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The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. [1913], at


Of Madness, and Divinations which are made when men are awake, and of the Power of a Melancholy Humor, by which Spirits are sometimes induced into Men's Bodies.

It happens also, sometimes, that not only they that are asleep, but also they that are watchful, do, with a kind of instigation of mind, divine; which divination Aristotle calls ravishment, or a kind of madness, and teacheth that it proceeds from a melancholy humor, saying in his treaties of divination: Melancholy men, by reason of their earnestness, do far better conjecture, and quickly conceive a habit, and most easily receive an impression of the celestials. And he, in his Problems, saith that the Sibyls, and the Bacchides, and Niceratus the Syracusan, and Ammon, were, by their natural melancholy complexion,

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prophets and poets. The cause, therefore, of this madness, if it be anything within the body, is a melancholy humor; not that which they call black choler, which is so obstinate and terrible a thing, that the violence of it is said, by physicians and natural philosophers (besides madness, which it doth induce), to draw or entice evil spirits to seize upon men's bodies. Therefore, we understand a melancholy humor here, to be a natural and white choler. For this, when it is stirred up, burns, and stirs up a madness conducing to knowledge and divination, especially if it be helped by any celestial influx, especially of Saturn, who (seeing he is cold and dry, as is a melancholy humor, hath his influence upon it) increaseth and preserveth it. Besides, seeing he is the author of secret contemplation, and estranged from all public affairs, and the highest of all the planets, he doth, as he withcalls his mind from outward business, so also make it ascend higher, and bestows upon men the knowledge and presages of future things. And this is Aristotle's meaning, in his book of Problems. By melancholy, saith he, some men are made, as it were, divine, foretelling things to come; and some men are made poets. He saith, also, that all men that were excellent in any science, were, for the most part, melancholy. Democritus and Plato attest the same, saying that there were some melancholy men that had such excellent wits that they were thought and seemed to be more divine than human. So also there have been many melancholy men at first rude, ignorant and untractable, as they say Tynnichus, Hesiod, Ion, Calcinenses, Homer, and Lucretius were, who on a sudden were taken with a madness and became poets, and prophesied wonderful and divine things, which they themselves scarce understood. Whence Plato, in Ion, saith that many prophets, after the violence of their madness was abated, do not well understand what they

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wrote, yet treated accurately of each art in their madness; as all artists, by reading of them, judge. So great also, they say, the power of melancholy is of, that, by its force, celestial spirits also are sometimes drawn into men's bodies, by whose presence and instinct, antiquity testifies, men have been made drunk and spake most wonderful things. And this thing, they think, happens under a three-fold difference, according to a three-fold apprehension of the soul, viz., imaginative, rational, and mental; they say, therefore, that when the mind is forced with a melancholy humor, nothing moderating the power of the body, and, passing beyond the bounds of the members, is wholly carried into imagination, it doth suddenly become a seat for inferior spirits, by which the mind oftentimes receives wonderful ways and forms of manual arts. So we see that any most ignorant man doth presently become an excellent painter, or contriver of building, and to become a master in any such art. But when these kinds of spirits portend to us future things they show those things which belong to the disturbing of the Elements and changes of times, as rain, tempests, inundations, earthquakes, slaughter, great mortality, famine, and the like. As we read in Aulus Gelius that his priest, Cornelius Patrarus, did, at the time when Cæsar and Pompey were to fight in Thessalia, being taken with a madness, foretell the time, order and issue of the battle. But when the mind is turned wholly into reason it becomes a receptacle for middle world spirits. Hence it obtains the knowledge and understanding of natural and human things. So we see that a man sometimes doth on a sudden become a philosopher, physician, or an orator, and foretells mutations of kingdoms, and restitutions of ages, and such things as belong to them, as did the Sibyl to the Romans. But when the mind is wholly elevated into the understanding, then it becomes a receptacle of sublime

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spirits and learns of them the secrets of divine things, such as the Law of God, and the Orders of Angels, and such things as belong to the knowledge of things eternal and the ascent of souls. It foresees things which are appointed by predestination, such as future prodigies or miracles, the prophet to come, and the changing of the law. So the Sibyls prophesied of Christ a long time before his coming. So Virgil, understanding that Christ was at hand and remembering what the Sibyl, Cumæa, had said, sang thus to Pollio:

Last times are come, Cumæa's prophesie—
Now from high heaven springs a new progenie,
And times Great Order now again is born,
The Maid returns, Saturnian Realms return.

And, a little after, intimating that original sin shall be of no effect, he saith:

If any prints of our old vice remain’d
By thee they're void, and fear shall leave the Land;
He a God's life shall take, with Gods shall see
Mixt Heroes, and himself their object be;
Rule with paternal power th’ appeased Earth
He shall——

Then he adds, that thence the fall of the Serpent, and the poison of the tree of death, or of the knowledge of good and evil, shall be nulled, saying:

——The Serpent shall
And the deceitful Herb of Venom fall.

Yet he intimates that some sparks of original sin shall remain, when he saith:

Some steps of ancient fraud shall yet be found.

And at last with a most great hyperbole cries out to his child, as the offspring of God, adoring him in these words:

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Dear race of Gods, great stock of Jupiter,
Behold! the World shakes on its ponderous axe,
See earth, and heavens immense, and Ocean tracts,
How all things at th’ approaching Age rejoice!
O, that my life would last so long, and voice,
As would suffice thy actions to rehearse.

There are also some prognostics which are in the middle, betwixt natural and supernatural divination, as in those who are near to death, and, being weakened with old age, do sometimes foresee things to come, because, as saith Plato, by how much the more men are less hindered by their sense, so much the more accurately they understand, and because they are nearer to the place whither they must go (and their bonds being, as it were, a little loosed, seeing they are no more subject to the body) easily perceive the light of divine revelation.

Next: Chapter LXI. Of the Forming of Man, of the External Senses, also those Inward, and the Mind; and of the Three-Fold Appetite of the Soul, and Passions of the Will