conveniences of life is left to private enterprise. Under socialism public officials would take the place of private enterprise. It is appalling to think of the army of officials who would manage the affairs of the nation. Imagine the staffs required for producing every article of food and clothing; for distributing them to everybody everywhere; for carrying on every farm, factory, business house, mine, and railway; for superintending the national roads, canals, and shipping; for exporting and importing goods (if such a thing is possible under socialism, which is doubtful); for managing the gas, water, tramways, and electric power required for every town; for conducting those services already managed by the State: the Post Office, the police, the army, and the navy. What would become of the poor worker? On the Continent, where officialdom and bureaucracy are much more developed than in England, there are constant complaints of the tyranny and brutality of officials. Even in England there is a strong tendency for joint-stock companies, labour unions, railway companies, and societies of all kinds, to fall under the dominion of the permanent staffs. What would be the state of England if our national life were under the control of one huge permanent staff? Life would resolve itself into one gigantic system of castes. Grade upon grade of officials would rise one above the other, each intermarrying within itself, and gradually hardening into a caste. Under such a consolidated mass of superiors how would the man fare who disliked his occupation and wished to enter a more congenial one, or who thought his merits entitled him to a greater proportion of the common stock than he was getting, or who considered that more work was allotted to him than was just?
Under voluntary co-operation as at present carried on, the organisers, as distinguished from the labourers, are restrained from taking too great a share of the produce of labour by public opinion, unions among the workmen, and other causes. Under compulsory co-operation, the organisers and regulators would seek their own interests without being restrained by combinations of free workers. Their power would grow and ramify and consolidate till it became irresistible. It is said that the energetic working man would be successful under socialism. But he is so under private enterprise. The shiftless or idle man can only be made to work by want. If socialism applies the spur of want, how is it better than individualism? If the prison or the scourge be applied, is socialism not worse than individualism?
In considering "the production of wealth, the socialists have always laid undue stress on labour as distinguished from capital. Adam Smith, who is often called the father of political economy, described labour as the cause of wealth, leaving out of consideration the two other necessary agents, land and capital. This error has run through the teaching of most subsequent economists, and is responsible for many of the errors of socialism. Labour is the cause of wealth, say the socialists; therefore the man who labours is entitled to the wealth. The landowner who controls the original and indestructible powers of the soil, which he has not created by his own labour, is held to be an agent of injustice. The capitalist, who has not created his wealth by his own labour, is declared to have no right to it. He has acquired his wealth, says the socialist, at the expense of the worker.
This teaching is wrong. Labour and wealth are not indissolubly united. It is possible to have labour without wealth, as already pointed out. It is possible to acquire wealth without labour. If a man fills his cellar with wine, or stocks his lake with fish, or his wood with some valuable wild animal which needs no human care, he will often acquire wealth by simple efflux of time. If the teaching of the socialists were true, and labour were the measure of wealth, any manufacture which employed much labour would be lucrative. If we wanted to know whether a large employer of labour was wealthy, we should merely have to look at his wages bill. As a matter of fact, everyone knows this would be no criterion. The proper method would be to go to his ledger, and ascertain his profits after he had paid his workers and sold his goods.
"His surplus is his wealth. The surplus would not have been there without labour; but, as every bankrupt too well knows, there may be the labour without the surplus ..... ..The surplus is the reward which accrues to the merchant for satisfying certain human desires better than anyone else. The wealth of the capitalist is not obtained at the expense of the workers, but represents the value of his services to the community." [MacPherson’s “Adam Smith," p. 101.]
Karl Marx and the socialist school greatly exaggerated the proportion of the produce of labour which falls to capital. As has been already said, if the socialist estimate was a just one, every manufacture which employed much labour would be lucrative. This is not the case. If the profits of capital, as distinguished from labour, were what socialists represent them, co-operative working men’s associations would speedily multiply, for by placing labour and capital in the same hands they would almost inevitably succeed. It is notorious that a multitude of these societies have totally failed. Marx concentrated attention wholly on the few instances of great gain, entirely overlooking the many risks and .. failures which attend commercial enterprise.
The political economists who laid so much stress on labour were led into another error. They took a too materialistic view of it. They overlooked the part played by the intellect in producing wealth. They wrote as if wealth were produced by mere manual labour, and as if the men who organised and directed it had no part in the matter, except that of appropriating the fruits, forgetting that it would be just as reasonable to ascribe the whole merit of the victory of Austerlitz to the French privates, and to refuse all share to Napoleon. There has been an enormous growth of wealth during the past century. It was natural that workers brought up on the theory that labour was the cause of wealth should think when they saw this increase of wealth that they were being cheated out of their share. “The socialist propaganda, however,” says Mr. MacPherson, “gets a severe check when it is recognised that the great increase in the national wealth is not the creation of labour, in the manual sense, but, as Mr. Mallock clearly and ably demonstrates, the creation of labour under the direction of intellect. Sir Robert Giffen, a few years ago, calculated that wealth in Great Britain was progressing twice as fast as population. This increase manifestly is not due to any exertion of labour, in the sense of the term as used by Smith, Ricardo, and Mill. The increase is due to the increased power of man over nature, in the form of scientific discoveries and inventions, and in the marvellous organising power of the captains of industry.”
Under the reign of machinery the wages of labour are increasing at a greater ratio than the profits of Capital. In a highly complex state, where mechanical appliances are strained to the utmost in order to produce both quality and quantity, the demand is for the highest type of workman. Intelligence becomes an important factor in the race for mechanical superiority; consequently, it becomes the highest possible economy to give high wages for good workmen. As the object of high wages is to Cheapen the cost of production, it follows that the worker, being also a consumer, benefits in the cheapening of products brought about by his highly-paid labour. Thus the worker benefits in a twofold manner—by higher wages and by the increased purchasing power of wages. Further, a reduction in the price puts commodities within the reach of a large class who were previously unable to consume them, and the market is thereby extended, thus enlarging the income without raising the profit. In brief, increased wages are given to increased intelligence, which again leads to increased production, thus widening the labour area, and, by making a still further demand upon intelligence, again reacting beneficially on wages. During the present century the wealth of the working classes has greatly increased, especially in countries where manufactures are most developed and machinery most employed; but that increase is due to many causes besides the manual labour of the working classes themselves.
A common habit of socialists is to speak of capitalists as if they belonged to one class, cut off from the rest of the world, and selfishly battening on the labour of the remaining classes. The capitalist is denounced as a vampire and a robber. If this is true, then thousands of working men are robbers. Have you £50 in the savings bank? Do you own your own house? Are you a shareholder in a co-operative society, or a member of a friendly society? Then you are a capitalist and a robber. Any socialistic policy which would confiscate the property of the rich would equally confiscate the property of the poor. There is an immense amount of property in the hands of the working classes. Land and capital are mainly owned in very small shares by an enormous number of people. It may be interesting to give a few figures. Mr. Mallock has shown, first, that the entire rental derived from land is only sixteen per cent of the total assessed to income tax; secondly, that large landowners—that is, owners who hold more than a thousand acres—receive less than twenty-nine million pounds per annum in rental, while the remaining seventy million pounds of rental is divided among nine hundred and fifty thousand landowners, whose rentals average £76 a year; and, thirdly, that if the whole of the land were confiscated and its rental appropriated by the community, the result would be to give each man about twopence a day, and each woman about three-halfpence. [W. H. Mallock’s “ Labour and the Popular Welfare."] If only the land of those who held more than a thousand acres were divided, the total sum to be dealt with would be less than twenty-nine million pounds per annum, which would give less than three-farthings per day to each adult male in the country.
Mr. Mallock has further shown that if the entire interest of the National Debt, and the whole of the profits of the railways, were to be divided equally among the population, the result would be to give every man in the country about a penny a day. In 1880 the number of persons who held Consols was 236,000, and out of these no less than 216,000, or more than nine-tenths of the whole number, derived from their payments less than £90 a year, while nearly one-half of them derived less than £15 a year. An equal division of the annual income of this country, which is one thousand two hundred million pounds, among thirty-eight millions of people would give £32 per head. The benefits which would accrue from a confiscation and division of the national income are paltry compared with the enormous evils which would result from such a revolutionary proceeding.
The true friend of the working man will encourage him to join the ranks of capitalism. The socialists discourage those qualities which enable him to do so. Mr. John Burns, at the Labour Union Congress at Norwich in 1894, said that “thrift was invented by capitalistic rogues to beguile fools to destruction, and to deprive honest fools of their diet and their proper comfort.” Mr. Bax, a socialist writer, observes that the aim of the socialist is “radically at variance with thrift .....To the socialist,” he continues, “labour is an evil to be minimised to the utmost. The man who works at his trade or avocation more than necessity compels him, or who accumulates more than he can enjoy, is not a hero, but a fool, from the socialists’ standpoint.” Assertions like these denote the high-water mark of socialist folly. In September, 1899, it was announced in the Press that the first act of Sir Christopher Furness, in taking over the Weardale Iron and Coal Company’s business, which he had purchased for £750,000, had been to offer to all officials and workmen £1 preference shares. It was added that the workmen were eagerly taking advantage of the offer. This is the true line of improvement. It is in this way that the welfare of the working classes will be advanced.
As already stated, socialism is really a throw-back. One article of the creed may be taken as an illustration. The socialist declares that no one has any right to lend money at interest. This is one of the oldest doctrines in the world. Aristotle, the Christian Fathers, a long succession of Popes and Councils, all declared that it was criminal to lend money at interest. The doctrine gradually disappeared, and “all the Governments,” says Mr. Lecky, “and
all the great industries of the civilised world depend, and long have depended, on loans made for the sake of profit, on borrowed money and punctually-paid interest.” In these days the old doctrine has been revived, and is once again being fervently preached by the socialists.
But the socialist teachers go further. They maintain that, if a man lives in the house of another man, it is an extortion to ask him to pay a rent. All that the owner is entitled to is that his house should be kept in good repair. One distinguished economist of the party, named Briosnes, has gone yet another "step further. He argues that the owner of the house should not only receive nothing, but should pay the lodger for keeping up the house. It may be left to common sense, as Mr. Lecky points out, to determine how many men would build houses under these conditions for the accommodation of others, and what would be the fate of the houseless poor. [Lecky’s “Democracy and Liberty,” vol. ii., p. 259.]
The doctrine of common property in the soil, or nationalisation of the land, which is held by the socialists, is another return to antiquity. It is, as Mr. Lecky remarks, avowedly based on the remote ages, when a few hunters or shepherds roved in common over an unappropriated land, and on the tribal and communal properties which existed in the barbarous or semi-barbarous stages of national development, and which everywhere disappeared with increasing population, increasing industry, and increasing civilisation.
The minute regulation of life by the State which is desired by socialists is also a return to a condition of things which disappeared long ago. The State once regulated, or tried to regulate, the dress and recreation, the meals and the wages, of our ancestors. Its efforts resulted only in blunders and in failure. From 1563 to 1824 the justices in Quarter Sessions regulated the wages of the agricultural labourer. Nothing has been more disastrous to agriculture than this regulating power. The prejudice against machinery early found vent in an Act against making cloth by machinery, and condemning “divers devilish contrivances.” The Act drove the trade to Holland and to Ireland, and was followed by the suppression of the Irish woollen trade. James’s Seventh Tippling Act begins: “Whereas, notwithstanding all former laws and provisions already made, the inordinate and extreme vice of excessive drinking and drunkenness doth more and more abound,” etc. Even where the State has interfered to assist an industry it has failed in its object. Philip, King of Spain, thought to encourage shipbuilding by grants from the Crown to the shipbuilders. Queen Elizabeth, his contemporary, was urged to follow his example, and refused. Yet Spain declined as a naval power, and England took her place.
Monsieur Le Bon, in his brilliant study of “The Psychology of Socialism,” says: “Socialism, whose dream is to substitute itself for the ancient faiths, proposes but a very low ideal, and to establish it appeals but to sentiments lower still. What, in effect, does it promise more than merely our daily bread, and that at the price of hard labour? With what lever does it seek to raise the soul? With the sentiments of envy and hatred which it creates in the hearts of multitudes? To the crowd, no longer satisfied with political and civic equality, it proposes equality of condition, without dreaming that social inequalities are born of those natural inequalities that man has always been powerless to change.”
The desire of each man to improve his circumstances, to reap the full reward of superior talent, or energy, or thrift, is the very mainspring of the production of the world. Take these motives away, persuade men that by superior work they will obtain no superior reward, cut off all the hopes that stimulate among ordinary men ambition, enterprise, invention, and self-sacrifice, and the whole level of production will rapidly and inevitably sink. If industry is greatly diminished in its amount and greatly lowered in its quality, no possible scheme of redistribution or social combination will prevent material decadence. It is almost impossible to conceive of England as a socialist nation. If this ever does happen, then she may say:—“Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness."
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Sunday, May 28, 2017
THE gods were good to Poe-—whereat the dunces gnashed their teeth and held their peace. He was not yet in his prime when the gods took him——whereon the dunces loosed their tongues and howled their malisons in chorus. “When a true genius appeareth in the world, you may know him by this infallible sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Swift knew.
In 1850 appeared Griswold's calumnious Memoir of Edgar Poe. I have before me an exhaustive review of the work, written for Fraser by A.K.H.B., from which it is evident that the poison took immediate effect. The reviewer winds up with the words— “He (Poe) had no sympathy, no honour, no truth. And we carry with us from the contemplation of the entire subject the sad recollection of a powerful intellect, a most vivid imagination, an utterly evil heart, and a career of guilt, misery, and despair.” This may be taken as fairly representing, until comparatively recent times, the general attitude of people on this side the Atlantic towards the subject of Griswold's precious Memoir. In the light of ascertained facts, the reviewer's verdict might-—and that without greatly violating one's sense of the fitness of things-—be pronounced on the reverend memoirist himself.
Griswold it was, who, denying Poe's possession of the literary faculty, attributed his early success as a Baltimore prize-winner, (to the fact of his legible handwriting! That gentleman also was responsible for the story of the poet's expulsion from the University of Virginia (controverted by the University authorities themselves); for the infamous allegations on the subject of the rupture between Poe and Mrs. Whitman (the subsequent defender of his memory in Edgar Poe and his Critics), and for a whole series of similar fictions which for too long have been current. If George Gilfillan opined that Poe hastened the death of his fair young wife in order that he might produce a commemorative poem that should yield him lasting fame, it was Griswold who formulated the final slander of debauch and death in Baltimore.
Needless to say, Poe has not escaped the shafts of that class of cavillers to whose shrivelled souls the unpardonable sin is the sin of coincidence. Their charges have been categorically dealt with by Mr. Ingram and other authorities, in whose keeping the literary reputation of our subject is secure. “Why not?”—was Tennyson's rejoinder on being told that, in an unknown, untranslated Chinese poem, there were two whole lines of his, almost word for word ("The Peak is high, and the stars are high, And the thought of a man is higher.” From The Voice and the Peak)--" are not human eyes all over the world looking at the same objects, and must there not consequently be coincidences of thought and impressions and expressions?” By an irony of Fortune it not infrequently happens that a writer's less happy work brings him widest fame. In some cases, readily called to mind, the popularity of a particular piece of work has completely overshadowed other and more excellent work from the same pen. So true is this, that on occasion we find prominence given to work essentially mediocre in its character. These remarks do not apply, of course, in the case of Defoe, but the fact remains that, in the popular mind, “Defoe" spells “Robinson Crusoe.” To the man in the street, Bret Harte is the author of the Heathen Chinee, and Holmes of the One Hoss Shay, and to a very large body of readers Poe is simply and solely the author of The Raven, and The Bells. Elocutionists, like the late Canon Fleming, have done their best to draw a thrill or two from the meaningless iterations of these poems, while, relatively, for all one hears of the almost perfect Israfel, The Haunted Palace, and Annabel Lee, the poet might have left them unwritten. On the other hand, M. Emile Lauvrière wrote a book of 720 closely-printed pages to prove Poe mad, and to clinch the matter he translated The Bells, as a sample of what the "metallic peals of a New York bell” could draw from the poet's “poor buzzing head.” The French pathologist, it would seem, proceeded to reason from some such illicit syllogism as this: "Swift” let us say, “was a poet; Swift was insane; ergo—anyone who is not insane cannot be a poet.” One thing is clear--M. Lauvrière is a brave man.
The truth is that Poe's metrical work, generally speaking, gives no adequate idea of his exquisite genius. As a poet, he succumbed too often and too easily to the wizardry of mere rhythm. One may perhaps legitimately speculate on what it might lay within the power of a poet to achieve, whose spirit should be an amalgam of the spirits of Poe and Whitman. In their methods and chief characteristics the two are antithetic. One built a poem, the other flung it together. One exemplified the laws of metrical composition, the other defied them. The pen of one was as Saladin's blade, of the other as the battle-axe of Coeur de Lion. Poe's manner of sustaining his rhythms by an arbitrary eking out of words and phrases (happily parodied by Bret Harte in The Willows), reminds one of the way in which Procrustes, that robber whom Theseus slew, treated his victims – fastening them to a bed and stretching them until they fitted it. Of Whitman it might have been said, as Porson said of Fox, that he leaped into the middle of a sentence and trusted to God Almighty to get him out.
Among the prose writers of America Poe's place is unique. I venture to think, however, that his pre-eminence, even here, is due less to the verbal felicity of his style than to other qualities. In Boyd's essay, to which allusion has been made, the writer remarks the "almost unparalleled” precision of Poe's language. Contrariwise, Pater said he could not read Poe in the original, but could enjoy him in Baudelaire's French translation. The reason is obvious. Pater had De Quincey's passion for the right word. Poe was a master of form, rather than a word-master—-a precision in language-—in the sense and degree in which Pater was—-and Baudelaire; and in the Frenchman's version of the Tales we have an instance of a work gaining in expression in the process of translation. The perfect form of Poe, wedded to the perfect style of Baudelaire, long since won for the Tales in France a place to which they hardly yet have been assigned on this side the Channel. Even in English-speaking countries however, Poe is steadily coming into his own, and Time is his sure ally. The Tales hold one by their boldly confident expression of their author's imaginings, their Robinson-Crusoe-like definitude of circumstance, and their narrative force. In his wildest extravagancies, Poe is credible and convincing. Mr. Arthur Ransome has very properly applied to him Gautier's description of Hoffmann's Tales as “the possible and the plausible of the fantastic.”
The imagination of Poe is a full sensory perception. He sees and hears and feels, and in supreme measure he has the power of making others see and hear and feel. This perception it is, at the back of every sentence he wrote, that forces the mind of the reader into an actively responsive attitude. It was not the eye of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner that held the Wedding-Guest--it was his glittering eye. He had voyaged far, beyond many horizons, and through
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
He had seen moving sights, had heard fearsome sounds, and had felt weird silences. It was the vision behind the eye that held the Wedding-Guest.
God save thee, Ancient Mariner
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
Why look'st thou so?....
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea.
Poe's visual intensity invests even the most horrible of his Tales with an interest which cannot be denied by the least imaginative of his readers. The fascination of pieces such as the Black Cat, and the Tell-Tale Heart, is irresistible, though the question as to how much their peculiar fascination is due to a quality common to all their author's work, and how much to a morbid curiosity characteristic of the human mind, may be a problem of some nicety. Perhaps it is hardly fair to suggest it; and at anyrate the genius of Poe never was perverted in the attempting to make sin attractive, or in masking the terrors of remorse and retribution. From this point of view, indeed, a strong claim might be made for Poe as a moral force.
In his psychological tales, Poe stands forth as the revealer of the elementals. He lays bare the springs of impulse and motive and vivisects the soul. The mildest and most urbane of men is a potential savage. Under a conceivable, though happily rarely possible, combination of circumstances, the savage in us snaps his chains and rends us. Old Fleece, the black cook in Herman Melville's great sea novel, in his little homily addressed to the sharks while feeding them with whaleflesh, put the matter pithily enough. “You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is noting more dan de shark well goberned.” It has been said, in effect, that every child epitomizes in its own nature the history of remote ancestral barbarians, and it is more or less true that the circumstances of its immediate physical environment constitute the only real factor of restraint. To a certain extent these truths find tacit recognition, but men shrink, not unnaturally, from discussing them in set terms, while playing, moth-like, about a subject of its strong fascinations. Hawthorne fluttered prettily and perilously near the flame, but it was left to Poe to brave the final danger, and say what some would have said an they could, and others had they dared!
Is there, for instance, anywhere in the range of Literature, a presentment of the case at once so cold-blooded so ruthless and so true, as in the story of the Cask of Amontillado? Its calculated brutality appals one; nothing is suppressed, nothing evaded. The light is flashed for a moment into the darkest corner of the Revenge Fiend's habitation - the heart of a man - and one gazes into Tartarus. Dante has no sight more terrible to show, nor does he possess in greater degree the power of concentrating anguish and passion.
The Amontillado, The Red Death, Metzengerstein - the tale of fire and demoniac fury - could have been written, one somehow feels, by him alone through whose veins there ran the blood of the Powers of Munster.
Review of the The Book of Mormon by Mark Twain 1872
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ALL men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.
The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel—half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.
The title-page reads as follows:
The Book Of Mormon: An Account Written By The Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken From The Plates Of Nephi. Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God. An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also; which is a record of the people of Jared; who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven.
"Hid up" is good. And so is "wherefore"—though why "wherefore"? Any other word would have answered as well —though in truth it would not have sounded so Scriptural.
THE TESTIMONY OF THREE WITNESSES.
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for His voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvellous in our eyes; nevertheless the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with Him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a man tells me that he has "seen the engravings which are upon the plates," and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either.
Next is this:
AND ALSO THE TESTIMONY OP EIGHT WITNESSES.
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Christian Whither, Hiram Page,
Jacob Whitmer, Josefh Smith, Sr.,
Peter Whitmer, Jr., Hyrum Smith,
John Whitmer, Samuel H. Smith.
And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but "hefted" them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.
The Mormon Bible consists of fifteen "books"—being the books of Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Mosiah, Zeniff, Alma, Helaman, Ether, Moroni, two "books" of Mormon, and three of Nephi.
In the first book of Nephi is a plagiarism of the Old Testament, which gives an account of the exodus from Jerusalem of the "children of Lehi"; and it goes on to tell of their wanderings in the wilderness, during eight years, and their supernatural protection by one of their number, a party by the name of Nephi. They finally reached the land of "Bountiful," and camped by the sea. After they had remained there "for the space of many days"—which is more Scriptural than definite—Nephi was commanded from on high to build a ship wherein to "carry the people across the waters." He travestied Noah's ark—but he obeyed orders in the matter of the plan. He finished the ship in a single day, while his brethren stood by and made fun of it—and of him, too—"saying, our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship." They did not wait for the timbers to dry, but the whole tribe or nation sailed the next day. Then a bit of genuine nature cropped out, and is revealed by outspoken Nephi with Scriptural frankness—they all got on a spree! They, "and also their wives, began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness."
Nephi tried to stop these scandalous proceedings; but they tied him neck and heels, and went on with their lark. But observe how Nephi the prophet circumvented them by the aid of the invisible powers:
And it came to pass that after they had bound me, insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work; wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly, lest they should be drowned in the sea: nevertheless they did not loose me. And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceeding sore.
And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea.
Then they untied him.
And it came to pass after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed, the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.
Equipped with their compass, these ancients appear to have had the advantage of Noah.
Their voyage was toward a "promised land"—the only name they give it. They reached it in safety.
Polygamy is a recent feature in the Mormon religion, and was added by Brigham Young after Joseph Smith's death. Before that, it was regarded as an "abomination." This verse from the Mormon Bible occurs in Chapter II. of the book of Jacob:
For behold, thus saith the Lord, this people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the Scriptures; for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord; wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore, I the Lord God, will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
However, the project failed—or at least the modern Mormon end of it—for Brigham "suffers" it. This verse is from the same chapter:
Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate, because of their filthiness and the cursings which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our fathers, that they should have, save it were one wife; and concubines they should have none.
The following verse (from Chapter IX. of the Book of Nephi) appears to contain information not familiar to everybody:
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ascended into heaven, the multitude did disperse, and every man did take his wife and his children, and did return to his own home.
And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah-, now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen.
In order that the reader may observe how much more grandeur and picturesqueness (as seen by these Mormon twelve) accompanied one of the tenderest episodes in the life of our Saviour than other eyes seem to have been aware of, I quote the following from the same " book "—Nephi:
And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise. And they arose from the earth, and He said unto them, Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, My joy is full. And when He had said these words. He wept, and the multitude bear record of it, and He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when He had done this He wept again, and He spake unto the multitude, and saith unto them, Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold, they cast their eyes toward heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were, in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them, and the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true, for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.
And what else would they be likely to consist of?
The Book of Ether is an incomprehensible medley of "history," much of it relating to battles and sieges among peoples whom the reader has possibly never heard of; and who inhabited a country which is not set down in the geography. There was a King with the remarkable name of Coriantumr, and he warred with Shared, and Lib, and Shiz, and others, in the "plains of Heshlon"; and the "valley of Gilgal"; and the "wilderness of Akish "; and the "land of Moran"; and the "plains of Agosh"; and "Ogath," and "Ramah," and the "land of Corihor," and the "hill Comnor," by "the waters of Ripliancum," etc., etc., etc. "And it came to pass," after a deal of fighting, that Coriantumr, upon making calculation of his losses, found that "there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children"—say 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 in all—"and he began to sorrow in his heart." Unquestionably it was time. So he wrote to Shiz, asking a cessation of hostilities, and offering to give up his kingdom to save his people. Shiz declined, except upon condition that Coriantumr would come and let him cut his head off first—a thing which Coriantumr would not do. Then there was more fighting for a season; then four years were devoted to gathering the forces for a final struggle—after which ensued a battle, which, I take it, is the most remarkable set forth in history,—except, perhaps, that of the Kilkenny cats, which it resembles in some respects. This is the account of the gathering and the battle:
7. And it came to pass that they did gather together all the people, upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether. And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr, were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz, were gathered together to the army of Shiz; wherefore they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive. And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children; both men, women, and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breast-plates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war, they did march forth one against another, to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not. And it came to pass that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps, they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that it did rend the air exceedingly. And it came to pass that on the morrow they did go again to battle, and great and terrible was that day; nevertheless they conquered not, and when the night came again, they did rend the air with their cries, and their howlings, and their mournings, for the loss of the slain of their people.
8. And it came to pass that Coriantumr wrote again an epistle unto Shiz, desiring that he would not come again to battle, but that he would take the kingdom, and spare the lives of the people. But behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people, for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed; wherefore they went again to battle. And it came to pass that they fought all that day, and when the night came they slept upon their swords; and on the morrow they fought even until the night came; and when the night came they were drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine; and they slept again upon their swords; and on the morrow they fought again; and when the night came they had all fallen by the sword save it were fifty and two of the people of Coriantumr, and sixty and nine of the people of Shiz. And it came to pass that they slept upon their swords that night, and on the morrow they fought again, and they contended in their mights with their swords, and with their shields, all that day; and when the night came there were thirty and two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and seven of the people of Coriantumr.
9. And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men, as to the strength of men. And it came to pass that they fought for the space of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood. And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength, that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives, but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr, or he would perish by the sword: wherefore he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with loss of blood. And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz. And it came to pass that after he had smote off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised upon his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died. And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life. And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him, go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; and the hundredth part I have not written.
It seems a pity he did not finish, for after all his dreary former chapters of commonplace, he stopped just as he was in danger of becoming interesting.
The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is "smouched" from the New Testament and no credit given.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
The Malleus Maleficarum by Lewis Spence 1920
[The Malleus Maleficarum, Latin for "The Hammer of Witches", or "Hexenhammer" in German, is a famous treatise on witches. The main purpose of the Malleus was to systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, refute those who expressed skepticism about its reality, to prove that witches were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates on the procedures that could find them out and convict them. The book was an instantaneous success, read by clergyman, doctors, lawyers, and any others who could read. The Hammer of the Witches was so popular, in fact, that it out sold nearly every other novel for almost two hundred and fifty years, second only to the Bible.]
A large volume published in Germany at the end of the fifteenth century, written by two inquisitors under the papal bull against witchcraft of 1484,— Jacob Sprenger and Henricus Institor. Says Wright concerning it: "In this celebrated work, the doctrine of witchcraft was first reduced to a regular system, and it was the model and groundwork of all that was written on the subject long after the date which saw its first appearance. Its writers enter largely into the much-disputed question of the nature of demons; set forth the causes which lead them to seduce men in this manner; and "show why women are most prone to listen to their proposals, by reasons which prove that the inquisitors had but a mean estimate of the softer sex. The inquisitors show the most extraordinary skill in explaining all the difficulties which seemed to beset the subject; they even prove to their entire satisfaction that persons who have become witches may easily change themselves into beasts, particularly into wolves and cats; and after the exhibition of such a mass of learning, few would venture any longer to entertain a doubt. They investigate not only the methods employed to effect various kinds of mischief, but also the counter-charms and exorcisms that may be used against them. They likewise tell, from their own experience, the dangers to which the inquisitors were exposed, and exult in the fact that they were a class of men against whom sorcery had no power. These writers actually tell us, that the demon had tried to frighten them by day and by night in the forms of apes, dogs, goats, etc.; and that they frequently found large pins stuck in their night-caps, which they doubted not came there by witchcraft. When we hear these inquisitors asserting that the crime of which the witches were accused, deserved a more extreme punishment than all the vilest actions of which humanity is capable, we can understand in some degree the complacency with which they relate how, by their means, forty persons had been burnt in one place, and fifty in another, and a still greater number in a third. From the time of the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum, the continental press during two or three generations teemed with publications on the all-absorbing subject of sorcery.
"One of the points on which opinion had differed most was, whether the sorcerers were carried bodily through the air to the place of meeting, or whether it was an imaginary journey, suggested to their minds by the agency of the evil one. The authors of the Malleus decide at once in favour of the bodily transmission. One of them was personally acquainted with a priest of the diocese of Frisingen, who declared that he had in his younger days been carried through the air by a demon to a place at a very great distance from the spot whence he had been taken. Another priest, his friend, declared that he had seen him carried away, and that he appeared to him to be borne up on a kind of cloud. At Baldshut, on the Rhine, in the diocese of Constance, a witch confessed, that offended at not having been invited to the wedding of an acquaintance, she had caused herself to be carried thorugh the air in open daylight to the top of a neighbouring mountain, and there, having made a hole with her hands and filled it with water, she had, by stirring the water with certain incantations caused a heavy storm to burst forth on the heads of the wedding-party; and there were witnesses at the trial who swore they had seen her carried through the air. The inquisitors, however, confess that the witches were sometimes carried away, as they term it, in the spirit; and they give the instance of one woman who was watched by her husband; she appeared as if asleep, and was insensible, but he perceived a kind of cloudy vapour arise out of her mouth, and vanish from the room in which she lay—this after a time returned, and she then awoke, and gave an account of her adventures, as though she had been carried bodily to the assembly.
"The witches of the Malleus Maleficarum appear to have been more injurious to horses and cattle than to mankind. A witch at Ravenspurg confessed that she had killed twenty-three horses by sorcery. We are led to wonder most at the ease with which people are brought to bear witness to things utterly beyond the limits of belief. A man of the name of Stauff in the territory of Berne, declared that when pursued by the agents of justice, he escaped by taking the form of a mouse; and persons were found to testify that they had seen him perform this transmutation.
"The latter part of the work of the two inquisitors gives minute directions for the mode in which the prisoners are to be treated, the means to be used to force them to a confession, the degree of evidence required for conviction of those who would not confess, and the whole process of the trials. These show sufficiently that the unfortunate wretch who was once brought before the inquisitors of the holy see on the suspicion of sorcery, however slight might be the grounds of the charge, had very small chance of escaping out of their claws.
"The Malleus contains no distinct allusion to the proceedings at the Sabbath. The witches of this period differ little from those who had fallen into the hands of the earlier inquisitors at the Council of Constance. We see plainly how, in most countries, the mysteriously indefinite crime of sorcery had first been seized on to ruin the cause of great political offenders, until the fictitious importance thus given to it brought forward into a prominent position, which they would, perhaps, never otherwise have held, the miserable class who were supposed to be more especially engaged in it. It was the judicial prosecutions and the sanguinary executions which followed, that stamped the character of reality on charges of which it required two or three centuries to convince mankind of the emptiness and vanity. One of the chief instruments in fixing the belief in sorcery, and in giving it that terrible hold on society which it exhibited in the following century, was the compilation of Jacob Sprenger and his fellow inquisitor. In this book sorcery was reduced to a system but it was not yet perfect; and we must look forward, some half a century before we find it clothed with all the horrors which cast so much terror into every class of society."
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In every word there is a magic influence, and each word is in itself the breath of the internal and moving spirit. ~Joseph Ennemoser: The History of Magic.
There is magic in words, surely, and many a treasure besides Ali Baba's is unlocked with a verbal key. ~Henry van Dyke: Little Rivers.
For it was neither herbs, nor mollifying plaster that restored them to health, but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things. ~Wisdom of Solomon, xvi, 12.
The power of words in stimulating the imagination is well expressed in the following sentences:—
Words, when well chosen, have so great a force in them, that a description often gives us more lively ideas than the sight of the things themselves. The reader finds a scene drawn in stronger colors, and painted more to the life in his imagination, by the help of words, than by an actual survey of the scene which they describe. In this case the poet seems to get the better of nature. He takes indeed the landscape after her, but gives it more vigorous touches, heightens its beauty, and so enlivens the whole piece, that the images which flow from the objects themselves, appear weak or faint in comparison with those that come from the expressions.[Joseph Addison, On the pleasures of the Imagination]
The medical science of the ancient Romans was largely theurgical, and was founded on a pretended influence over spiritual beings, whether gods or demons. Their system of therapeutics included prayers, invocations, and magical sentences. In speaking of verbal charms, Lord Bacon commented on the fact that amongst the heathen nations, either barbarous words, without meaning, were used, or "words of similitude," which were intended to feed the imagination. Also religious texts, which strengthen that faculty. Mystical expressions were favorites, as were also Hebrew sentences, as belonging to the holy tongue. No examples of magical formulas are found in the Bible, but Rabbinical literature contains a large number of them, the majority being designated as "heathen," and their use forbidden.[The Jewish Encyclopædia.]
A belief in the potency of written or spoken words, for the production of good or evil, has been characteristic of all historic epochs and nations. The exorcist of ancient Egypt relied on amulets and mysterious phrases for the cure of disease; and a metrical petition traced on a papyrus-leaf, or a formula of prayer opportunely repeated, "put to flight the serpents, who were the instruments of fate."[G. Maspero, The Dawn of Civilization]
The efficacy anciently attributed to verbal charms appears to have been partly due to a current opinion that names of persons and things were not of arbitrary invention, but were in some mysterious manner evolved from nature, and hence were possessed of a certain inherent force, which was potent either for good or evil.[Larousse, Dictionnaire]
Our Lord, when on earth, went about healing the sick by the sole power of words. A notable instance of this is the case of the centurion of Capernaum, who deemed himself unworthy of the honor of having Christ enter his dwelling, in order to cure his servant, who lay sick of the palsy. "But speak the word only," he said, "and my servant shall be healed." And the Master replied: "Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." And his servant was healed in the self-same hour. That evening, we are told, many that were possessed with devils were brought unto him; and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.[Matt. 8:6, 13, 16] The popularity of Scriptural texts in primitive therapeutics is doubtless largely due to the many wonderful cures wrought by words, which are recorded in the Bible.
Usually, in the Gospels, the healing word is addressed to the patient, but occasionally to his master, or to one of his parents. Whenever the belief in the power of sacred words appears outside of Holy Writ, it is generally expressed in the guise of a superstitious formula. This belief is found, however, in the mystical tenets of the ancient Jewish sect, known as the Essenes. It is also clearly stated in the Zend Avesta, as follows: "One may heal with herbs, one may heal with the Law, one may heal with the Holy Word; amongst all remedies, this is the healing one, that heals with the Holy Word; this one it is that will best drive away sickness from the body of the faithful; for this one is the best healing of all remedies."[Encyclopædia Biblica]
The religious and devotional sentences, which are so commonly seen above the entrances of dwellings in Germany and other European lands, and the passages from the Koran similarly used among Moslems, are not necessarily evidence of the piety of the members of a household. For, as has been remarked, these sentences are often regarded merely as protective charms.[Elworthy, The Evil Eye]
According to an old Welsh custom, fighting-cocks were provided with prophylactic amulets before entering the arena. These amulets consisted of biblical verses, inscribed on slips of paper, which were bound around the cocks' legs. A favorite verse thus used was Ephesians, 6:16: "Taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."[Elias Owen, Welsh Folklore] Some of the old English medical verse-spells are sufficiently quaint exponents of popular credulity.
The following, for example, was in vogue as a remedy for cramp in the leg:—
"The Devil is tying a knot in my leg,
Mark, Luke and John, unloose it, I beg."[Robley Dunglison, Medical Dictionary]
Mr. W. G. Black, in his "Folk-Medicine" (p. 170), remarks that many of the magic writings used as charms were nothing else than invocations of the Devil; and cites the case of a young woman living in Chelsea, England, who reposed confidence in a sealed paper, mystically inscribed, as a prophylactic against toothache. Having consented, at the request of her priest, to examine the writing, this is what she found: "Good Devil, cure her, and take her for your pains." This illustrates the somewhat trite proverb, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'twere folly to be wise," and is a proof of the wisdom of the popular belief that the inscription of a healing formula should not be seen by the wearer, inasmuch as its mystic words are ordinarily invocations of spiritual Beings, and are not therefore adapted for comprehension by the human intellect!
The mere remembrance of some traditional event in the life of our Lord has been accounted of value in popular leech-craft, as in the following charm against ague, taken from a diary of the year 1751, and still used in Lincolnshire within recent times: "When Jesus came near Pilate, he trembled like a leaf, and the judge asked Him if He had the ague. He answered that He neither had the ague nor was He afraid; and whosoever bears these words in mind shall never fear the ague or anything else."[Notes and Queries; W.G. Black, Folk-Medicine; Pettigrew, Medical Superstition]
Eusebius of Cæsarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, gives the text of two letters alleged to have formed a correspondence between our Lord and Abgar, King of Edessa. They were said to have been originally written in Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic characters, and were discovered beneath a stone some eighty miles from Iconium, the modern Konieh, in Asia Minor, in the year 97, and afterwards lost. Regarded as authentic by some learned authorities, they were nevertheless rejected as apocryphal by a church council at Rome, during the pontificate of Gelasius I, in the year 494. According to Eusebius, King Abgar, who was afflicted with a grievous sickness, learning of the wonderful cures wrought by our Lord, wrote Him a letter begging Him to come to Edessa. And the Master, although not acceding to this request, wrote a reply to the king, promising to send one of His disciples to heal him. And in fulfilment of that promise, after His resurrection, Thomas the Apostle, by divine command, sent Thaddeus, one of the seventy disciples, to Abgar. Such is the popular tradition. Full particulars of the visit of Thaddeus, together with copies of the letters taken from a Book of Records preserved at Edessa, may be found in a work entitled, "Ancient Syriac Documents," edited by W. Cureton, D.D. Copies of these letters were used as charms by the early Christians, and for this purpose were placed upon their door-lintels; they were still to be seen within recent years in many a cottage of Shropshire and Devon, where they are valued as preservatives from fever. In the opinion of not a few scholars they are ingenious literary forgeries; but strong evidence in favor of their authenticity is afforded by the discovery, announced by Professor Bohrmann to the archæological congress at Rome, April 30, 1900, of copies of the same letters, inscribed in Doric Greek, in the stone-work above the gateway of the Palace of the Kings at Ephesus. The translated text of the rediscovered letters is as follows:
From Abgar to Christ: I have heard of Thee and the cures wrought by Thee without herb or medicine, for it is reported that Thou restoreth sight to the blind and maketh the lame to walk, cleanseth the leper, raiseth the dead, chaseth out devils and unclean spirits, and healeth those that are tormented of diseases of a long continuance. Hearing all this of Thee, I was fully persuaded that Thou art the very God come down from heaven to do such miracles, or that Thou art the son of God and performeth them. Wherefor I have sent Thee a few lines entreating Thee to come hither and cure my diseases. Hearing that the Jews murmur against Thee and continue to do Thee mischief, I invite Thee to my city, which is but a little one, but is beautiful and sufficient to entertain us both.
Christ's reply to Abgar: Blessed art thou for believing me when thou hast not seen, for it is written of me that they that have seen me shall not believe, and that they that have not seen me shall believe and be saved. But concerning the matter thou hast written about, this is to acquaint thee that all things for which I was sent hither must be fulfilled and that I shall be taken up and returned to Him that sent me. But after my ascension I will send one of my disciples that shall cure thee of thy distemper and give life to all them that are with thee.
John Gaule, in the "Magastromancer," declares that sacred words derive their force from occult divine powers, which are conveyed by means of such words, "as it were through conduit-pipes, to those who have faith in them."
Among the Hindus, the mantra is properly a divinely inspired Vedic text; but quite generally at the present day it has degenerated into a mere spell for warding off evil; the original religious or moral precept being accounted of little force, when compared with the alleged magical potency of its component words.[Monier-Williams, Religious Thought in India]
The exorcism of morbiferous demons was the chief principle of primitive therapeutics, and as a means to this end, the written or spoken word has always been thought to exert a very great influence. Possibly indeed in remote antiquity the art of writing was first applied in inscribing mystic words or phrases on parchment or other material, for use as spells.[C. W. King, Early Christian Numismatics]
In treating the sick, the Apache medicine-man mumbles incoherent phrases, a method adopted quite generally by his professional brethren in many Indian tribes. He claims for such gibberish a mysterious faculty of healing disease. Much of its effectiveness, however, has been attributed to the monotonous intonation with which the words are uttered, and which tends to promote sleep just as a lullaby soothes an ailing child.
It is noteworthy, however, that meaningless words have always been the favorite components of verbal charms, whose power, in the opinion of medieval conjurers, was in direct ratio to their obscurity;[R. M. Lawrence, The Magic of the Horse-Shoe] and this fact is well shown in the incantations used by savages.
According to the late Dr. D. G. Brinton, the principle involved is, either that the gods are supposed to comprehend what men fail to understand; or else that the verbal charm represents "the god expressing himself through human organs, but in a speech unknown to human ears." Reginald Scott expressed a popular modern idea of the force of certain words and characters, when he said that they were able of themselves to cure diseases, pull down, save, destroy and enchant, "without the party's assistance."[A Discourse concerning the Nature and Substance of Devils and Spirits, 1665]
The term incantation signifies a most potent method of magical healing; namely, "that resting on a belief in the mysterious power of words solemnly conceived and passionately uttered."[39:3]
In the belief of the Australian aborigines, "no demon, however malevolent, can resist the power of the right word."[D. G. Brinton, Religions of Primitive Peoples] Ignorant people are usually impressed by obscure phrases, the more so, if these are well sprinkled with polysyllables. Cicero, in his treatise on Divination (lxiv) criticizes the lack of perspicuity in the style of certain writers, and supposes the case of a physician who should prescribe a snail as an article of diet, and whose prescription should read, "an earth-born, grass-walking, house-carrying, unsanguineous animal." Equally efficacious might be the modern definition of the same creature as a "terrestrial, air-breathing, gastropodous mollusk." The degree of efficiency of such prescriptions is naturally in inverse proportion to the patient's mental culture. An average Southern negro, for example, affected with indigestion, might derive some therapeutic advantage from snail diet, but would be more likely to be benefited by the mental stimulus afforded by the verbose formula.
The Irish physicians of old had a keen appreciation of the healing influences of incantations upon the minds of their patients, and the latter had moreover a strong faith in the ancient Druidic charms and invocations. It is probable that in very early times, invocations were made in the names of favorite pagan deities. After the introduction of Christianity by Saint Patrick, the name of the Trinity and the words of the Christian ritual were substituted. Such invocations, when repeated in the presence of sick persons, are regarded by the Irish peasants of to-day as powerful talismans, effective through their magic healing power. So great is the faith of these simple people in the ancient hereditary cures, that they prefer to seek medical aid from the wise woman of the village, rather than from a skilled practitioner.[Lady Wilde, Ancient Charms, Cures, and Usages of Ireland]
The influence of the mind upon the physical organism, through the imagination, is well shown by the seemingly marvellous cures sometimes wrought by medical charms. But the efficacy of magical medicine has been usually proportionate to the degree of ignorance prevalent during any particular epoch. Yet some of the most famous physicians of antiquity had faith in superstitious remedies. The medical literature of the last century before Christ, and from that period until late in the Middle Ages, was an actual treasury of conjuration and other mummeries. Even the great Galen, who was regarded as an oracle, openly avowed his belief in the merits of magic cures.[Dr. Hugo Magnus, Superstition in Medicine]
Galen wrote that many physicians of his time were of the opinion that medicines lost much of their efficacy, unless prescribed by their Babylonian or Egyptian names. They fully appreciated mental influence as a factor in therapeutics. Hence, instead of regular prescriptions, they sometimes wrote mystic formulas, which their patients either carried as charms, or rolled into pellets, which were then swallowed.[Otto A. Wall, M.D., The Prescription]
In a "Book of Counsels to Young Practitioners" (1300) are to be found some interesting items regarding contemporary manners. Fledgling doctors are therein advised to make use of long and unintelligible words, and never to visit a patient without doing something new, lest the latter should say, "He can do nothing without his book." In brief, a reputation for infallibility must be maintained.
It is not surprising that curative spells were popular in the dark ages. A modern-writer[H. D. Traill, Social England] has been quoted as saying that these were to be used, not because they could effect direct physical changes, but because they brought the patient into a better frame of mind. We know that nervous affections were very prevalent in those times among the ignorant masses of the people, and verbal charms were doubtless of value in furnishing therapeutic mental impulses. The Germanic sooth-saying physicians maintained that every bodily ailment could be cured by the use of magical spells and enchanted herbs. The medieval charlatan oculists inherited ancient medical formulas, by means of which they professed to treat with success ophthalmic disorders. Their methods included the recitation of ritualistic words, accompanied with suitable gestures, and passes over the affected eyes.[George F. Fort, Medical Economy of the Middle Ages]
In Cotta's "Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers of several sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisers of Physicke in England" (1612) occur the following passages, quoted also by Brand, in "Popular Antiquities of Great Britain."
If there be any good or use unto the health by spels, they have that prerogative by accident, and by the power and vertue of fancie. If fancie then be the foundation whereupon buildeth the good of spels, spels must needs be as fancies are, uncertaine and vaine. So must also, by consequent, be their use and helpe, and no lesse all they that trust unto them. . . . How can religion or reason suffer men that are not void of both, to give such impious credit unto an insignificant and senseless mumbling of idle words contrary to reason, without president of any truly wise or learned, and justly suspected of all sensible men?
In the early part of the seventeenth century, many diseases were regarded in the light of magic seizures. Therefore they were not amenable to treatment by materia medica. More could be accomplished through the patient's faith and imagination.
"Physicians," wrote the German scholar, Valentine Schindler, "do not discover and learn everything that they ought to know, in the universities; they have often to go to old wives, gypsies, masters of the Black Art, old peasant-folk, and learn from them. For these people have more knowledge of such things, than all the colleges and universities."[Johannes Janssen, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages]
The influence of technical language on the uneducated patient is exemplified in the effect produced on his mind by the mention of Latin names. The writer was impressed with this fact while engaged in dispensary practice some years ago. Such a patient, affected with mumps, for example, appears to experience a certain satisfaction, and is apt to be somewhat puffed up mentally as well as physically, when he learns that his ailment is Cynanche Parotidæa; and he expects a prescription commensurate with its importance.
The effective force of a verbal charm is increased by the rhythmic flow of its words; the solemn recitation or murmuring of mystic phrases. "Hence," said Jacob Grimm, "all that is strong in the speech wielded by priest, physician, or magician is allied to the forms of poetry." [Teutonic Mythology] In many a myth and fairy-tale, a cabalistic metrical verse pronounced by the hero causes wonderful results.[Andrew Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion]
As already intimated, the manner of reciting prayers, charms, and formulas was anciently deemed to be of more moment than the meaning of their constituent words. In Assyria, for example, healing-spells were repeated in a "low, gurgling monotone"; and in Egypt the magical force of incantations was largely due, in the popular mind, to their frequent repetition in a pleasing tone of voice.[T. Witton Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology] The temper of mind which prompts words of good cheer, is in itself a healing charm of no mean value. For we read in the Book of Proverbs 17:22: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
In this progressive age, when men of science are seeking remedies against the so-called "dust nuisance," which at times renders walking in our streets a penance, it may not be amiss to call to mind an ancient spell for the removal of particles of dust or cinders from the eyes. This consisted in chanting the ninety-first psalm thrice over water, which was then used as a lotion for the eye.
Popular faith in spells as therapeutic agents, an inheritance from Chaldea and Egypt, was still strong even at the dawn of modern times; and the force of medical charms was supplemented by various magic rites and by the ceremonial preparation of medicines. The use of curative spells and characts comes within the province of white magic, which is harmless; so called to distinguish it from black magic, or the black art, which involves a compact with the Evil One. In rude ages the practice of the former as a means of healing, may be said to have found its justification in its philanthropic purpose.
According to Mungo Park, the natives of all portions of the Dark Continent are accustomed to wear written charms, called saphies, grigris, or fetiches, whose chief use is the warding-off or cure of disease. Although not themselves followers of Mohammed, the savages have entire confidence in these charms, which are supplied by Moslem priests; but their confidence is based upon the supposed magic of the writing, irrespective of its religious meaning. The failure of a charm to perform a cure is attributed to the ingratitude and fickleness of the spirits. In Algeria it is not an uncommon experience of physicians who have prescribed for native patients, to meet such an one some days after, with the prescription either suspended from his neck, or carefully hidden in his garments. Evidently the sole idea of such a patient, in applying for advice, was to obtain a written formula to serve as an amulet. The Moslems of Arabia and Persia have a custom of applying to any stranger, preferably a European, for their protective written charms, which are the more highly esteemed if totally unintelligible to themselves. Such a practice, however, is not sanctioned by orthodox followers of the Prophet, who is said to have justified the use of healing-spells only upon condition that the inscribed words should be none other than the names of God, and of the good angels and jinn.[Thomas Patrick Hughes, A Dictionary of Islam]
The Hon. John Abercromby, in the second volume of his work entitled "Pre- and Proto-historic Finns," gives a vast number of the magic songs, or charms, of Finland, among which are to be found a collection of formulas, under the caption, "words of healing power," which were recited for the cure of physical ailments of every description. For the purpose of comparison the author has also grouped together many specimens of spells and incantations in vogue among the neighboring peoples, as the Swedes, Slavs, and Lithuanians. He is of the opinion that most of the magical Finnish songs were composed since the twelfth century, and in the transition period, before Christianity had fully taken the place of paganism. During this period the recitation of metrical charms was no longer restricted to the skilled magician, but became popular in every Finnish household. Hence apparently the gradual evolution of a mass of incantations for use in every conceivable exigency or emergency of life. A chief feature of many of these medical charms consists in vituperation and personal abuse of the particular spirit of sickness addressed.
The peasants of Greece have long been addicted to the use of charms for the cure of various ailments. Following is the translation of a spell against colic which is in vogue amongst them: "Good is the householder, wicked is the housewife; she cooks beans, she prepares oil, vine-cuttings for a bed, stones for a pillow; flee pain, flee colic; Christ drive thee hence with his silver sword and his golden hand." According to Dr. N. G. Polites, this charm originated in a tradition that Christ when on earth begged a night's lodging at a house, the mistress whereof was ill-tempered and unkind to the poor, while her husband was hospitably disposed toward needy wayfarers. The husband being absent, his wife bade Christ take shelter in the barn, and later provided him with some beans for supper, while she and the master of the house fared more sumptuously. In the night the woman had a severe colic, which the usual domestic remedies failed to relieve; and her husband appealed to the poor wayfarer, who at once exorcised the demon of colic.
Written charms were usually worn exposed to view, in order that evil spirits might see them and read their inscriptions. In course of time they developed into ornaments. Wealthy Hebrews were wont to carry amulets made of gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones; while their poorer brethren were contented with modest bits of parchment, woolen cloth, or lace. In eastern countries a common variety of charm consists of a small piece of paper or skin, duly inscribed. Manifold are the virtues ascribed to such a charm! It may enable the bearer to find hidden treasure, to win the favor of a man or woman, or to recover a runaway wife.
A written medical prescription of to-day, after having been filled and copied by a druggist, is usually considered to have fulfilled its mission, but the annals of popular medicine afford ample evidence of the narrowness of such a view! The practice of swallowing the paper whereon a recipe is written, as a veritable charm-formula, is of great antiquity, and is still in vogue in many lands. The idea involved in this singular custom is of course a superstitious regard for writing as a magical curative.
In endeavoring to trace the origins of this and other analogous usages, one must study the records of the most ancient civilizations. Among various African tribes, written spells, called saphies, are commonly used as medicines by the native wizards, who write a prayer on a piece of wood, wash it off with water, and cause the patient to drink the solution. Mungo Park, while in West Africa, was once asked by his landlord, a Bambarra native, to prepare such a charm, the latter proffering his writing-board for the purpose. The traveller complied, and the negro, while repeating a prayer, washed the writing off with water, drank the mixture, and then licked the board dry, in his anxiety to derive the greatest possible benefit from the writing.
The eating of the paper on which a prescription has been written is still a common expedient for the cure of disease in Tibet, where the Lamas use written spells, known as "edible letters."[L. Austin Waddell, The Buddhism of Tibet] The paper containing cabalistic words and symbols, taken internally, constitutes the remedy, and through its influence on the imagination is probably more beneficial to the patient than are most of the so-called "bitters" and patent medicines of the present day.
So likewise, when a Chinese physician cannot procure the drugs which he desires in a particular case, he writes the names of these drugs on a piece of paper, which the patient is expected to eat;[Edward Berdoe, Origin and Growth of the Healing Art] and this mode of treatment is considered quite as satisfactory as the swallowing of the medicine itself. Sometimes a charm is burned over a cup of water, and the ashes stirred in, and drunk by the patient, while in other cases it is pasted upon the part of the body affected.[Hampton C. Du Bose, The Dragon, Image and Demon]
In eastern countries generally, remedial qualities are ascribed to water drunk out of a cup or bowl, whose inner surface is inscribed with religious or mystical verses; and specimens of such drinking-vessels have been unearthed in Babylonia within recent years. The magic medicine-bowls, still used in the Orient, usually bear inscriptions from the Koran.[Austen H. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon] In Flora Annie Steel's tale of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, "On the Face of the Waters" (p. 293), we read of a native who was treated for a cut over the eye by being dosed with paper pills inscribed with the name of Providence.
Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh (1810-1882) reported the case of a laboring man affected with colic, for whom he prescribed some medicine, directing him to "take it and return in a fortnight," assuring him that he would soon be quite well. At the appointed time the man returned, entirely relieved and jubilant. The doctor was gratified at the manifest improvement in his patient's condition, and asked to see the prescription which he had given him; whereupon the man explained that he had "taken" it, as he had understood the directions, by swallowing the paper.
In Egypt, at the present time, faith in the power of written charms is generally prevalent, and forms one of the most characteristic beliefs of the people of that country.
E. W. Lane, in "Modern Egyptians," says that the composition of these characts is founded chiefly upon magic, and devolves usually upon the village schoolmasters. They consist of verses from the Koran, and "names of God, together with those of angels, genii, prophets, or eminent saints, intermixed with combinations of minerals, and with diagrams, all of which are supposed to have great secret virtues."
One of the most popular Egyptian methods of charming away disease is similar to a practice already mentioned as in use among less civilized peoples.
The sacred texts are inscribed on the inner surfaces of earthenware bowls, in which water is stirred until the writing is washed off. Then the infusion is drunk by the patient, and without doubt the subsequent benefit is exactly commensurate with the strength of his faith in the remedy.